Gus “Smiley” Yellow was getting tired of the white fabric over his eyes. “If I could only see what was going on,” he thought, although he couldn’t finish that sentence.
But what Smiley couldn’t see, he could hear. And what he heard was a little “tappity, tappity, clickity, tap” that could only be one particular mouse scurrying along. Arrow ran and with its mouth lifted the cloth from Smiley’s face.
“Arrow! It’s so good to see you. You won’t believe what happened to me today.”
Arrow squeaked in a way that suggested he could believe anything at this point, and then looked around. Horror instantly struck the albino mouse as he saw none other than the Rogue Int, climbing up on top of the top-left space on the minesweeper board. Arrow quickly stomped on Gus’s face as hard as he possibly could.
“OWW!!! Arrow, that hurt! What’s the big idea?”
Arrow ignored his master’s comment for the moment, and watched on as Fatal Error jumped on the space in the top-left corner.
Outside The Motherboard, two mysterious and very fat figures in oversized coats nodded and snickered to each other.
“Hee hee hee, Bubba, this gonna get some major screams.”
Bubba giggled back. “I always wanted to try this.”
“Okay, you go in, on three. I’ll get the restaurant down the street if yours turns out successfully.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Then I got your back, Bubba. I’ll be out here until I see it work out.”
Bubba nodded and said, “Ready, Hal?”
Hal nodded back. “Ready. One…two…three!”
Bubba burst in through the front door of the joint so loudly that it grabbed everybody’s attention. He put his hand-like features on his coat and prepared to open it.
“Nobody move!” he yelled, “I… am a BOMB!” Then he opened his coat to reveal his land mine-like appearance. Everybody in The Motherboard screamed. Bubba looked back out the window, smiled, and nodded to Hal. Hal smiled back and went down the street to try the same thing in another restaurant… or maybe another department.
“Yes,” thought Hal, “Another department would do much better. And because I’m on Main Street, I have access to every department on the computer. Let’s see which ones haven’t been taken by my other land mine friends already: the Central Intel Agency? No, Bertha has that one. The Video Department? No, that’s Raul’s job. Hey, there’s one I don’t think anybody has taken yet: the Audio Department!”
Hal marched through the door and into The Sound Card Music Shop. Inside, he found four ints, all wearing headphones and listening to music.
“Nobody move!” shouted Hal, “I… am a BOMB!” Some of the people looked up, but only briefly, as Hal opened his coat. But the people didn’t scream. One int came up to him from behind the counter. He had a Grateful Dead shirt on and wore his hair in a pony tail that was half the length of his beard.
This int looked Hal over, but he didn’t take off his headphones. “Wow, what have we got here? Some guy just comes walking into the store, and he wants to flash everybody. Let me guess: you’re here for the latest Michael Jackson album, right?”
“No, I’m a BOMB!” Hal tried to sound impressive, but the store clerk still couldn’t hear him over his music.
“Oh, you want the ‘bomb.’ Mariah Carey’s in the second aisle. Just look for the bin that reads ‘Sale: $4.99.’”
Hal was confused more than he was infuriated. The int actually thought that Hal was one of its own. Hal buttoned his coat back up and tried to act like a real customer. Hal didn’t have any money for buying music, but maybe he could try some stuff out while he was here.
“You don’t have some extra headphones lying around, do you?” yelled Hal. This time, the int heard him.
“Sure,” he said, taking off his own headphones and offering them to Hal, “go ahead and try out anything you like. Just don’t blow me up.” The int smiled and winked at the land mine.
So he had heard the bomb the first time! Pretty clever guy, that music salesman. Hal smiled back. He adjusted the headphones to fit his giant head, and put them on. The song the clerk had been listening to was still playing on the MP3 player: “War! Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Sing it again, y’all!”
Fatal Error laughed out loud as he stomped on the space. The tile gave way under him, so he waited to hear a giant explosion coming from the inthole. But he heard nothing. Fatal looked down at the tile: it wasn’t a bomb! Fatal must have been mistaken or something. Nonetheless, the space had a big red 3 printed on it. So all he had to do was to step on one of the adjacent ones, and—
Arrow the mouse ran full speed into Fatal’s side, tackling him and taking him off the game board and onto the desktop. When Fatal was able to get free, he ran toward the Minesweeper board. Arrow was slightly faster than the rogue int, so Fatal didn’t have time to jump on a tile. Instead, he squirmed between the spaces, as he had earlier, going where the mouse was too big to fit in.
