a fanfic by Katie

Part One

Dedicated to Mara and Beks - Happy Birthday, you two!

“Behold!” Jimmy Neutron exclaimed, dramatically pulling a silken sheet off a strange machine on his lab table. “An invention dedicated to my dearest friends: The Anticipatory Entertainer, Version 4.0!”

Blank faces stared back at the boy genius, save for Sheen who leaped into the air. “YES! I’ve always WANTED an Antiseptic Retainer!”

Jimmy put his forehead in his hand and sighed. “No, no, no, Sheen.” He shook his head. “The Anticipatory Entertainer. It’s something to distract you all while I am working on my delicate inventions, since it has come to my attention that I tend to make my biggest mistakes when any number of you get in the way during the critical stages of development.”

“Psh,” Cindy rolled her eyes and very purposefully crossed the yellow line that indicated just how far into the lab girls were allowed to come. “Yeah right, Nerdtron. Don’t go trying to push off your mile-high pile of mistakes on us.”

Jimmy brushed his nails against his shirt coolly, in a fairly good imitation of his arch nemesis, Eustace Strych. “Now Vortex, I’m really just trying to be a good friend. This is a gift from me to all of you.”

Cindy snorted. “Like bribing us with some goofy new toy will blind us to the unjustified accusations you are placing on - ” Cindy’s jaw dropped as she noticed Carl, Sheen, and Libby gathering around the new invention, pointing, grinning, and, in some cases, drooling. Gritting her teeth, she turned back to face the swirly-haired boy.

“You were saying?” Jimmy grinned, gesturing for her to join him in strolling over to the invention.

Cindy’s eyes narrowed. “I’m watching you, Neutron. Very carefully,” she said, yet accepted his invitation to accompany him to inspect the new machine more closely.

“Oh, oh!” Sheen bounced back and forth at the tableside. “I bet THAT button does something awesome!” He lunged forward to a giant illuminated yellow button on the top of the oddly shaped machine.

“Sheen!” Libby reprimanded, grabbing the hyper boy by the arm sheer nanoseconds before he was able to slap the glowing button. “We talked about pressing buttons, pulling levers, and spinning dials before knowing what they actually do, remember?”

Sheen’s face fell. “Oh…right. Sorry Libs’.” He turned to Jimmy, smile returning. “Hey Jimmy, what does this button do?” His finger hovered half a centimeter over the button’s surface and twitched in excitement.

Carl looked apprehensive and inched away from the table. “Jimmy, what is that weird tube that looks like it could suck out our very souls from our mere mortal bodies?”

“Oh, that’s just the sensor,” Jimmy explained, answering Carl and instinctively ignoring Sheen’s question. Lovingly, he patted the top of his invention. It consisted of a large screen surrounded by a metal frame, with several small buttons along the side of it, similar to the style of an old television set. On top was the shining yellow button, and on the bottom extending forward was the weird tube Carl referred to. “As I was saying this is the Anticipatory Entertainer. It will take a chemo-thermo-optic-sensitive reading of the room’s occupants and choose the best story with which to entertain its crowd for as long as they wish.”

“Jimmy…” Sheen’s voice cracked in desperation and his hand was shaking noticeably over the button. “What. Does. This. Button. Do?”

Evasively, Jimmy carried on. “So assuming the four of you have some similarity of taste in movies, television, or plays…” his voice slowed down as he glanced at his friends. Carl was engrossed in a llama pop-up book, Libby was painting her nails to match the colors of the cover of the new Graystar album, and Cindy was leafing through a pamphlet titled ‘Empowerment of the Female Gender Through Advanced Martial Arts’. Sheen still just looked like he was going to wet himself if he did not get to push a button soon.

“Er, well,” Jimmy coughed. “I guess you guys will be a good test for the A.E. 4.0 then.”

“BUTTON!” Sheen shouted suddenly, his left eye twitching maniacally. “DOES. WHAT. DO. IT?!”

