Hi, guys. Ulti here as your host for the Normal Writing contest for Fall Fanon Con 2016. About six users signed up, but only three of them managed to finish their submissions on time; Brandon, Coke and OV9. The theme for this contest is 'bittersweet'. Before I begin, I'd like to apologize if my explanations below seem rushed. As I'm writing this, it's about an hour before Wednesday and I'm under the weather. Anyway, here are our winners.

3rd Place

OV9's Entry
==The Grandsmith End==

Edward Grandsmith came in through the door of Burger Shack. Ben and Rook were waiting for him. Ben saw him and waved to him. Edward came to them. Ben had been in good touch with Edward after the incident in The Bermuda Triangle.

Ben: “Hey, Ed. I want you to meet Rook, my partner.”

Rook(shaking hands with Ed): “Hello! I am glad to meet you, Mr. Grandsmith.”

Ed: “I am glad.”

Ben: “So why did you call me?”

Ed: “We’ll order first then I’ll tell you.”

Ben ordered chili fries, Rook ordered French fries and Ed ordered a cheeseburger.”

Ed(after ordering their food): “Ben! I have been followed by strange men these past few days.”


Ed: “That’s what I don’t know.”

Suddenly, the side of the hall where the table taken by Ben, Rook and Ed exploded. Ben rose and looked up to a robot. The robot had a sphere-shaped head and body. The arms was attached to the opposite sides of the sphere and the hands were armed with one laser gun in each hand. The laser guns pointed at Ed.

The robot: “Edward Grandsmith!”

Ed: “What do you want from me?”

The robot:“You are being needed by BB. You should come with me.”

Ben: “Not so fast!”

Ben dialed in the Omnitrix and chose Four Arms. He slammed the Omnitix with his hand and transformed into XLR8.

XLR8 (after looking at himself): “Or faster.”

The robot shot lasers at him, but XLR8 dodged every one of them and slowly reached the robot. Then XLR8 runs around the robot. He ran faster and faster until a tornado was formed which made the robot lift up in the air. XLR8 stopped when the robot was high enough. The robot fell down and broke. XLR8 transformed back into Ben.

Ben (looking at the wreckage): “Let me guess! The guys who followed you these past few days sent it.”

Ed: "Don't know."

Rook: “It said BB. Can that be the boss.”

Ben: “I know who BB exactly is.”

Ed and Rook (in unison): “Who?”

Ben: “Billy Billions!”

Rook: “Of course! He has the tech to build a robot like this.”

Ed: “That guy! He is actually a partner of my company.”

Ben: “Then let’s go and kick his butt.”

At Billions Tower,

Billy: “What do you mean it was unsuccessful?”

Mazuma: “The robot was wrecked by Ben Tennyson.”

Billy: “Tennyson! I wish I killed him when I had a chance.”

The wall opposite to where Billy was, exploded. Ben, in NRG form came through it. NRG was in his suit. Rook and Ed appeared behind him.

NRG: “Well! Let this be counted as another chance.”

Billy (taking out a laser gun): “I’ll take it”

Billy fired at NRG but was in vain.

NRG: “Ha! NRG’s suit is actually used to shield from lasers like this.”

Rook was fighting with Mazuma. Ed came near NRG.

Billy (looking at Edward): “Ah! Well isn’t it Edward Grandsmith, grandson of the deceased Donovon Grandsmith.”

NRG (looking at Edward): “You never told me that your grandfather died.”

Edward: “I was coming to that.(then looked at Billy) Why do you want to do this? We were partners.”

Billy: “That contract my parents and your grandfather signed had a line that said ‘If there is no claimer to one company’s wealth then the second company inherits that company’s wealth and itself.”

NRG: “So you want to kill him.”

Billy: “Practically, yes!”

The floor opened into a hole near Billy and he jumped into it.

NRG: “No!”

The floor opened into a large rectangle shaped hole and out came a robot. It had a rectangular body and the arms and legs grew out of the either sides and the bottom side of the body respectively. The head was a glass sphere and inside it was Billy.

Billy: “So let me do my job.”

Billy fired a laser at Edward. NRG blocked it but it was so strong that NRG flew backwards. NRG changed back to Ben. Billy fired another laser at Edward. Ben quickly transformed into Eye Guy. Eye Guy fired a laser that blocked the laser fired by Billy.

Billy (frustrated): “Hey! I am doing my job.”

Eye Guy: “So am ‘Eye’.”

Eye Guy fired another laser at Billy. But Billy blocked it with a mirror. The laser diverted and attacked Edward. Eye Guy turned back into Ben and went towards Edward. Rook defeated Mazuma by piercing her with his sword and went towards Edward.

Ben: “Is he…?”

Rook checked his pulse.

Rook: “I am sorry,Ben.”

Ben: “No! (trying to waking Edward up) Edward! Edward!”

Billy: “He is dead right now. And now I am the owner for Grandsmith Enterprises. Future owner, actually. But this incident should not have any witnesses. (facing towards Ben and Rook) Now, your turn.”

Billy fired lasers at each of them.

Ben (nearly in tears): “You killed my friend, Billy. So I will do the killing.”

Ben dialed in the Omnitrix and chose Rocks.

Ben: “Just please give me Rocks.”

Ben slammed the Omnitrix and transformed into the Rocks.

Rocks: “Now I am gonna crush that oversized head of yours.”

The alien shot rock projectiles at the robot. The projectiles broke through the robot.

Billy: “No! Don’t do that you oversized rock head.”

Rocks: “Just call me Rocks.”

Rocks shot more projectiles at the robot, but it was blocked by a laser shot fired by the robot.

Billy: “Give up! You still cannot beat my robot.”

Rocks: “You killed my friend. That only motivates me to tear you apart.”

Rocks fired a much bigger rock projectile at the robot. It damaged the robot so badly that it fell on its back. The robot got deactivated. Billy got out of the robot. Rocks turned back into Ben. Ben dialed in the Omnitrix and chose Waybig. He was about to slam that Omnitrix but Rook stopped him.

Rook: “No, Ben. That is not the right choice.”

Ben: “You saw what he did to Ed.”

Rook: “Yes, I have seen. But this is not what Edward would have wanted.”

Ben: “He is not here right now. He is dead.”

Rook: “Then do it. But keep this in mind that this won’t change anything.”

Ben: “But! But! You’re right.”

Ben came out of the building, took his car and went back home. Rook called the Plumbers to arrest Billy and then he called the Grandsmith family to tell them that Edward Grandsmith is dead. 

In third place we have newcomer OV9. Now, while the basic idea was good, the execution wasn't. It felt like there was a lot missing from this story, the most prominent detail being Ben and Edward's relationship. Last we saw Edward, he only appeared once, and he was never mentioned nor hinted at after that, so I think it would've been better if there was some build-up to explain how the two became close. Other than that, there are a few grammar mistakes, but nothing too bad.

2nd Place

Brandon's Entry
Meanwhile in Dimension 27...

Ben is seen sitting at a table next to the Mr. Smoothie counter. He looks around then looks down at his drink. He picks it up and drinks from the straw.

Ben, finishing: Ah! Nothing like a good ol' smoothie.

Ester, joining Ben at the table: You sound like it's been a while.

Ben: It has been a while. I almost forgot how good these tasted. A little guac mixed with peanut butter. Mmm.

Ester: I'm not entirely sure what guac is but that doesn't sound like something you eat with peanut butter.

