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Zark's Clues by MeridianDay
Zark's Clues by MeridianDay
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Zarks Clues

"Here at Center Neptune, deep beneath the sea, I am always busy watching the
galaxy for signs of enemy invaders. I don't get many visitors here in Nerve
Center, but I don't get lonely - I have my dog 1-Rover-1 to keep me company.
He's a robot too, you know. What's that, 1-Rover-1? Oh, you want to play a
game."

1-Rover-1 yarped a few times

"What's Blue's Clues?"

The robot dog yarped at length, explaining the premise of Blue's Clues. This
roughly translated as "Blue is a puppy who communicates with her owner by using
pawprints as clues. When the owner has located three pawprints, he has to work
out Blue's message. I want to play Blue's Clues with you."

"Oh, of course I'll play, 1-Rover-1."

1-Rover-1 chased his own tail for a moment while yarping melodically, then
produced an organic carbon based palmtop data entry device and a solid state
marker and handed them to Zark.

"Why, a notebook and crayon, how quaint. Thank you. What do we do now?"

More yarping.

"Oh, look for clues." Zark rotated as he looked around his control room, but he
saw no pawprints. He laughed indulgently, "Silly me, you haven't had time to put
the clues out yet. Let me know when you're ready and then we'll play."

Just then, a message came in from G-Force. "Zark, we've completed our mission
and we're on our way home."

"That's wonderful Commander. Great work, well done and have a good journey
back". Zark set the hyperspace navigation protocols in action and terminated
the communication. He was just about to say how proud he was of G-Force and how
he wished he could go on a mission with them, when he heard a tremendous
metallic clang in his very near vicinity. "Goodness, 1-Rover-1, what was that?
Is someone attacking the base?"

1-Rover-1 yarped reassuringly.

"But it could be Zoltar. What if he's found Center Neptune? He'd be able to
conquer the whole galaxy from here."

More yarping. Someone who was not only familiar with the robot dog's style of
communication but also possessed a modicum of subtlely, might have caught a
faint trace of guilt in its tone. It went right over Zark's head.

"Well, if you're quite certain. But that sounded so close. I was rather
worried." He started to walk to another control panel and part of his body
casing got caught on one of his legs and clattered to the floor. "Oh! I'm
falling to pieces! Oh my goodness. That means I'll be replaced for sure. It's
one thing to forget my own birthday, but quite another to go to pieces on the
job. And what will Susan think? What's that 1-Rover-1? Did you do this?" Zark
picked up the sad piece of plating. "Oh my, this is your footprint isn't it? I
can't believe you hit me! That was a very irresponsible thing to do. My
integrated digital thermofibrilation controller must have been just microns
from being smashed to pieces. I suppose it was due for a service anyway, but
even so, 1-Rover-1, I'm very disappointed in you. What do you mean it's part of
the game? Did you say I'm your first clue? I, 7-Zark-7, am your first clue? Oh,
well, that's all right then. I'm very flattered. And you're quite right, that
little piece of plating is easily replaceable. One of the panel beating droids
down in maintenance will have it straightened out in seconds. Well, well, I'm
your first clue. So what happens now?"

Yarp yarp yarp.

Zark opened up the notebook and held the crayon artistically in his hand.

"So, we draw a football shape for my body, a line here and here, add some
lights, don't forget the fosdic, arms, legs and antennae and voila, a picture
of me. And a very good likeness it is, even if I say so myself, especially
considering it's drawn with such a crude implement."

1-Rover-1 would have rolled his eyes but his designers hadn't seen that sort of
ability as a functional requirement. Which is just as well, he would have spent
fully 12 hours out of every 24 rolling his eyes otherwise, and he had far more
important maintenance tasks to be getting on with.

"So, I have to find two more clues. Now, where can they be?" A small electrical
fire in the console nearest to 1-Rover-1 distracted him and he flustered only
momentarily before grabbing a compact fire extinguisher and putting it out.
Sparks continued to shoot out of the smoking metalwork, interspersed with a
holographic image. Of the pawprint of a robot dog.