Libby smiled faintly. “I love how he is so good about following the rules I give him.”

Cindy raised an eyebrow at her best friend. “I will never understand the two of you.”

Realizing that it was best to answer before Sheen exploded all over the lab, Jimmy finally responded. “That button is for an as of yet untested feature, and I strongly suggest you do not push it until I have the kinks worked out. In fact, I am placing that button on lockdown.” The boy genius took a remote control out of his pocket and turned a switch. A force-field rose up to cover the glowing button, zapping Sheen’s fingers in the process.

“Ow!” Sheen yelled, sticking his fingers in his mouth and blinking as if to hold back tears.

Libby put her hands on her hips and looked at Sheen, clearly unimpressed by his display.

Sheen’s eyes flitted to her and widened. “Erulm…” he said unintelligibly, freezing temporarily. After a moment’s thought, Sheen yanked his hand from his mouth, wiped it on Carl, and then threw the wounded digits in front of Libby’s face, sidling up to her smoothly. “Kiss and make better?”

Libby’s eyes rolled upwards and she shoved his arm out of her way. “In your dreams, superboy.”

Sheen watched her walk away and looked a bit crestfallen, but as soon as she was out of eye contact, he thrust his fingers back into his mouth and whimpered like a puppy.

Libby leaned in to look at the other buttons on the A.E. 4.0. “So, what do the rest of these do?”

“Well, this one is to sense the mood of the room, as I explained earlier,” Jimmy pointed to a long purple lever. “Then the two beneath are to start the story,” he pointed to the green button on the left, “And to stop it,” his finger moved to the red button on the right. “Don’t worry about the others.” He gestured to the multitude of orange buttons below the main three. “Those are just for fine-tuning.”

Libby blinked at them. “Whatever you say, dude.”

“So!” Jimmy slapped his hands together happily. “I will just leave you all to it, then. Enjoy yourselves, and I will be in the back wing of the laboratory should you need me.” With that, he turned and began walking out of the room.

“Whoa whoa whoa,” Cindy stomped in front of Jimmy, blocking his path and putting her hands on her hips. “Hold on there, Freakbrain. You want us to test this thing out NOW? I thought you said there were still bugs to sort out!”

“Relax,” Jimmy said, pushing Cindy aside. “That only concerns that yellow button and the transdimensional atomic shift that I have yet to perfect. Nothing to be concerned about, it’s all under control.” He waved a hand nonchalantly in the air and strolled out of sight.

Cindy gaped after him, most definitely displeased.

Libby called over to her friend. “Aww, c’mon, Cindy. We can handle this Anticipa-tooey machine just fine without Jimmy. Don’t you really want to look like you are too nervous to try out an invention without him around to save the day if it goes wrong?”

Cindy spun around. “Puh, no! And I’m not nervous, I’m just sick of him using us all as his guinea pigs all the time. There is a point where we are going to have to draw a line, don’t you think?”

Libby rolled her eyes. “Cindy, get a grip. This invention sounds awesome! Let’s just give it a shot, alright?”

Sheen grinned. “I’ll take that as a ‘Yes, Sheen, you have full permission to pull that big purple lever’.” Eagerly, the boy leapt at the screen and yanked down on the large purple lever before anyone else had a chance to argue otherwise.

Cindy involuntarily winced and threw her arms over her face as if to protect it from some horror beyond imagining.

Yet nothing out of the ordinary happened.

She opened her eyes back up to see all her friends laughing outrageously at her.

A soft whooshing noise was coming from the sensor, and a breeze ran around the giggling trio in front of her, then blew her away and gently wound its way around her torso, rising up to her face and knocking some strands of hair loose. Sheen, Carl, and Libby quieted down upon seeing her glaring eyes through a cascade of blonde hair.

“Aww, Cindy girl,” Libby tried to say consolingly as Cindy’s face flamed in anger. “We didn’t mean to laugh so much. It’s just that you should have seen yourself when Sheen pulled that lever…” A giggle escaped the older girl’s lips.