Ben: I'm surprised you know what peanut butter is. So how are things with your people?

Ester: Fine with my father in command. Seebik is still trying to get as much power as he can in the military but I can't imagine things when him in charge.

Ben: It'll probably be Too Hot to Handle.

Ester: You're making hot puns again.

Ben: Heh, sorry. Can't help it.

Ester: What about you? How are things going?

Ben: Eh. Can't complain. Being a full time Plumber has its ups and downs but at least I'm still out there saving people. And I heard on a report that someone robbed another science facility just last week, it's missing a device that releases chemicals that act as an anti-cooling agent.

Ester: I wonder who did it.

Ben: I get that you're trying to help out your dad but you can't keep stealing, Ester. And I can't keep letting it slide just because we're close.

Ester, playfully: How close?

Ben: Close enough to get a stink eye from Julie.

Ester: I'm just playing around, Ben. You need to tell your girlfriend to cool off sometimes.

Ben: Ironic choice of words there, hot stuff.

Ester smirks at Ben.

Ben, realizing what he said: (sigh) I'll just go.

Ben gets up from the table, taking his smoothie cup with him.

Ben: You should probably get out here. People don't like it when others are around here.

Ester: Makes sense. We'll talk some other time then. (seeing Ben approach the trash can) And is that really nessecary?

Ben: Yeah.

The scene shows Ben drop his smoothie cup into the trash can and walk away from the Mr. Smoothie counter, showing the rest of the establishment broken off and scorched, leaving blast marks all the way up to the streets. Ben then pulls a safety tape up, letting himself out of the sealed off area. He crosses the street, a car just barely hitting him. When he arrives, he looks up then down at a plaque which reads "In Memory of Rook Blonko, who gave his life to save others." Ben then reaches into his hoodie and removes an Amber Ogia from his pocket. He then places it next to the plaque and looks up at something unseen. The Omnitrix then alerts, causing Ben to look away. He then answers the alert after a short moment.

Ben, holding the Omnitrix: What is it?

Molly Gunther: You're needed. Come in as soon as possible.

Ben, holding the Omnitrix: ...On my way.

Ben then ends the call and walks away from the plaque which is seen to be underneath a golden statue of Rook Blonko which is already rusted. The scene then cuts over to the Plumber Base which is exposed to the public as a large cyclinder-shaped building with three legs supporting the structure. Ben then arrives on his hoverboard and enters through the entrance. As he walks through, various Plumbers are seen entering and leaving the building, attending to their own business and talking with others.

Plumber, passing by: Hey Ben, how's it going?

Ben, walking through: Same as ever.

Plumber 2: Nice work on that mission yesterday, Ben.

Ben, walking through: Thanks.

Molly Gunther: Tennyson.

Ben stops and turns. He sees Molly in a room, next to him. Ben looks around then enters the room.

Ben: Magistra Gunther.

Molly: Please, call me Molly.

Ben: Pft. As soon as you call me Ben.

Molly: Yeah that's just not gonna happen, Tennyson.

Ben: (chuckles) I had a friend who used to always call me that.

Molly: It makes us sound like we know you which gives us the control.

Ben: Because being the overseer of all the space cops isn't enough control.

Molly: Maybe it isn't. Close the door.

Ben looks at Molly for a second then closes the door behind him.

Molly: Lock it too.

Ben, hesistantly locking the door: I'm guessing this isn't another mission.

Molly: It's one of those things.

Ben, looking at Molly: T-Things?

Molly: Y'know one of those things. The type of things that I need kept- between us.

Ben: Like a thing thing?

Molly: What?

Ben: Because I have a girlfriend, Chief.

Molly: No, shut up. It's about the Plumbers.

Ben: Oh right. I knew that. Besides you're too old for that type of stuff anyway.

Molly: I'm 23, blockhead. Can I get back to the topic?

Ben: By all means.

Molly sighs.

Molly: The world is becoming more and more dangerous by the second. Vilgax isn't the only threat out there.

Ben: And he shouldn't be a threat anymore. After the Rooters Initative a couple of years ago, Vilgax was sent to face intergalactic trial lightyears away from Earth.

Molly: I know but people who have been following his work are still here on Earth and using his resources that we are still not able to find a stable source for. First a couple of minor incidents and now we have Chimera Gas attacks, Clown Gangs, Forever Knights, and don't get me started on those drone bom-

Ben looks down for a moment.

Molly, noticing: Sorry. He was a good man, Ben.

Ben: Yeah...

Molly: What I'm trying to say is we need to do better. That's why I spoke with the President and Colonel Rozum. They agreed with my proposol.

Ben: And what exactly is this proposol?

Molly: Hybrids.

Ben: Excuse me?

Molly: You heard me.

Ben: I don't see how DNAliens is going to solve any of our problems.

Molly: Not Highbreeds. Hybrids, a combination between man and alien. The perfect secret weapon.

Ben: We already have the rookies. I don't think we need anymore especially to be used as weapons.

Molly: Not them physically but genetically. We'll use their DNA to unlock the secret behind their genetics and replicate the pattern into code. With this code, we can gain adaptive armor, adaptive weapons. The world will finally become a safer place. No more attacks on neighborhoods from alien forces.

Ben, thinking about: This type of stuff is dangerous. Trust me, I know a thing or two about messing with DNA.

Molly: The procedure has already been done on the rookies. They volunteered. I just have to get the serum to the President, personally.

Ben: Why let me know? Why not Patelliday or Magister Coronach or-

Molly: Because you're the best Plumber I know. It's not about physicility or your work performance, even though I would like to see those boost one day. It's where your heart is and it's in a good place. It's hard to find someone like that nowadays especially with everything going on. Plus you remind me of your grandfather.

Ben: Grandpa Max...

Molly: He taught me everything I know which is why I started teaching you. I saw potential in you the same way he saw it in me.

Ben: When I was younger, Grandpa Max would be in the middle of making his world famous Zandurian Goulash. He would try to train me on how to be a Plumber by using the wooden spoon as some type of blaster (laughs)

Molly: I actually wouldn't be surprised if the spoon was an actual blaster.

They both start laughing at that notion.

Ben, sighing after laughing: Yeah, Grandpa Max and I had some good times... then he retired. Lived with Aunt Vera in the retirement home a few miles away. Just wanted to try it out. Heh. I went up and visited him, went really early so I could surprise him because he would always manage to catch the drop on me back when I was a kid. I don't know how he did it but he just knew I was coming. But I had him this time. At least, that's what I thought. I got there and the door was open. He was coming out the door with Aunt Vera by his side. Right into the ambulance on a stretcher. Guess he got the drop on me after all.

Molly puts her hand on Ben's shoulder.

Molly: We'll get through this.

Molly then walks up the door, unlocks it then opens it.

Molly: He was the greatest man I ever knew. You're still our best Plumber, remember that.

Molly then leaves the office, leaving Ben there. A figure then appears in the doorway. A small knock is heard. Ben turns around and sees Julie by the door.

Julie: Hey.

Ben, slightly surprised: Hi... What are you doing here?

Julie: Came to get you. Movie night, remember?

Ben: Yeah. Yeah, I remember. It's just- uh

Julie: Tough day at work?

Ben: Yeah.

Julie: That's why you need me. Someone to distract you from work and make your life better.

Ben: And here I thought you there to immerse me in a world of kisses and tennis lingo.

Julie: Oh really? So you like it when I use tennis phrases?