Fatal went downstairs, one floor, than another, than another. When he had reached the bottom, he was in the Beginner Flag Squadron’s room. Brenda Presario shrieked as she saw him run through the doorway.
Fatal saw her standing on the other side of the room. “YOU!” he shouted, “How did you get free?” the evil int advanced on Brenda, but the ten flags stood in his way.
Bottleneck looked back to Brenda and said, “Run! We’ll hold him off.”
Brenda ran through another doorway, up another stairway, and didn’t stop running. When she had climbed up the last flight of stairs, she found herself on top of the Minesweeper board.
Back in the basement, Fatal Error got an idea. He took out from his trench coat a miniature palm pilot and pressed a sequence of buttons. Instantly, the Minesweeper board was closed off from the rest of the monitor. Arrow the mouse was still on the desktop, so the little int was all alone where she was, except for Gus Yellow, who sat at the top of the board with his usual smile.
She couldn’t go back down, and she couldn’t escape to the desktop. As scary as this was, it was nothing compared to what happened next.
Brenda heard a beeping sound, and then noticed something out of the corner of her eye: the timer in the corner of the board, which had already been moving, reset itself. But it didn’t reset to zero… it reset to 999, and started counting down.
To anybody who has ever played Minesweeper at the expert level, 999 might not seem like such a hard time to shoot for. But this was the first time Brenda had ever played the game. And now, if she made even one mistake, it would be Game Over for good.
998, 997, 996, 995…
Fatal Error was just about through with pressing buttons. Everything in the entire monitor was separated into two categories: those on the screen, and those behind the screen. The only door left open was the door between the Expert Board Flag Squadron and the Minesweeper board because, after all, that was the one door Fatal’s palm pilot couldn’t close while the program was open. And of course, all of the passageways inside the monitor, not linked to the screen, were still open.
This being done, the rogue int hurried back out the door from which he had entered the Beginner Squadron’s lair, and proceeded to try and find the communications center of the monitor so that he could see what was happening on the screen.
“Hmm, let’s see,” he said, “the communications center is usually right behind the screen. I’ll go up one level, and start searching the halls for the right chip.”
Just then he heard a voice coming from all around him, as if it were on a loudspeaker. The voice belonged to none other than Angus DeFrag.
“Okay, Brenda, can you hear me?” he asked, “Nod your head if you can.”
On the screen, a miniscule figure nodded rapidly.
“Brenda, I’m in the communications center of the monitor, so I’m going to help you through this, alright?”
“I’ve just been tapping into the computer’s audio system like I always do, and a guy named Hal answered on the other side of the line. He says he can help you clear this board. First, though, Brenda, I have to ask you, is there any way you can jump on the big X in the corner and close this program?”
Brenda tried, but found that her motion was restricted to the minefield. She couldn’t hit the X just as she couldn’t hit the File button to close the game—or at least select the Beginner level.
Angus sighed. “Okay, don’t worry, Brenda, I’ll put Hal on the line for you. Take it away, Hal.”
Hal the land mine picked up the microphone attached to his MP3 player; Angus had told him to get the nearest one in the music shop and use it to communicate with him.
“Um, hello?” said Hal, “I’m not sure if you can hear me, but I’m a bom—er, that is to say, I’m a resident of the Minesweeper board, and I just realized that if you step on a land mine on the board, well, many of my friends and I will die in a massive explosion, so I’m helping you out. I can tell you how to clear the Minesweeper board. Are you listening? Um, good. Here goes: start at the bottom of the board and count three spaces from the left and four spaces up. You got that? Then jump on the square.”
Angus interrupted, “Alright, Hal, just wait a minute until she does all that.”
Brenda did exactly as she was told, moving three steps right, four steps up, and jumping. The tile under her body gave way to reveal nothing but a blank space. Several other tiles cleared, as well.
“Okay, Hal, she’s got it. What next?”
Suddenly, Hal was cut off. So was Angus. Fatal Error stood in a corner of the monitor’s communication center, twirling a pair of scissors in his hand.
“Looks like your connection just got cut, buddy,” Fatal said, chuckling as smoke came out through his teeth.
“Oh no! Don’t tell me I’ve just been cut off! The clock is down to 800 seconds, and I have no clue how to play this game. I’m doomed!”
“No you’re not.”
“Who said that?”
“Up here, above the board.”
Brenda looked up. To her astonishment, the smiley face was talking to her in ventriloquist-like fashion, keeping the same old smile while speaking.