“YEAH!” Sheen said, gleefully pointing a finger at the blonde girl as Carl took his cue and began to flap his arms and cluck. “You looked like the biggest chicken to ever roost in a kingdom of chickens – ”

Cindy’s eyes narrowed even more than before.

“ – Where a Queen Chicken rules with mighty feather duster and calls her lands the ‘Coop of the sissy-wussy-yellow-bellied-scaredy-cat– ” Sheen counted each insult off on a finger.

“Sheen, I’m warning you…” Cindy said menacingly. Stumbling from behind Sheen to behind Libby, Carl continued his clucking, each flap of his arms becoming more unwieldy.

“-Cowardly-lily-livered-pansy-wimpy-itty-bitty-baaaaaaaaby – AHHHHHH!”

Where Sheen had stood a moment ago there was now a rolling ball of blonde-haired fury with a barely discernable flailing set of limbs beneath.

“Guys!” Libby shouted in exasperation.

Towards the back of the lab, Carl could be seen continuing his chicken impersonation, his smile wide and his eyes unfortunately not looking at the floor. “Clu-ooof!” He tripped over an unidentified object below him.

“Guys, come on!” Libby tried to again get the attention of the scuffling pair. “CINDY, give it up, will you?”

“ME?!” Came the angry reply as Cindy stood to dust herself off. Sheen lay on the floor, twitching, his arms and legs bent in positions that would have been worrisome for anybody but Sheen. “He started it!”

Libby put her hands on her hips. “Girl, you know Sheen can’t always help himself! Words just come pouring out, like some geeked up version of Niagara Falls!”

Cindy’s jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you’re defending Ultra-freak!”

The sensor continued to play a delicate wind around the members of the room.

“Why can’t you just control yourself once in a while, Cin’?” Libby said as a response. “Why don’t you help Sheen up and apologize?”

Incredulity spread across Cindy’s already shocked face. “ Help him? But he –”

“Uh oh. Um, guys?” Carl asked, standing up and picking the object off the floor he had tripped over. “Isn’t this that remote that Jimmy was using before to generate that force field? He must have forgotten it…”

Sheen pried himself off the floor at a near un-human speed and dove towards the remote in Carl’s hand. “BUTTONS!”

“Sheen, no!” Cindy and Libby shouted at the same time.

It was to no avail. He and Carl were already in a wrestling match over the remote.

The A.E. 4.0 seemed to respond with a stronger gust of wind, whipping it over Sheen and Carl and then in the direction of Libby and Cindy.

“Cindy, do something!” Libby yelled in a panic as the wind hit her full in the face.

“Me? Why can’t you do something?” Cindy crossed her arms. “You’ve just been sitting there this whole time.”

Libby held out her hands drastically. “Girl, you know my nail polish isn’t dry yet! Now get in there and stop them before they get hurt!”

Cindy sighed and trudged over to the boys, putting her hands on her hips. “Alright, you two, knock it off.”

It appeared as if the boys could not hear her. Sighing, she stomped in to the middle of the struggle and karate chopped in both directions simultaneously, knocking a boy down on either side of her. Unfortunately, the force of the karate chops also succeeded in causing both boys to let go of the remote, which proceeded to fly into the air gracefully and smash straight into a wall.

Immediately, the A.E. 4.0 began to shake, and the sensor began making a strange whirring noise. Smoke rose from the screen and the shield around the big glowing yellow button dissolved.

Cindy stared in horror at the destroyed remote, while Carl and Sheen wasted no time in pointing a triumphant finger at the girl. “HER FAULT!” they both shouted.

“Oh man, Cindy, you had better clean this up before Jimmy finds out,” Libby said, shaking her head sadly.

Before Cindy had a chance to blow up in rage for the umpteenth time that day, a burst of yellow light shot through the room.