Ben: Maybe. Why?

Julie: Because I thinking we could have a match later. 15-Love.

Ben: Depends on how good movie night is.

Julie: Well, I was thinking we see the one with Jennifer Nocturne in it.

Ben: Again?

Julie: But it's romantic. What do you have in mind then?

Ben: What about that movie where the kid finds a time machine and has to stop his future self from destroying the world? Or the one where nanomachines turn into people?

Julie: Ben, I swear you watch the same movies all the time.

Ben, impersonating guy from movie: "Nanomachines, Julie. Nanomachines!"

Julie pushes Ben a little and they both laugh a bit. The scene then cuts over to Molly Gunther, carrying a briefcase into the hangar. Two Plumbers are seen leaving the hangar, making it very empty. Molly approaches her Plumber ship like two other Plumbers are seen talking in front of her, these Plumbers have black suits on.

Rooter: So yeah it just means the world to her and-

Rooter 2: No problem. I'll be there. (seeing Molly) Afternoon, Magistra.

The first rooter, slightly paniacs, sets his container on the ground and salutes.

Rooter: Magistra Gunther.

Molly, smiling: At ease, boys. You two prepping for the next mission?

Rooter: Next mission, Magistra?

Rooter 2: She means training, comrade.

Molly: Nice work, Leander. Keep it up and you might get a promotion.

Leander: With all due respect Magistra Gunthers, there's no other place I would rather be than on the Rooters.

Rooter: Well I should get going. Gotta get ready.

Molly: Ready for what, Bradley?

Bradley: My daughter's wedding is coming up, Magistra.

Molly: Oh congratulations. When's the big day?

Bradley: In a month, the second. She wanted it sooner but we insisted that she'd wait a week. It's her special day so I want to make her feel special.

Molly: Well she's been wanting to be a surgeon in Rapid City, right? I'll put in a good word for her.

Bradley: Oh thank you, Magistra.

Molly: It's nothing, consider it my wedding gift. I'll try and make it as well.

Bradley: It would be a general honor. Alright, I need to get ready before the wife throws a fit. I'll catch you two around.

Leander: Yeah, yeah, of course.

Bradley then leaves the hangar, leaving Leander with Molly.

Molly: Three kids and one of them is already getting married. Time sure flies by.

Leander: Yes, it does... Listen, Magistra. There's something I need to talk to you about.

Molly: I sorta need to head over somewhere if you don't mind.

Leander: Of course, yeah. My bad. It's just that-

Leander quickly removes a blaster from his side compartment and points it at Molly.

Leander: I need that briefcase.

Molly: Leander, what is this?

Leander: I won't ask again, Gunther.

Molly: You wouldn't shoot me. I provided for you, for your team, for this organization-

Suddenly, the door re-opens and Bradley re-enters the hangar.

Bradley: Sorry guys, I forgot my canist-

Bradley looks up and sees Leander pointing his blaster at Molly.

Leander, aiming at Molly: You should have just left, Bradley.

Leander quickly turns his arm, pulling the trigger and shooting Bradley. Bradley then falls over with a smoking hole at the center of his chestplate. Molly gasps slightly.

Leander: Now what were saying about not shooting you?

Molly: Okay. Just- Don't do anything you might regret.

Leander leans now for the briefcase, still aiming at Molly.

Leander: Oh yeah? Like what?

Molly then grabs Leander's blaster, points upwards and knees Leander in the head, causing him to fire the blaster, only for the shot to hit the ceiling of the hangar. Molly then twists Leander's arm but Leander strikes Molly with his other arm, throwing her onto the floor. Leander holds his arm in pain while Molly activates his watch which opens a holographic screen with Ben's image.

Leander: Oh you're gonna pay for that one.

Molly: Ben, I'm under attack, get to the hangar.

Back in the office, Ben is seen looking at his Omnitrix.

Ben: Magistra? Molly? (to Julie) I gotta go. Stay here.

Ben then runs out of the office and activates the Omnitrix. Back in the hangar, Leander is seen striking Molly in the face several times.

Leander: You have no idea how good this feels. (gets up and grabs blaster)

Molly, weakly, attempting to get up: Why...

Leander: Because we're better. We're more than just simple recon missions and we're not your group of one-offs so we can take the hit and not affect your agenda. These attacks you're complaining about, they aren't the problem, they're just happening to the wrong people.

Voice: I agree.

Leander turns his head and sees Heatblast standing before him.

Heatblast: Instead of hitting her, you should be attacking your motivational speaker.

Leander fires his blaster at Heatblast but Heatblast throws a fireball, blocking the attack.

Leander, gripping his blaster: I always wanted to put a hole in you, Tennyson.

Heatblast: Maybe you should save an extra punch for your therapist too.

Leander charges for Heatblast who amplifies his flame, causing Leander to keep back. He then grabs the briefcase and opens it, removing a sample of the serum.

Leander: If I can't beat you now, maybe I need a little boost.

Leander drinks the serum. He then grabs his head and drops to his knees. He then starts screaming as his skin becomes metallic and his eyes grow into slots. When the transformation is completed, he becomes mute and blankly stares off. He then gets up and stares at Heatblast.

Heatblast: Now you might want to go beat up your biologist.

Leander grunts and then fires a ray of radation from his eyestalks at Heatblast, firing him into a wall. Leander then approaches him. Heatblast fires a fireball at Leander but he becomes immune to the flames. Leander is about to strike Heatblast but is shot in the back and then falls over, revealing Molly with a blaster in her hands, panting for breath. Heatblast then transforms back into Ben, gets up and goes over to Molly.

Ben, helping her up: Thanks for the save. Now what the heck is going on here. Was that Leander?

Molly: Yeah.

Ben: I thought he was a Rooter. Why would he go rogue?

Molly: We've been compromised.

The hangar doors then burst open and more Rooters start entering. Ben and Molly then run into the next room, avoiding the incoming fire.

Molly, walking through the corridor, using his watch: Patelliday, lock down the base.

Ben: You think that'll help?

Molly: It'll buy us some time.

Meanwhile, in the lower levels, Plumbers are seen scrambling around as the base goes under lockdown. Julie is seen wondering.

Ben and Molly then enter the control room.

Molly: We should be able to send a distress signal from here plus there's a hidden escape route here. We can leave during the lockdown and get these samples somewhere safe.

Voice: Magistra Gunther.

Molly turns around and Ben looks up. Before them stands a figure walking towards them, wearing a Rooters outfit, helmet as well.

Molly: The doors are sealed. I don't know how you got in here but you're on your own. You might want to reconsider what you're about to do.

Figure: I was about to say the same thing.

The figure removes his helmet and drops it on the floor. Ben and Molly look surprised.

Ben: Rook?

Rook looks at the two. He has burn marks on his face. Ben smiles and then chuckles a bit.

Ben: Rook, I- I thought you were dead but you're alive!

Rook: No, Ben. Rook Blonko died a long time ago.

Ben: W-What?

Rook then removes his Rooter outfit, revealing his robotic left arm.

Ben: Rook... What- What happened to you?

Rook: I don't- remember. You were there and there was an explosion. Servantis brought me in and Kundo repaired me.

Ben: Servantis? Kundo? Aren't these rouge agents?

Molly: They must have thought they could recruit Rook to their cause if they repaired him. But Rook would never turn his back on us.

Rook: Of course, he wouldn't. But like I said-

Rook pulls out his modified Proto-Tool.