“Hi, my name’s Gus. You can call me ‘Smiley.’ I might not know exactly which spaces are safe and which aren’t, but I can help you with playing the game.”
“Good, ‘cause I need some help right now.”
“Basically, there are spaces with numbers on them all over the board. Each number indicates how many land mines are next to that space. You don’t want to step on a land mine, by the way.”
“I figured that much.”
“Good. If you see a space that you know is a bomb, just jump on it with your right foot, but not your left. That will deactivate that bomb. The game ends when all 99 bombs are deactivated… or you die.”
Brenda gulped. “I’ll take the first option, thank you.” She was genuinely nervous, but in a way she was grateful for Smiley’s help.
“So, let me see here: this space has a one on it, and it’s only touching one space that hasn’t been revealed yet. So, that space must be a bomb…”
In the Inthole, the land mine known as “Big Oliver” had been assigned to take out the two ints that were trying to carry the sign to the monitor earlier. At last he had cornered them—not an easy task for a guy named “Big Oliver” against two fast little ints. But here he was, closing in on them after they had reached a dead end.
Int A: Aaaah! No! We’re trapped, Joey!
Int B: I can see that, but there’s nothing I can do about it!
Oliver: (walking ever closer) You’re going down!
Int A: No! Please have mercy, Mr. Land Mine, sir. We never did anything to deserve any punishment!
Int B: Here, I have some sandwich material in my pocket. Would you like a sandwich?
Oliver: What’s on it?
Int B: Let’s see, there’s lettuce, tomato, cheese, ham—all made of silicon, of course, for that healthy int and land mine diet… yeah. All land mines love silicon, right? Heh heh.
Oliver: Does it have Miracle Whip on it?
Int B: I don’t think so.
Oliver: In that case, you’re dead!
Int B: Darn those truth-telling Miracle Whip commercials!
Oliver advances on the ints, but is all of a sudden stopped in his tracks. He is fading out.
Oliver: Wha-what’s happening? I’m being deactivated! No! (his speech and movements become jerky motions, as if he is resisting some sort of unseen force) Dynamite… neutralized… Fuse link to game board… cut off… Bomb-like intimidating character and mojo… going… going… gone.
Oliver falls to the floor, unconscious.
Int A: Do you think he had a heart attack?
Int B: There’s only one way to find out.
Int A: What’s that?
Int B: Well, I saw on a Charlie Brown cartoon that you have to pound him on the nose.
Int A: Does this guy have a nose?
Int B: Good question. I say we just leave him here.
Int A: Agreed.
They are about to walk away when Oliver gets up and smiles at the ints congenially.
Int A: AAAAH! HE’S BACK! DEAD MINE WALKING! DEAD MINE WALKING!
Oliver: Hello, my little int friends. It’s so nice to see you today. Would you please tell me what all you are yelling about?
Int A: (blank expression on his face) What did he say?
Int B: I think he’s gone mad.
Oliver: No, I’m not mad. I’m me again. Normally, land mines such as myself are nice, gentle creatures. But whenever we’re hooked up to the Minesweeper game, we get angry. I just got deactivated, which means I’m nice again now.
Int A: You don’t say.
Int B: So, do you want that sandwich now?
Oliver: Does it have mayonnaise on it?
Int B: It’s really more of a Dijon sauce.
Oliver: Grey Poupon?
Int B: No.
Oliver: WHAT?! That’s it, ya little squirt, you’re dead!
The ints run past Oliver out into the open. Oliver chases them, chanting “No Miracle Whip and no Grey Poupon make Oliver an angry bomb” à la The Shining.
Int A: (to Int B) You know, you really ought to use some higher quality condiments on your food. That’s the second time this week someone’s attacked you for not having Grey Poupon.
Int B: Hey, that’s not true! The first time it was because I went to that Palamer house for a formal dinner and, in a western accent, asked the hostess to “please pass the jelly.”
Brenda was getting the hang of this Minesweeper game. But now she was struck with a dilemma: there were only nine spaces left, forming a perfect square in the box, but all of the outer ones seemed to be bombs.
“Hmm, what do you think I should do, Gus? There are eight bombs remaining, and nine spaces. And because of the formation of numbers, I know that all of the ones attached to a number on the screen are land mines. Which one of the remaining four spaces should I choose?”
Gus shrugged at this question, that is to say, he would have if he had shoulders.