Carl, Cindy, and Libby all spun to see a grinning Sheen standing next to the yellow button, beaming with a kind of maniacal pride.

“Noooooooo!” Carl cried melodramatically, reaching dramatically forward to the A.E. 4.0. “The yellow button! It’s been activated!”

“Sheen!” Libby crossed her arms in disapproval. “Did you push that button you were told not to push?!”

Sheen rolled his eyes. “Libby, please,” he said reassuringly, “What do you take me for? Of course I didn’t push a button I was told not to push.”

Carl visibly relaxed, wiping a llama-print handkerchief over his forehead.

“I pushed a button I was only strongly suggested not to push,” Sheen finished, acting for all the world like the difference between those two phrases was clear as glass.

“Ahhh I knew it!” Carl screamed dramatically, diving behind Cindy.

However, before Carl’s body could touch the ground, the bright light returned and caught all four kids in some sort of a forcefield.

They began screaming in terror as their bodies were sucked into the A.E. 4.0 via the tube-like sensor at the front.

Sheen went first, yelling something along the lines of: “Whoa, this feels just like a swirly –!” amidst bursts of laughter.

Libby followed with a wailing shriek, and Carl duplicated it as he was sucked in, only at a much higher pitch.

Just as Cindy began being pulled in head first, the lab door slammed open and Jimmy raced into the room.

“What is going on – ” his voice ran dry as his eyes darted from the smashed remote, to the glowing yellow button, to the computer screen that now had the images of three of his friends looking terrified in a dark setting (well, two of his friends looking terrified, as Sheen still looked quite thrilled), then down to Cindy’s feet as they began disappearing into the A.E. 4.0.

“No!” Jimmy shouted, dashing across the room and grabbing onto Cindy’s remaining foot. He pulled back hard, only to fall to the floor clutching a white sneaker.

Barely noticing the weird wind that passed over him, Jimmy stood back up and sighed in aggravation. “Well, I guess I better figure out how to find them before –”

His sentence was left incomplete as the A.E. 4.0 sucked Jimmy in, too: white sneaker and all.

The sensor let out a satisfied burp as the light and wind died down in the lab.

* * * * *

A dim light illuminated the four children, as they peered at their dark surroundings.

“Where…where are we?” Carl asked cautiously, hunching over timidly.

Cindy wiggled her unshod foot in annoyance. “And where the heck did my shoe go?”

“Who cares about your shoe?” Sheen said, crossing his arms in a pouty fashion. “I’m BORED! This place is like, worse than the library.”

Suddenly, a boy with a whippy-dip hairstyle seemed to fall from the sky in front of the gang.

Whooooaaaaaa – OOOF!” Jimmy landed with a thud amidst his baffled friends.

“Jimmy!” Sheen said, happily. “Boy, am I glad to see you! Now, let’s get with the rescuin’, and you can fly us out of Boring-Land on some awesome and potentially dangerous invention!”

Carl helped Jimmy to his feet. “Sheen, I’m not here to rescue you. The A.E. 4.0 transdimensionalized me as well!” Jimmy said, brushing himself off.

“It transde-whated you?” Libby asked.

“Hey, that’s my shoe!” Cindy said angrily, pointing at the sneaker still clutched in Jimmy’s hand.

“It transdimensionalized me, just like it did to all of you,” Jimmy explained. “ Someone must have pressed that button I told you guys not to touch!” He shot an accusing glance at Sheen, who was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, pointing to the chubby boy in front of him and mouthing something suspiciously like “Carl”.

Carl turned around suddenly and Sheen switched over to whistling the Ultralord theme song while throwing his hands behind his back in an effort to appear nonchalant.

“Hello!” Cindy waved her arms about. “Explanations later, shoe first, okay Dorktron?”

“Er, right,” Jimmy said awkwardly, passing the sneaker over to the blonde girl. She snatched it from her hand, then bent over to put it on.

“So, uh, Jim, where exactly did we get transdemented to?” Carl asked, stepping forward and scratching the back of his head.