Rook: Rook Blonko died a long time ago. I'm now called Weapon 11.

Ben looks out in horror at what stands in front of him.

To Be Continued...

In second place, we have Brandon. There's actually nothing wrong with this entry, I just found the next entry to be better. I have to say, I love this dimension you've crafted, Brandon. Grin_2.png If this were a full-fledged series, I'd be totally hooked.

1st Place

Coke's Entry
The following content contains profanity that may not be suitable for readers of all ages. Please proceed with caution.

[Day 1: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers HQ] A 96-year old Max Tennyson, in his typical Hawaiian shirt-centric outfit, presents himself at a podium alongside a furry white ram-like humanoid in a rather formal blue suit and teal tie. Max points out into the room of just a few people— Rook Blonko is among them.

Max: Yes, err—
Woman (sitting in a seat front row): This is Judi's seat— good work asking her the question, by the way, sir. This is for Braven: what do you think of the coming election, where Max is set to default this time around as the next Magistratus?
Braven (Ram Humanoid adjacent Max, English accent): I'm feeling the season already, Judi, and really proud of the work our Magistratus has done so far. When he took me on, I was skeptical, but through working alongside him instead of against him, I've come to embrace the kind of ideals he and the people of our galaxies stand for. I've also come to see that he is an incredible leader, one that I only wish I could be some day.
Woman: You didn't answer the question. She'd follow up. Something like... “So do you see yourself running again or no?”
Braven: Look, Judi, come talk to me in a few months about whether or not I'm running.

Max pushes into the mic, somewhat setting Braven off.

Max (chuckling): He's basically waiting to see if I kick the bucket.
Braven (joining Max's laugh): Oh, Max, you kill me, honestly. Never in my good day would I say something like that.

One can catch Rook awkwardly shifting out of his chair before leaving the room.

Max (sarcastically): Oh, but you're thinking it! We have a, um— there's a brief pause, Max staring blankly a, um, a hold, a hold... a tether that binds us! We know what the other's thinking!
Braven: This man is honestly hilarious, honestly the greatest man has to offer.

Cut to Max and Braven walking quickly down a narrow corridor as a projection of Gwen, made entirely of mana, joins them. She's older, approaching as much as she's fighting her fifties, and bearing her blue and black outfit, cloak and all (not that the color's visible here; it's an all-magenta, semi-transparent hologram of sorts). She appears to be walking, but her steps line up with another place, wherever her real body is.

Gwen: That was genuinely the most awkward thing I have ever watched. Like, I can feel the cringe from here and it's worse than any sub or dub I've ever seen.
Braven: Where would “here” be, darling?
Gwen: In a magical dimension above your paygrade.
Braven: I'm well aware of Ledgerdomain; I'm not an idiot.
Gwen (with a false grin and a high voice): Of course not. She eyes Max as her projection begins to climb some invisible wall. Grandpa, I think I found it. I'll fill you in later.
Max: Thank you; see you later, pumpkin.
Gwen: Oh, and by the way, please leave out the “kick the bucket” line... people might take that seriously.
Max: Oh, please, it adds character, shows much of a self-aware person I am. Everyone needs to be self-aware, and leaders need to find a way to show people how to be without telling them.

She bows her head and, with a snap of her finger, disappears.

[CAFETERIA, Plumbers' HQ] An older Rook Blonko, black beard and more accessories to account for, sips from a juice pouch in front of an aroused salad of alien greens. Braven slides onto the bench in front of him without a meal in his hand.

Rook: Braven.
Braven: Just the Blonko I was looking to see.
Rook: Well, actually, in my culture, the last name is not—
Braven: It's— that's not the picked one, yes, of course, I'm an idiot— I always get that mixed up. Rook returns to sucking on his audibly empty pouch. Look, I need to speak to you, about our dear old Max. Rook stops. During that practice, Max... he's not okay.
Rook: How do you mean?
Braven: You heard how he stumbled on his words? Rook squints. He's feeling it; he said it, even, that he might “kick the bucket.”
Rook (taking his tray and half-standing up): Braven, I don't appreciate this—
Braven: He could, at any moment, do just that.
Rook (angrily dropping his tray back): Anyone like you or me trips on their words; it happens. You did it when you sat down, for instance.
Braven: He's older than he should be... he's at a point where one part snaps and the whole “shabang” breaks down.

Rook grabs a napkin from his tray, wipes his lips and tosses the crumpled thing right into a bucket across the room as he departs.

[Day 2: MAGISTRATUS'S OFFICE, Plumbers' HQ] Rook pushes open the grand double doors and steps into the massive home of the Magistratus. Across a long center aisle sits Max at a pristine desk. Another projection hovers over it, this time just of Gwen's head. Max waves Rook over. He hears nothing of their discussion as he gets over, as hard as he tries. By the time he stands just feet across the desk, Gwen's gone again.]

Rook: Gwendolyn?
Max: Yes... yes, I need her for some things. She helps with, uh, organizational tidbits and all that; just couldn't function without her. I guess I could say— and don't tell anyone— , I'm definitely feeling the big “nine-six,” but only a bit... Why have you come, what's up?
Rook (straight-faced, lips tight before finally bursting out): Are you prepared to have to fight Braven— or anyone else— for the title of Magistratus?
Max (brow raised): We've prepared for that contingency, of course.... Why? Has Braven mentioned anything?
Rook (hesitant, slow to respond, low): No, not at all, sir. It was simply the way he responded to the questions yesterday; he never answered, forwardly, as to whether he would be running.
Max: Oh, is that all? Rook, you don't have to do much public speaking, and for that, I have to be jealous of you. When you get up on that little shoddy stage in the press room and have to relay all this scripted nonsense to the reporters, you learn a little thing about double speak— dodging questions, rather. You can never be totally honest, that's not what they're looking for really, and if you even let yourself be that... well, I'll say: one little slip-up and they'll never let you... stammering for a quick second l-l-live it down. He bows his head for a second and sighs before looking back up with a wide, almost phony, smile. He whets some fake guffaw as he speaks. Triple digits, not even trying to surprise me.
Rook: Okay.

Rook simply turns around, indignant. Max calls him from across the room once more, just as he opens the door.

Max: You weren't thinking of running against me, were you?
Rook (quickly, high): Of course not, sir.
Max: I didn't think so; just curious.

Rook nods as he heads out. In the hall before Max's office, he watches the bustle of aliens— small, tall, wide and all— between rooms and offices but is stolen away by a narrow window just to his right. He pans the open airlessness beyond this little station out in the middle of space, paying no attention to the other lengthwise installments. No, he wants what out there isn't covered in housing or medical bays. He can almost see the old times, thirty years prior, with his old partner.

Rook: ...Remember when it was not just this quadrant? Disrupting his prettier thoughts, someone slams the door as they enter Max's room behind him. He shakes his head and stares back out, this time actually paying attention. A long ship is coming into view, one that forces him to squint and press his face against this super-durable glass before a phone call comes in from an old friend. He looks down at it, not that it's necessary when the tone is set just for him. “Ben.” It will have to wait.

Rook declines the call and enters the traffic in a rush.

[BRAVEN OXENHARDT'S OFFICE, Plumbers' HQ] A stout humanoid in black, red, and white— even her skin, or whatever her kind must have, is a paper white— sits typing away at some futuristic computer. The short double doors in front of her, nowhere near as magnificent as Max's, are already open as Rook knocks on them. The woman at the desk looks up to him.