“I don’t know,” said Gus, “Maybe you should wait and see if your friend in the communication center can get back the phone line. Then he could tell you which space is safe.”
“Oh, I hope he hurries,” said Brenda, “There are only 100 seconds left!”
99, 98, 97…
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:
“It’s all over, Angus DeFrag. You and your entire race will be wiped out in a few short seconds.”
“Not exactly,” said Angus to Fatal Error, who still stood in the doorway with the pair of scissors, “96 of the land mines have been deactivated. So only relatively minor damage will be done.”
Fatal laughed. “Not so, my byte-brained adversary.” Tired of standing, Fatal leaned against one of the machines in the communications center. He was completely unaware of the fact that when he did this, he pressed the Emergency Broadcast System button at the same time. Now his voice could be heard throughout the Monitor, Inthole, and other devices as he laid out his plan for Angus.
So all of the 99 land mines heard their leader as he said, “You see, Mr. DeFrag, I’ve wired all of the land mines up so that even after deactivation, they can still explode. That way, I can make sure there aren’t any surviving mines to annoy me later. I gotta tell you, those mines were starting to get on my nerves. They’re all idiots! No good for anything except exploding and making a huge blast of it, too. Then the only ones left alive will be that girlfriend of yours, Brenda, and myself. Yes, Brenda will make a lovely Femme Fatale, don’t you think? Hahaha! She’ll never guess that the right space on the board is in the middle of the nine squares left! And as for you, janitor, I think it’s now time I showed you why I’m called Fatal.” Fatal pulled out a syringe. “It’s my latest virus,” he said, “And it’s waiting for you.”
Angus walked backwards as the Rogue Int advanced on him, until DeFrag found himself cornered. Angus had never dealt with a guy like Fatal before; that type of job was usually left for the soldier ints of the inthole. But Angus did know a thing or two about hand to hand combat; he remembered the days when he’d pretend his broom was a karate bo staff as he tapped into the music department to listen to “Kung Fu Fighting.”
The janitor adeptly batted the virus from Fatal’s grasp, at which point Angus turned the tables on our villain, so to speak.
“Take that! And that! And one of these, too!”
“Hmm, the space in the middle. Thanks, whoever said that!” Brenda had heard Fatal’s speech, even though she couldn’t recognize the voice for whatever reason. She now jumped on the space in the middle. When she didn’t hear an explosion, she looked down. She saw a giant black 8 on the space. “YES! WOOHOO! I did it! Hey, Smiley, I did it! All of the other bombs are flagged. We won!”
Smiley looked at her coolly through his sunglasses. “Believe me, I know. Wow, these are nice glasses. Won’t see these again for a while. Hey, thanks, little int friend.”
Brenda imitated Gus’s smile on her own face. “Don’t mention it,” she said. “Now, who was that on the loudspeaker calling me a ‘Femme Fatale?’”
Angus and Fatal were currently rolling about the floor in an all-out struggle, each with his hands around the other’s throat. As they rolled out of the room and down some stairs, Fatal’s palm pilot fell from his trenchcoat pocket. The micro-micro-computer smashed into pieces on the floor below, and all of the locks on the monitor were suddenly removed.
Then Fatal pulled a dirty trick—after all, is there a time when he doesn’t pull a dirty trick?—and flung Angus over him and down the stairs. Fatal got up to finish the job, when ninety-nine landmines came up the stairs the other way. On instinct, Fatal ran back into the communication center to try and escape the army of mines. Then he found out, much to his dismay, that there was only one door leading in and out of the room; he was doomed.
“Only one exit?” Fatal yelled, dropping his cigarette for the last time in a long time, “That doesn’t meet fire code! This Monitor is a deathtrap! Who in the world would design such a place?”
The author of this story, that’s who.
“Oh, you shut up, Human.”
The name’s Aetre, and I don’t appreciate you telling me to shut up, thank you very much. Now I’m afraid I’m gonna have to kill you.
The bombs entered through the doorway, Big Oliver leading the group, his hand-like features in fists.
“Let’s get him!” he yelled.
Fatal shivered at the thought of being beaten by an angry mob of land mines. He knew he had lost, and he knew that this time, it was permanent. Determined to end it all painlessly, he reached for the syringe he had brought into the building.
“Well, I hope this virus works as quickly as I designed it to,” he said. But because this is my story, and because I want to end the fic on a comical note, the virus didn’t work. Nor did the land mines kill him.