“Well,” Jimmy started, uncertainty evident in his voice. He glanced around in the darkness. “Since the A.E. 4.0 is designed to match the perfect story to its audience, I suspect we have now been sucked into said perfect story.”

“What the heck kind of story is it where it’s all dark and the characters can’t see three inches in front of their faces?” Sheen asked, throwing his hands forward in annoyance.

“Seriously, Neutron,” Cindy said, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes. “Face it, your machine doesn’t work. And now we’re stuck in some horribly obnoxious vortex of frustration and we’ll never get out again, all thanks to YOU.”

Jimmy rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath, “Yeah, and I’m also stuck there WITH a horribly obnoxious Vortex of frustration…”

“What did you just say?” Cindy growled, clenching her fists.

“Oh hey, guys!” Libby interrupted, pointing. “Look, there’s a light over there!”

Sure enough, a pinpoint of light was the cause of their dim illumination. The gang made their way over to it cautiously.

“Careful, guys,” Jimmy warned. “Remember, we’re in a different dimension, one likely based off of fiction, so you can never be sure exactly – ”

Suddenly, the pinprick of light shot out. Illuminated outlines of each of the five kids could briefly be seen as the light zapped them away to unknown locations.

Only smoky shadows were left behind.


Part Two

Jimmy found himself standing alone, in a bizarre set of very fancy clothes. “What? What is this?” the boy genius asked out loud, thoroughly confused.

He pulled on the velvety sleeves he was now donned in, and turned his left foot side to side in its new black boot. “It seems that these clothes are modeled after 19th century European royalty, but why in the world am I wearing them? And where is everyone?”

As if in answer, a light beamed down and Jimmy looked up in surprise. He stood in a grand hall, with great pillars and marble floors. The light lead to a table near the front of the hall, where a book lay, its pages opening like magic.

“Of course!” Jimmy exclaimed, approaching the book. “We’ve been put into a story! And it would seem the character I play is some sort of royalty.” He smirked to himself. “Now, to see what is going on with Carl, Sheen, and the girls…”

He flipped to the beginning of the book. “Once upon a time,” he began to read out loud, “There lived a young girl, whose evil stepmother treated her no better than a slave, forcing her to sleep in the soot of the fireplace. This led her stepsisters to give her the cruel nickname of Cin…” Jimmy’s voice trailed off, jaw dropping and eyes widening in panic as he stared at the book. The picture on the first page showed a familiar blonde girl dressed in rags and covered in ashes. Slowly, Jimmy looked down at his own princely attire, realization dawning on him.

The book fell from his hands onto the floor.


* * * * *

The rest of the gang found themselves standing in a stone floor dining room. Cindy scowled, trying to brush the soot out of her torn clothes. “What is going on here? Why am I covered in filth?” she asked, angrily.

Libby raised an eyebrow and smirked, twirling her elaborate skirt. There was not a speck of dirt to be seen on the taller girl’s silken clothes. “I don’t know, girl, but I could definitely get used to these threads.”

“Haha, at least you guys don’t look as stupid as Carl!” Sheen laughed, pointing at the hefty boy. “He’s dressed like a GIRL!”

Carl’s face turned beet red as he put his hands on the hips of his yellow frilly dress. “Hey, I’m not the only one cross-dressed here, Sheen!” he accused.

Sheen blinked for a moment, processing that statement, and then looked down in horror. “AHHH!” he screamed, eyeing the lacey purple skirt billowing out from his thin waist.

“Okay guys, let’s chill,” Libby said. “There must be an explanation for this.”

Cindy crossed her arms, frustrated. “I just don’t see why I’m the only one here in the UGLY dress! Even Sheen’s looks better than mine!”

Sheen stopped his freaking out for a moment to blush and twirl his thumbs together. “You really think so?” he asked, coyly, rocking back on his feet. He then shook his head wildly, eyes widening. “AHH! No! I mean, dress bad! Boy clothes good!”