Woman: Rook! What can I do for ya, doll? Mistah Ox isn't here, by the way.
Rook: That's actually why I am here. Where is he?
Woman: Magistratus just called him— (whispering) sounded kinda mad if ya ask me.
Rook: When— ? The slam of Max's double doors bounces around his head as he rolls his eyes. Thank you, Yelrah.
Yelrah/Woman: Any time!

[MAGISTRATUS'S OFFICE, Plumbers' HQ] Braven, just after he'd slammed the door on his entrance earlier.

Braven: Sorry about the noise, old chap. Beginning his slow walk down the aisle. Don't get up.
Max (snarkily): I wasn't planning on it, Mr. Oxenhardt.
Braven: The formalities? Come now, I'm tasting a little less love in the air than I should be, Maxwell.
Max: Rook was just in here. Braven slows his gait, more distracted by his thoughts. You know, he is a bright man, one of our finest— no, definitely, our finest—, but he's not a very good liar; I admire that, find it useful, too.
Braven: What was he here about?
Max: I know you want to enter the race, but you know as well as I do that it will not end well for you. You can't base your campaign on building a sphere around the quadrant.
Braven: I know that. Quadrant Delta Coma has made it abundantly clear that nobody in the universe wants a sphere to keep out Celestialsapien alterations.
Max: Then, if you'll cooperate, and not push the both of us to waste money on pointless ads, I will give you whatever it is you need. Remember, that's how this works?
Braven: That's just the thing; you can't give me what I want anymore. I have something that the people need that you simply cannot give anyone ever again.
Max: Don't do this, Braven. Do you need a meal? Problems at home? Something I can help you with?
Braven (raising his voice, unable to catch his tongue): I am not a child; I do not need your help with my life!
Max (calming down, confidently): You are a child, by comparison, especially if you think you can go without others' help.
Braven: No, by comparison, I am an able adult to your senile elder.
Max (confused, disappointed): I don't know how you could have converted Rook—
Braven: I'm going to spell this out for you: I'm offering him and everyone else something you can't. I'm offering someone other than you.
Max: You're offering something other than what they look to be fine with?
Braven (sly): See now, that's the thing about looks, chap; they can be deceiving. See, I'm going to take my looks— my face— and just go to town with them— but no, not for money, of course not, but for votes. Your wrinkly, damaged mug will never make another vote in this town; I guarantee you.
Max (calmly, gritting his teeth): Get out of my office.
Braven: Gladly.

Like with Rook, Max catches a word before Braven slams the door.

Max: You might as well plan to announce at the press conference.
Braven: No, I'm not ready yet. Soon.

Braven exits. As Max lags into a slouch, Gwen's head returns.

Max: What do you think of my age, Gwendolyn?
Gwen: What do you mean, Grandpa? Max doesn't answer. You're still young; you can keep doing this job for as long as you want, if that's what you're asking.
Max (nodding): Okay. Remind me to put together a reelection committee later.
Gwen: Yeah, speaking of reminders... took your pills with lunch?
Max: About that...

Just outside Max's office, we find Braven as he's just left, running straight into an arms-crossed Rook.

Braven: Good, I was just about to come see you.
Rook: Then, by all means.
Braven: No, you came to me. What do you have?
Rook (unrolling his arms, relaxing his body): I agree, with you... I think the Magistratus really may not be able to handle the job anymore.
Braven: Glad we can see eye to eye. Then I want to get started immediately, announce at the press conference.
Rook: You're not changing things in your pursuit of this?
Braven: I'm purely in it so Max doesn't have to do the job anymore. It's clearly putting on a strain on him.
Rook: Okay, then good luck.
Braven: About that... I am going to need your help.
Rook: I'm not coming on stage with you. It's not in the schedule.
Braven: Oh, that's fine. I just need to know right now... I need you to tell me you support my run.
Rook: I do...
Braven: No, you need to really support it. I need to be able to say “Magister Rook Blonko, unrivaled star of the Plumbers, has endorsed me.” Can I say that, old friend?
Rook (backing up a bit): I do not...
Braven: I'm sorry, I understand. Too close to Maxwell— too loyal to do that. When it comes to him, it's about more than the law and governance of the galaxies, it's about family. I understand.
Rook: No, wait... Reluctantly. Braven, I understand when the law is more important than family— if I learned one thing living with my family as a child, it is that— but you have to understand that if I endorse you, I am putting utmost faith in you. I am putting my name out there and risking it. Braven Oxenhardt, if I endorse you, you can't embarrass yourself because you will be embarrassing me at the same time.
Braven: I promise to use this endorsement wisely, then. Do I have your public show of confidence?

[PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Rows upon rows of reporters chat with each other like it was a preschool cafeteria. But when the lights go out, so too does the volume. Gwen's full body projection reappears before as it approaches the podium.

Gwen: Light-ish day for you all: Magistratus Tennyson and Braven Oxenhardt for you all regarding the upcoming elections and then Ben 10,000 on... (squinting, eyes moving back and forth, then sighing) the, err, incident in the Pisciss Sector yesterday morning. She disappears as the lights return with Max and Braven suddenly at the podium. Max points to the same seat his staff member was sitting in the practice run yesterday.

Max: Yes, we'll start with you, err, Judi.

Judi, a giraffe-rhino mix of sorts, stands at her seat with a watch recording every word and converting to text.

Judi: Thank you, Magistratus. This one's for Braven, though. At a one-way mirror, we can see the woman from earlier pumping her fist proudly. We gotta know, with elections coming up: are you going to run again, or just leave the Magistratus to run unopposed?
Braven: I'm feeling the season already, Judi, and really proud of the work our Magistratus has done so far. When he took me on, I was skeptical, but through working alongside him (looking with a half-true smile over to Max) instead of against him, I've come to embrace the kind of ideals he and the people of our galaxies stand for. I've also come to see that he is an incredible leader, one whose footsteps in which I will one day follow.
Judi: You didn't answer the question, Braven. I'll reiterate: do you or do you not see yourself running against the sitting Magistratus this year?
Braven (with noticeably fire in the delivery, still glancing Max): Look, Judi, come talk to me in a few months about whether or not I'm running.
Max (alarming the press with his expression toward Braven, with the same delivery as in practice): He's basically waiting to see if I kick the bucket.

This time, though, Braven and the entire room are taken aback by the line. The woman in the back room, accompanied by a couple other nameless staff members, don't enjoy the line too much either. Even Gwen manifests, shaking her head in her palm. Max isn't sure how to respond.

Braven: Well, now, careful there, Mr. Magistratus; that's a very serious statement you have there.
Max: It's all in good fun, Braven.
Braven: I mean, I wish it could be, but... sir, you are getting older, and humans are not meant to last as long as you have. I'll be honest with you, that line really makes me think— should make all of you think: what becomes of our Magistratus's health and well-being at this age?
Judi: What are you saying?
Braven: I'm saying we need to keep the Magistratus safe. I don't think he understands what an important entity he has been throughout his life— for more of his life than not. He's so influential, and any of us would hate to lose him from working him into the ground.
Judi: So...?
Braven: So I'm saying, if Maxwell is not stepping down, then I must run if not only to make sure we can lessen the load on him.
Judi (her and everyone in the room raising their watches): Is that confirmation; you are running, then?
Braven (patting Max on the back): Yes, Judi, I am. I am going to run to save Maxwell Tennyson from himself.
Judi: Magistratus, what do you have to say about this?