Angus DeFrag saved Fatal’s life from the mob of mines and the fanfiction author by yelling “STOP!” just as Oliver was about to do his thing. All of the mines looked at the janitor as he made his way to the front of the crowd.
Angus faced the entire army and shouted out, “Sure, we could kill him, but I’ve got a better idea…”
Ints A and B sit at stools in The Motherboard. Once again, Int B is eating a sandwich.
Int A: Say, Joey.
Int B: Yeah, what?
Int A: Y’know how all of these new people have been walking around the inthole lately? The land mines, the flags, and that little smiley face guy named Gus?
Int B: What about them?
Int A: Well, y’know, I’ve been thinking about how they’ve all been cut off from the Minesweeper program and welcomed here as members of our society. And I think to myself, what happens now if the Human turns on the computer and wants to play Minesweeper? He can’t very well play it without any bombs or flags or smiley face, can he?
Int B: That’s a silly question! Everybody knows that all of the characters have been replaced by inanimate pixel drawings on the Monitor screen.
Int A: True, but wouldn’t that ruin the object of the game? What’s the point if there’s no real character to wear the sunglasses at the end of the game?
Int B: Ah, but that’s the best part of all: now the objective of the game isn’t to make Smiley wear the glasses, it’s to blow him up!
Int A: I don’t understand.
Int B: Y’know that int in the trench coat, Fatal Error? He’s imprisoned behind the Minesweeper board, hooked up to ninety-nine electrodes, all attached to land mines on the screen. So whenever the Human blows up the smiley face, he gives Fatal Error a painful electric shock. And the Human enjoys doing it very much.
Int A: Oh, I get it! So that’s why the Human keeps clicking on all those land mines every time he plays Minesweeper.
Int B: Why, yes it is. At least, that’s his story and he’s sticking to it.
--End chapter ten
A message from the author, Aetre:
And that, my friends, is why I wrote this story: to explain to the world why I can never seem to win at Minesweeper. No, seriously, I wrote this because I saw the category on the website, and I got curious. I hope you enjoyed this fic, especially because it’s my first article to make it to the Internet in more than three years.
I have enjoyed reading all of your reviews, especially since they’ve all been good ones, and I’d like to thank all of you for having the good sense not to write a flame review for a PG-rated article.
As to those of you interested in a sequel, I welcome any fellow-authors to continue the saga at their own leisure. They may write a sequel, for I most certainly will not. Sorry, but sooner or later, we all have to admit that there’s more to life than fanfics on Minesweeper. I’ll be moving on to other things. But before I leave the imaginary world of the inthole forever, I’ll leave you with this epilogue. Bye now, and come see me soon!
Queen Pentium III, tired after a long session’s work, issued the day’s final orders to Sergeant McAfee.
“McAfee,” she called wearily, “I’ve received the order from the Human to shut down for the day.”
“Yes, your majesty,” McAfee answered her, “I’ll see to it we shut down properly.”
As he was about to leave the throne room to issue the orders to the workers, the queen said, “McAfee, one more thing: what scheduled tasks do we have for the next time the computer turns on?”
“Why, there’s nothing on the schedule except the Honors Ceremony for Angus DeFrag and Brenda Presario, those two worker ints who saved the whole colony.”
“Ah, yes. Now I remember.”
McAfee smiled lightly. For a Pentium, the queen sure was a forgetful creature. He added, “Next week, I understand they’re getting married. We’ve all been invited to the wedding.”
“Oh, good. I’m happy for them.” The queen yawned and then said, “Do you think, McAfee, that there’s a purpose to our work in this computer? Is it all for nothing, or are we really doing something important, living our little lives day in and day out?”
McAfee took his best shot at answering the question. “I don’t know, your majesty, what all of our work amounts to, but what I do know is that it can amount to more if I just do what I can on my own. We can live our little lives, as you put it, conscious of what it does for ourselves and those around us. And when everybody works together, the society works like a well-oiled machine. And when there’s a person out there like Fatal Error, trying to destroy that society, that’s all the more reason to work together to stop him. That’s what I think our work is done towards: a better machine, and a better way of life.”
The queen had closed her eyes, and was about to fall asleep. In a sleepy voice, and with a kind smile on her face, she said, “Thank you. Go issue the command now, McAfee. Sergeant dismissed.”
McAfee saluted her and walked out the door. Seconds later, the final message appeared on the screen, with new meaning now that Fatal Error had been stopped:
“It is now safe to turn off your computer.”