Suddenly, a computerized voice boomed out. “WARNING: STRAYING FROM PLOT. RESTART HAS BEEN INITIATED.”

“Now what in the world does that – ” Libby’s question got cut off as the four children were zapped out of the scene by the same rays of light they were zapped in with.

* * * * *

“OOF!” Carl landed on his rear, as everyone fell over each other back in the dark mysterious place they had earlier found themselves in.

Amidst a great deal of complaining as the gang untangled their limbs from one another’s, Jimmy’s voice broke through. “Guys! Calm down, I think I know what is going on here.”

“Hey, Jimmy’s with us again!” Carl smiled cheerfully.

“And I’m not wearing a dress!” Sheen exclaimed even more excitedly.

“Alright, Neutron, you have ten seconds to explain what just happened,” Cindy said, her eyes steely and her face set.

Jimmy winced. “Alright, alright, here’s the deal. You guys know how I mentioned that transdimensional atomic shift?” There were several blank stares. “Well, er,” Jimmy continued awkwardly, “Someone must have activated it, and now the Anticipatory Entertainer 4.0 has sucked us into the very story it was going to perform for you guys. To make a long story short, we now have to act out the story Cinderella.”

Sheen leapt back in alarm, crying out, “ Nooo! Not Cinderella! We’re goners! The aliens of planet Crumbcake will be here any moment, ready to disembowel our souls and teach us to yodel!” He began to sob. “Oh please, say it isn’t so, Jimmy,” he begged, and then dropped his voice to a despaired whisper. “Say it isn’t so…”

Libby rolled her eyes. “Sheen, you’re thinking of Ultralord episode 227 again, aren’t you?”

Sheen blinked, halting his dramatic death sequence. “Oh yeah, I am! I always get those two mixed up.”

Cindy looked a little concerned and more than a little freaked out. “Libby…how did you know that?”

Libby’s eyes widened, but luckily Carl interrupted before she had to begin any explanation.

“So uh, Jim, why exactly were me and Sheen wearing dresses?”

Jimmy looked puzzled. “Well, uh…the A.E. 4.0 would have chosen your character based on your behavior, appearance, and chemical signals just prior to the atomic shift, so…”

“Oh, I get it,” Cindy said. “That’s why I was in rags. I’m Cinderella, because of all you crazies bossing me around back in the lab!”

“What are you talking about, girl?” Libby asked, putting her hands on her hips. “I was merely requesting your help in keeping those two under control,” she said defensively, jerking in a finger in the direction of Carl and Sheen.

Jimmy nodded analytically, tapping his chin with his forefinger. “So Libby, you must be playing the wicked stepmother.”

“I – what?!”

“And that would make…” Jimmy’s face broke into a huge, disbelieving grin, as he turned to his two friends. “You guys are the stepsisters?” He laughed.

“NO!” Carl denied loudly. “Well, maybe…” he added softly.

“I prefer to think of it as ‘Masculinely Challenged’,” Sheen said, buffing his nails up against his shirt.

Cindy suddenly got a huge smirk on her face. “So I guess that means Nerdtron over here must be playing the Fairy Godmother.”

Jimmy shuffled awkwardly, scratching the back of his head. “Uh, well, I think you’re forgetting a character, Cindy…”

Cindy paused, counting silently on her fingers, her eyes moving back and forth trying to figure out who Jimmy could be referencing. Once she realized who it had to be, her eyes bugged out. “Oh no. No way.”

Libby started giggling like crazy.

Sheen gasped. “Jimmy’s a CRUMBCAKIAN ALIEN?”

“No, Sheen…no.” Jimmy rolled his eyes. “I’m the Prince.”

Carl, deep in thought after this revelation, looked up suddenly. “So that means, at the end, you have to marry…Cindy?” A smile began to grow across the chubby boy’s cheeks.

“Okay, look, can we just not go there for a second?” Jimmy asked, irritated.