Max is speechless, a scowl the room's clued. Gwen reappears at the podium, swiftly knocking out the lights.

Gwen (panicking): Okay, Ben 10,000 then.

The old wooden stage creaks before the room's seen again, barring Gwen. Ben 10,000 has taken the stage, with Kevin sitting in the background relaxing.

Ben (leaning on the podium, chin in his palm, lazily): Okay, I know we have a lot of questions about why one of the moons of Pisciss kinda blew up, so we'll just start with those. He swings his finger and finally points to a random corner of the room. Someone, unsure of if they were even picked, stands up in the back, Ben nodding them up. Yeah?
Random mess of brown goop (high-pitched voice sounding as though it were coming over a bad reception): Helmer S'Gloo of the Sticky Planet—
Ben: Question, not answers.
Helmer/Brown goop: Can you show us the new one?

As if Ben couldn't be more bored, he drops his face straight onto the podium before standing upright and transforming into a simple lion alien— one that looks almost entirely like a regular one from Earth, just with all-blue fur and walking on two.

Blue Lion Alien: Any further questions? He points to Judi. Judi?
Judi: What are you calling it?
Blue Lion Alien (sighing): Blueleone, I guess.
Judi: That name seems really bad, Ben.
Blueleone/Blue Lion Alien (sarcastically): Thanks.

[MAGISTRATUS'S OFFICE, Plumbers' HQ] Magister Patelliday barges into the room where several of Max's assistants are working together with him on reelection. When he reaches the desk, he points to the door.

Patelliday: Everyone, out; I need to speak with Max. Everyone scurries out of the room as Patelliday taps his foot and looks at his desk. With everyone gone, he keeps looking. Gwen, you can show yourself; I already know you listen in on everything that goes on here without needing a hologram.

Gwen's head appears over his desk.

Gwen: Okay, one: It's not a hologram, it's a mana-based intangible construct that reproduces my form and emotions at any chosen place; two: no, I don't have to be visible, it's just a formality. I'm not always listening either.
Max: What is it, Pat?
Patelliday: Before any of this reelection stuff begins, I need to see how healthy you are. It's very obvious that Oxenhardt is basing this whole thing on your age this time.
Max: Yes, um... see...
Gwen: Grandpa doesn't want to do the exams, so we haven't been doing them.
Patelliday: So you haven't had a check-up in how long?
Gwen: Yeah... like, um...
Max: Since the last election.

Patelliday practically slaps his face with it this time.

[APARTMENT 221B, Housing Station 22] A scaly lizard-esque (sans the tail) woman's passed out on her couch in front of a TV set to some late night news station, already reporting on Braven Oxenhardt's campaign. Her phone's on a coffee table adjacent, and its buzzing rattles her onto the floor. She gets up and grabs it, hastily picking up after reading the caller ID: “Patelliday.” She salutes, even though, it's not a video call, something she rectifies after greeting.

Lizard Woman: Yes, Magister Patelliday?
Patelliday: I need you ready and at your bay pronto; we have a special patient.
Lizard Woman: I have to be awake for a shift in—
Patelliday: This is important; you know I would wait if it wasn't.
Lizard Woman: Then I'll be right over, sir.

[ROOM 302, Medical Bay A7-Niner] Patelliday's scaly friend has donned a doctor's coat, and in spite of her state of duress and clear sleeplessness, turns on the lights in a large room layered with advanced medical technology. After clearing a bed in the center, she opens a door opposite the side she entered, letting in Patelliday and Max.

Lizard Woman (eager, softly): I suppose this is our special patient.
Patelliday: Yes. Max, this is Dr. Lazarus; I would trust her with my life and will trust her with yours. She's an everything-doctor, as we call 'em. She's of an endangered kind, so very smart.
Dr. Lazarus/Lizard Woman: Thank you, sir.
Patelliday: You are to perform a full work-up of his physical and mental health.
Dr. Lazarus: Of course. I have a question, though.
Patelliday: Yes... ?
Dr. Lazarus: “Max,” are you someone important? I mean, the Magister said you were “special” when he called, and I just— I have no idea. Neither Patelliday nor Max answers. Patelliday leaves. I'm serious, throw me a line, please. You could be the President of the Plumbers or whatever we have, and I wouldn't know... You aren't, right? Max only laughs. I'll take that as a no— sorry, I just gotta be certain.
Max: “Dr. Lazarus,” was it?
Dr. Lazarus (quick to it, like a child): Yes!
Max: Have you ever heard of the Lazarus Pit?
Dr. Lazarus (for once, sullen): Oh, please, don't get me started; it's the only thing I ever heard of in secondary, was awful. And the number of guys who thought asking me to take them back to my Lazarus Pit was cute? Uggh... I'm sorry. It's just, bad memories.
Max: Of course, I'm sorry, Doctor.
Dr. Lazarus: Liz, by the way.
Max: Liz Lazarus?
Dr. Lazarus: And also yes, my parents hated me.
Max: Nonsense, why would they?
Dr. Lazarus: I look like an Earth lizard and my name is “Liz”; my parents hated me.

Over the next several hours, we see Max undergo physical and mental duress, speaking before microphones and wearing strange alien headphones; running across the room, on the ceiling, and on walls with special boots; and finally laying flat on the sole seat in the room. She makes her conclusion.

Max: Are we done then?
Dr. Lazarus: Yes, um... Well, you've... you're healthy except for one little thing...
Max: Oh, good. What's the little thing?
Dr. Lazarus: Um, put simply... dementia, early stage dementia...

[Day 3: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Braven stands aside Rook at the podium before another crowded room.

Braven: And I would like to really thank Rook Blonko for his personal endorsement of me. After I decided to run, I remembered that my name still leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths. But I have changed, and my friend Rook here agrees to the point that he'd put his neck out to let you guys know that I can be your next Magistratus. The Plumbers need a change of face, for the sake of Max Tennyson; I can offer that.

[Day 4: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Max stands alone at the podium.

Max: I will not back out or back down. Don't listen to Braven Oxenhardt; I am as healthy as can... be.

[Day 5: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Braven's running the show again, alone this time.

Braven: I respect the Magistratus, but I know this man too well— I know he's a proud man. I want to see someone other than him say he's in good health, that his well-being isn't at risk because of his position. I think it's fair to have us all request a detailed examination from his personal doctor about his state.

[Day 6: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Patelliday is at the podium this time, Maxwell seated attentively behind him.

Patelliday: Yes, about that... see, the Magistratus has been privately seeing a doctor other than those provided here at Delta Coma's HQ. So it may take time for us to get the word out from her, but I promise you, we will let you know as soon as possible.

[APARTMENT 221B, Housing Station 22] Dr. Lazarus is watching Patelliday on the news, with a holographic cut-out of Max overlayed. She coughs out her drink in her gaping response to realizing just who Max is before receiving a call from Patelliday just after he leaves the podium.

Dr. Lazarus: Sir, you didn't tell me we were working with the Magistratus?
Patelliday: You didn't need to know to get the job done. And since you didn't know we even had a Magistratus, I doubt it would've made a difference.
Dr. Lazarus: Well— It does!
Patelliday: It doesn't. But I didn't call you to discuss that.
Dr. Lazarus: You want to discuss how I'm going to lie to the public about how Max is doing.
Patelliday: Liz, Braven Oxenhardt is a vindictive, divisive entity. Telling this little lie is better than having him as your next Magistratus, because if you don't, Max is out for good.
Dr. Lazarus: He can't be that bad.
Patelliday: Well, you haven't met the guy to judge, now have you?
Dr. Lazarus (wondering): No... no I haven't.
Patelliday: Lizzie, what are you thinking?
Dr. Lazarus: I demand you let me meet him.
Patelliday: You can't—
Dr. Lazarus: Let me meet him or I'm 100% telling everyone about this, even if you won't let me anywhere near that press room.

[PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] In the corridor beyond, Patelliday sighs as the call ends, only to pick it back up again for another.

Patelliday: Yelrah... I need to speak to Mr. Oxenhardt.

[Day 7: INTERROGATION ROOM 51, Plumbers' HQ] Behind a one-way mirror, Patelliday watches into a poorly lit room where Dr. Lazarus, dolled up with her hair not in shambles for once, in a white overcoat, red dress partly visible underneath, is seated upright across a four-meter floating table from Braven Oxenhardt, poorly kempt and slouching. The room is and has been silent for a while, but the doctor knows how to break the ice.

Dr. Lazarus: Doctor Liz Lazarus. You know why I'm here: Magistratus Maxwell Tennyson presents signs of early stage dementia. Lazarus can hear thumping on the other end of the mirror, clearly that of a crying Patelliday. You can almost feel the “why have you forsaken meeeee!” Laughing at her own joke but then miming some kind of zipper over her mouth. But back to the topic at hand. Mr. Oxenhardt, I know you're a good man— I know how good of a man you are— and I don't want you to base the entire race on the Magistratus's condition. This just looks ugly on you. Besides, looking where he rates mentally, I believe it'll be years before he needs to retire— so many so that it just doesn't make any sense. Yeah, I'll give the papers what they want and tell them he has dementia, but I'll also explain the facts: he's fine to work right now and for a good while. I have no idea what kind of incredible diet allows him to live like this at such an age, but he's doing it and doing it well. You have to let him— eyes up, Mr. Oxenhardt— you have to let him be.

She walks to the door, and with it partly ajar, Braven's already there above her fighting to keep it closed. She lets go.

Braven: Lass, I promise to stop publicizing this, but for his own sake, I will not stop running for this exact reason.
Dr. Lazarus: Keep your promises to yourself.

She easily throws the door open, knocking Braven off his balance.

[Day 29: PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Gwen's projection stands before Max in the corridor before the press room.

Gwen: Are you ready?
Max: Of course.
Gwen: Did you take your pills?
Max (suddenly agitated): For the love of— Yes, you don't need to keep reminding me.
Gwen (silent for a moment, puzzled by this entirely... un-Max-like reaction): Okay... Take them after alright?

Max shakes his head as he turns around and heads out to the podium. Gwen appears over there, dimming the light and introing him. The lights flicker back on to welcome him.

Max: Judi?
Judi: Braven's dropped out, but your doctor never really spoke for you. Is that it?
Max: I want to thank Braven so much for leaving the running. He really had my best interest at heart— that's important. He knows as well as I do that I'm a very healthy... guy... man...

In the back room, Gwen's construct stands with Lazarus and the woman on Max's staff, all questioning why he's paused.

Gwen (attempting for under her breath): He hasn't taken his pills...
Dr. Lazarus (frenzied): What pills?! Gwen turns to her without a word, just her mouth agape. The two look back to Max, silent, desolate, staring off into nothing mid-sentence. Everyone in the room, reporters included, are puzzled. Pull him, right now.

[ROOM 302, Medical Bay A7-Niner] Max is being rushed on a floating bed through the medical bay and into the room. Gwen and Patelliday slide him very easily into place on the chair as Lazarus launches all the equipment in the room.

Max (uncharacteristically irritable): I'm okay, let me go.
Dr. Lazarus (speaking quickly): Sir, if you don't let me get a detailed examination of you right now, I will be forced to require your resignation from the post of Magistratus on the grounds of mental instability.

Max lays flat and lets Lazarus go. Within a half hour, she's got her results.

Max (plainly): Gwen, can you wait outside?
Gwen (her construct suddenly sporting full color and depth): No, Grandpa, I'm staying.
Max: Please, pumpkin.
Gwen: I'll be listening into—
Max: You know why I want you outside.
Gwen: But, Grandpa...

He looks at her, squinting but blankly. He very slowly closes his eyes, twitching as he does so. His head drops and very quickly it's in his palms. She becomes solid; she makes a physical presence just to hug him before dashing out of the room, looking back after she's out the door. Inside, Max looks up with a wet face.

Dr. Lazarus: Sir... I can't let you run again. Those pills you've been taking... those over-the-counter things you never told me about, that have been keeping your body working so well, are too vital; you miss one day and your mind could deteriorate as it would over the course of 20 years... in a day. You need to be within arm's length at all times in case you miss it, but most importantly, you cannot miss it ever again.
Max: Then Braven will win.
Patelliday: Well, not necessarily... Max, I think it's time we start talking about something we should have a long time ago: your proper replacement, someone we handpick.
Max: I need Gwen.
Patelliday: Not to offend, sir, but Gwendolyn is not the bes—
Max: No, she knows me as well as I know me. If this thing— if this dementia— is as bad as Dr. Lazarus says, then I want her guidance with this. She'll be a vital part in picking my successor.

Patelliday nods as he heads for the door. He calls for her out of earshot, but as he comes back in, he looks to Max with a smile.

Patelliday: Ben is also not an option.

Max chokes a snicker here.

[PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Ben is coming from the podium to the back room where he's to trade off with Braven. The latter gets up as the former sits, but not without engaging each other.

Braven: I really do hope for the best from your father— eh, grandfather, my mistake; I regularly work with people whose fathers I'm familiar with.
Ben (lazily): Mmm.
Braven: Is your father not a Plumber?
Ben: My father wasn't a Plumber, no; not everyone in the family has to be a Plumber. Matter of fact, I'm a Plumber in-name-only.
Braven: Ah... well, my condolences. I think your father did amazing work in his time.
Ben: What could you possibly know of my dad's work?
Braven: My apologies; I was... referring to you, dear boy.
Ben (pulling back, embarrassed): I'm, uh...
Braven: No need. My boy, I'm not all bad, like I'm sure everyone you work with has made me out to be simply because I want the best for Maxw— for the Magistratus. As Gwen disappears and the lights flash on, Braven is welcomed before the reporters. It's time. Max Tennyson can no longer be our Magistratus, not after that show of just how senile he is now. His eyes gape, and everyone in the room gasps at his gall to say what he just said. Almost seems like he didn't even expect to say it. Magistratus Tennyson has genuinely lost his mind, but don't worry, I am the future face of the Plumbers. Look, I know the truth about Max that everyone's felt but no one wanted to hear: Max has dementia. I know this for a fact— I'm not making it up. It's why I dropped out of the race, because I was told to personally by Dr. Lazarus since it wasn't to truly affect him for “years,” she said. But here he is, gone off the deep end.

[EXECUTIVE LOUNGE, Plumbers' HQ] Rook pays close attention to the projection of Braven making a mockery of himself— and by extension, his endorser. He's tapped on the shoulder by one of Gwen's mana constructs that gestures him to follow her.

[MAGISTRATUS'S OFFICE, Plumbers' HQ] Gwen's construct disappears after getting Rook into the room. He closes the door behind him and walks up to Max's desk, flanked there by Dr. Lazarus, Gwen, Ben, and Patelliday. Gwen's presence isn't as a construct... again, she's actually here.