"Oh my goodness, is that another clue? This is getting dangerous, 1-Rover-1.
It's a good job that unit doesn't do anything crucial. In fact, out of all the
consoles in here, that one was the least important. Well, at least we're all
safe and nothing really bad happened. So, where's my notebook?"

Zark produced the notebook from the approximate location of where a back pocket
would be if he was designed to wear jeans, and carefully drew a picture of an
electrical fire with his crayon.

"1-Rover-1, if you're going to carry on being so destructive, I shall have to
put you in for a service." The robot dog buried its head apologetically beneath
its metal paws. "Well, two clues. Go over there and get the spare fire
extinguisher, I don't want to be without it if you're going to behave like
this." Tail spinning, the robot dog helicoptered uneconomically across the room
and brought back the fire extinguisher.

At that moment, the Phoenix appeared on the viewscreens. It had finished its
journey through timewarp and was starting its approach to Earth. Zark ran
through his transponder and telemetry checklists and secured a clear path
through the robot defence systems. "All cleared for re-entry, G-Force". And
then he noticed the pawprint, wavering over the image.

"Is that the third clue?" Zark quickly pulled out his notebook and sketched the
Phoenix. Setting his controls to automatic he asked 1-Rover-1 "So we have all 3
clues. Now what do we do?"

Yap yaap yap yap yap yap yap yap yap yaaap yaaap yaa-aa-aa-aa-aa-aap, sang the
dog.

"Sit down in our thinking chair? Well, when I want to have a quiet think I go
to my relaxation room for a 10 second oil break. I've got a chair there." He
strolled into his transport tube and stepped out again next to the shower unit.
Back in the main control room, 1-Rover-1 hurried away to another part of Center
Neptune, making sure the door was very securely closed behind him.

"So, what were the clues again? Me, an electrical fire, and the Phoenix. Well,
there could be a fire on the Phoenix and I could spot it with my sensors and
warn G-Force so they could put it out? Except the Phoenix is nearly home now
and there is no sign of any onboard technical problem. So, what else could it
be? If the Phoenix isn't suffering any fire or electrical problems, does that
mean that I am? And what could the Phoenix possibly have to do with that?"

The Phoenix splashed down into the sea, the water droplets from the surf
prisming the sunlight into a brief rainbow. It banked gracefully through the
water, trailing bubbles of steam that spiralled behind it like a ticker tape
welcome. And it banked just a little too close to Center Neptune and the
trailing nacelle took a chunk out of the side. Which just happened to open into
Zark's relaxation suite. Shreds of the station's hull burst into the room,
piercing his casing and making him spark as much as the burning control panel.
Then the water flooded in, crushing him against the inner wall, and then
bouncing him off again so that he bobbed out of the hole into the open sea.

"Oh, so that's what the clues meant!", were his last thoughts before his
circuits shorted out.

-o-O-o-

G-Force kicked back in the R & R room. Tiny allowed himself extra double cheese
and pickle on his spaceburgers, Princess and Keyop jammed jovially, Mark and
Jason leaned on the edge of their ping pong table with a surreptitious imported
beer and a spaceburger each.

"Another one down. It can't be too long now before QT Labs stop building that
model and we get the 8-Zark-8."

"Please, please tell me it's true that they took the personality programming
out of that one?"

"True as this burger tastes good."

"Sweet."

"It's good that 1-Rover-1 always gives him a sporting chance too, means we
don't have to feel guilty."

Their comm screen lit up. Team members with beer hid the bottles from view as
quickly as they could. The familiar metal domed head of a Zark appeared, and
its oddly maternal tones filled the room. "I'm so sorry to have been indisposed
for the last few days, team. I just want you to know that I'm fully functional
again and working better than ever. There is no better reason for a robot to
exist than to serve...", saluting, "G-Force."

G-Force lined up and saluted back, as was their way, and the comm screen winked
off again. Like five acting as one, they sagged.

"Aroot doot - failed again"

"Oh well, here's to next time. They can't keep on replacing him much longer."

"Back to the ping pong then, Skipper".


-------

Thanks to Dei for pre-reading.
Most of this belongs to Sandy Frank except for Blues Clues which belongs to
Nickelodeon.
~ Table of Contents ~
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