“Psh, yeah, like I’d ever marry – ”

“Vortex, not now,” Jimmy interrupted. “Right now, we need to figure out a way out of here.”

Cindy crossed her arms angrily. “Of course, your Highness.”

“Alright listen, this whole situation was not supposed to happen yet. Transdimensionalized atomic shifts can sometimes be irreversible, and without having tested its effects on any mammalian species, there is no telling how possible it is for us to actually get back to our dimension,” Jimmy explained, uneasily.

“Well, aren’t you just a little ray of sunshine,” Cindy commented.

“BUT,” he continued, glaring in her direction, “My best hypothesis would be that the program is looking for us to complete the story it has assigned us. Upon reaching ‘The End’, we should be released back into our own universe, no damage done.”

“Uh, hold up there Jimmy. What do you mean by ‘should’?” Libby asked, tapping her fingers together nervously.

“And ‘best hypothesis’?” Cindy added, putting her hands on her hips.

Jimmy rolled his head back in exasperation. “Leaping Leptons, guys, I don’t hear any of YOU coming up with a better plan.”

There was some begrudgingly accepting silence.

“Okay. Now, we all know what happens if we get out of character. That ‘straying from plot’ message booms, and we get sent back here. So please, as hard as I know it will be, just try to stay in character and stick to the storyline?” Jimmy pleaded. “It’s our best chance for getting out of here.”

There was a round of agreement.

“Alright, let’s just get this over with,” Cindy said, eyes set and voice void of any excitement.

The five kids walked toward the pinprick of light once again, and just like before, were each promptly zapped away.

* * * * *

Four of the five members of the gang found themselves back in the story, seated around a wooden table with early morning sunlight shining through the windows. There was an awkward silence, no one particularly sure what to do first.

After a few moments, Libby spoke up. “Cinderella, bring me my breakfast,” she said, in an attempt to get the story going.

“Yes, Stepmother,” Cindy replied, doing her best not to growl the words out.

“Ooo! Ooo! And my Ultralord Season Six Special Edition DVD Box Set!”

Carl, Libby, and Cindy turned to glare at the boy in the purple dress. “SHEEN!”


Waaaait!” Sheen shouted, throwing his hands out as if to stop the computer. “I mean…! I mean… my pretty… girly… make-up… pink fluffy …stuff!” he quickly amended. Everyone sighed in relief as the Warning Voice died down.

Cindy tucked a loose strand of soot covered hair behind her ear. “Of course, dear Stepsister,” she said, heading out to find their demands.

“And my llama pillow!” Carl shouted after her pleasantly.


There was a sudden poof and they all found themselves back in the dark again, this time shouting at Carl.

“Sorry!” the hefty boy cringed, shielding his face from his friends.

Sighing, they all stepped forward again and got zapped away.

* * * * * *

The cycle continued for quite some time. The gang would make it partway through the plot, and then Sheen or Carl would say something to land them straight back at the beginning. After the sixteenth restart, Cindy was just about foaming at the mouth.


Sheen laughed at the screaming fest, eager to join in. “Yeah, Carl! Stop – ”

Cindy spun, absolutely livid. “And don’t even get me STARTED on you, UltraDork. If you quote one more line from that stupid TV show of yours –”

“Whoa, whoa!” Libby stepped forward, arms outstretched. “Calm down, girl! Let’s just all try again and –”

“Try again?” Cindy seethed. “Do you know how many times you’ve said that now?”

“Okay,” Jimmy cut in, eyes shut as if trying hard to keep emotions reigned in. “Carl, Sheen, you two are my best friends, but if you don’t at least try to stay in character, we’re never going to get through this. Please. Just…say your lines and we’ll get out of here,” he pleaded.

“Yes, thank you, exactly Jimmy,” Cindy agreed, shooting a glare at Sheen, who was currently trying to balance Carl’s inhaler on his nose.