Max (desolate): I'm... glad you could make it.
Rook: What is going on?
Dr. Lazarus: It's all true... the Magistratus does have dementia, and it appears to be approaching its later stages.
Rook: As I thought... I am glad you told me, but I am not sure—
Max: Rook, we want you to be the next Magistratus. We want you to run against Braven Oxenhardt.
Rook: What? I can't—
Max: Do you want him to win? Like this, I'm not going to get any votes, not anymore.
Rook: You have to try, sir.
Max: I cannot try. Glancing Lazarus. My doctor will not allow it.
Ben: Rook, you're a natural leader; you've shown that all your life, even when you were just starting to be my partner as a kid.
Max: You were every bit as destined to do great things as any of us, as myself— and this is the time to show it. It won't be your first accomplishment, and I hope to God it's not your last, but son, this is gonna be one of those times they write about. Rook, I can't give you my endorsement— the people can't trust me anymore.
Ben: But we can.
Gwen: I know you can do this, Rook. You're literally the Plumbers' finest.
Rook (saluting): I'll need to think about this.
Dr. Lazarus: Rook, Oxenhardt wants it too much... now that he's running unopposed, he doesn't care what he does. Make him care; seal his fate.

Rook nods before heading out the door.

Ben: “Seal his fate?” Melodramatic much? Dr. Lazarus (shrugging): Eh.

Just beyond the room, Rook catches another projection of Braven, still talking at the podium. He just wildly shakes his head and stomps over to the press room.

[PRESS ROOM, Plumbers' HQ] Braven's wrapped up his segment and walked into the back room as everyone's departing, just to get away from him. Among them, the former Magistrata sneaks away.

Braven: Magistrata, is that you?

She turns around and puts on the worst of fake grins— more grimace than anything.

Magistrata (a high-brow formal, English accent): Braven. Hello.
Braven: I was wondering if I could get your endorsement, because I'm fairly certain Rook is going to come out and turn his back on me any day now.
Magistrata (dryly): After that display? No, of course, anything for you.
Braven: Can always count on you.
Magistrata: I really do hope you know I'm kidding.
Braven: Yes, I know. You know, you're quite the witch.
Magistrata: And yourself quite the bitch.
Braven (sighing happily): Kick the bucket, please. I can't wait to piss on your grave.

Braven walks away.

Magistrata: Safe travels, Oxenhardt.

Gwen appears at the podium, forgetting to dim the lights as she speaks to the few reporters that haven't left yet.

Gwen: We have Rook Blonko, special case here.

She disappears, as Rook braves the podium alone for the first time.

Rook (in spite of the small crowd, he still darts among them cowardly): I regret endorsing Braven Oxenhardt, I want to start with that. Hands raise about the light room. He points awkwardly to Judi. Sorry, I only know her name— Judi?
Judi: Yes, thank you, Rook. Why did you endorse him in the first place?
Rook: He presented me with the idea that the Magistratus was not okay, that this was for his safety. I knew as much as any of you, but I also knew that— I know that— people are unpredictable sometimes. I guess, in that way, they are predictable— predictable unpredictable. I'm sorry. He sighs then collects himself. I expected that out of Braven; I felt something that was telling me what I was doing was wrong, but I didn't know... I couldn't know how wrong I was. You know, you try to be cautious after you hear of others' failures but you still never learn till you do it yourself. He stops then starts again. I stand for the Plumbers continuing to make the galaxies safe; I always will, and I thought Braven could do that. He can't, and the Plumbers have made it abundantly clear that there's no one who can do it like the Magistratus always has... but I think I can try. Lend me your show of confidence; I have never steered you wrong, please.

A plump Necrofriggian in the back of the room stands up.

Necrofriggian (scratchy voice): Cyanne Walsh of Frozen ExtraNews. So you're running for Magistratus?
Rook (grinning): Yes, I am running to become the next Magistratus of the Plumbers.
Cyanne/Necrofriggian: Have you been fed lines by Max Tennyson or his staff? We know you're close, and we know Braven isn't.
Rook (stopping for a moment, recalling something Max said about honesty and the public): I haven't been fed lines. I'll have you know, the Magistratus— as you should be referring to him— did reach out to me along with Ben Tennyson, Gwen Tennyson, his doctor, and Magister Patelliday. None of their names should be hurt by this, but they wanted me to know that they back me. But before we got out here, I told them only that I would think about it because I didn't think I wouldn even run— but now I have to, to separate myself from the Magistratus, and to not only keep the galaxies safe but to make it better in ways we all know Oxenhardt will not. I am duty-bound to be his foil. Unlike him, I'm not going to tell you I'm the Magistratus in every way just with a new face. I am not him— I'm not that incredible man. He told me never to be 100% honest with you guys, because you have a strong tendency to make people regret being honest with your sensationalism... and all. I dare you to, though. He collects himself again. Pardon my frankness.
Judi: Please, we appreciate it more than the double-talk. Maybe if you guys actually were that honest all the time, we wouldn't have to go digging for headlines.
Rook: Oh, we are honest. Honesty is Magistratus Tennyson's only policy; he's never lied, just never told the full story.

[Day 88: PARTY DECK, Plumbers' HQ] An assortment of powerful aliens have gathered to inaugurate the next Magistratus. Ben and Rook are chatting.

Ben: You got me again...
Rook: That comedic ruse never gets old, but it will be a challenge to perform the duties of Magistratus as well as your grandfather has.
Max (adjacent Rook): Nonsense, Rook, you're gonna do just fine. Truth is, you've been the top man around here for years.
Rook: That is kind of you to say, Magist—
Max (giving off some light visceral sound as he waves Rook to pause): Call me Max, might as well get used to it.
Ben: I know the invitation said no gifts, but I just couldn't show up empty-handed.

We pan up to Dr. Animo adjacent Ben's flaunting hands.

Dr. Animo (desolate): Finally retiring, Maxwell? This place won't be the same without you.
Max: We kept your room just like you left it.

Max sees Liz across the way and salutes Rook on his way over.

Liz: So you didn't tell him?
Max: You told me not to tell anyone.
Liz: That didn't stop you from telling Gwen. Bit unfair to him: “Yay, I'm Magistratus.” Next day...
Max: This is easier.
Liz: For whom?
Max: ...For me.
Liz: Shouldn't it be easy for him, too?
Max: Can't we just leave it a bittersweet victory?
Liz: Sir, I've only gotten to know you over these last few months, and believe me, it has been an honor. But you know I can't settle— you know you can't. Tell me honestly, tomorrow, I cut you off these pills and your mind feels your age... are you gonna be happy knowing this what you did last?
Max: I'll be proud of all that I did... but I'll have my regrets.
Liz: Wanna add one more thing you're proud of? You just have to walk over there and tell him.

Max simply stares over at Rook from here.


Also available here

In first place we have none other than Coke, whose entry is probably twice as long as the other two entries combined. A story about a mentally diminishing Max, Coke's entry truly stays true to the theme and does a very good job at it. Oh, and there was a nice tie-in at te end. Also, am I the only one who got a Zootopia vibe from all the animal-like characters?

All in all, all three of your entries were fun to read. Congratulations and great job to all of you for participating in the contest. See you next time!

Do you agree with the results?

The poll was created at 03:29 on September 28, 2016, and so far 5 people voted.
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