Libby’s eyes narrowed, and she tweaked an eyebrow all-too-knowingly. “Jimmy?” she mouthed at Cindy, putting a hand on her hip.

“Libby, not now,” Cindy said, a pained expression crossing her face.

“Alright, so everyone promise to try better?” Jimmy asked, staring pointedly at Carl and Sheen. He had apparently missed the exchange between the girls.

Carl shot Jimmy an “okay” sign from atop Sheen’s shoulders where he was trying to snatch his inhaler back from the older boy’s raised hand. “You got it, Jim!” he said, struggling to reach Sheen’s fingertips.

“Yep! No problemo, Cap’n!” Sheen wheezed, his voice strained from supporting Carl’s weight.

Moments later they were all zapped away, for what was hopefully the last time.

* * * * *

Images of the gang enacting their roles flash across the screen as Goddard entered the lab, looking around presumably for his master. He let out a shocked bark upon spotting the A.E. 4.0 up and running. Immediately he ran over to the machine, sniffing the sensor and whining.

Sitting down in front of it, Goddard’s neutronian cranium churned even faster than usual and his bright eyes stared at the scene in front of him. He watched as the story ticked by, cataloging each event on his green notepad screen on his chest.

Cindy scrubbing floors.

Libby yelling at Cindy.

Sheen and Carl chasing each other wearing frocks.

Breakfast spilling.

Cindy cleaning.

The list scrolled by faster and faster. Eventually, they reached:

Messenger arriving bearing royal invitation.

* * * * *

“Oh! Oh! We got a special scroll-y message!” Sheen shouted, racing in clutching the royal invitation and tripping over his skirt in the process.

Carl snatched it from him, his beady eyes skimming over the letter. “We get to go to a baaaall!” he said, a dreamy look materializing on his face. “Oh no!” he gasped, “I have nothing to wear!”

Libby calmly took the letter from her two ‘girls’, glossing over it. “Yes,” she nodded, “Tonight, a ball will be held in the Prince’s honor. Every eligible maiden is to attend.”

Sheen and Carl bounced excitedly, while Cindy rolled her eyes behind their backs.

“I don’t suppose that includes me?” the blonde girl asked, keeping up with her part.

Sheen and Carl laughed mockingly. “Yeah RIGHT!” Sheen said gleefully. “Like you could ever compete with us as a maiden worthy of royalty.” The two boys snickered at her misfortune, the irony of the situation completely lost on them.

“We’re gonna go meet the Prince! Maybe he’ll ask us to dance!” Carl hopped back and forth, a bundle of nervous energy.

Cindy sighed. “I’ll get your gowns ready then, shall I?”

“Yes, you do that,” Libby agreed, shooing her on her way.

* * * * *

Goddard sat, loyally continuing to track what was going on with the humans he cared for.

Cindy poofing up sleeves of three gowns.

Cindy giving gowns to Libby, Sheen, and Carl.

Libby, Sheen, and Carl preparing for ball.

Cindy asking permission to accompany them.

Libby, Sheen, and Carl laughing at Cindy.

Cindy looking sad.

Libby, Sheen, and Carl leaving.

Cindy searching around closets, looking for something.

Still searching.

Still searching.

Goddard extended his neck forward and nosed the monitor of the A.E. 4.0. He whined, watching his friends trapped in his master’s new invention, unable to escape. For some reason, the story had stalled. Something was missing.

Cindy waiting impatiently.

Cindy calling for help.

Suddenly, a light bulb lit up above Goddard’s head. Literally. Goddard leapt up in excitement, and reached upwards to the top of the machine.

Hero music played from Goddard’s speakers as he pressed the bright yellow button, and Goddard found himself surrounded by a sudden wind.

A moment later, the transdimensionalizer sucked him in, and the lab was once again empty.

On the screen of the A.E. 4.0, a very surprised Cindy jumped backwards.


Part Three

“Goddard! What are you doing – ” Cindy slammed a hand over her mouth, stopping herself from a very out-of-character sentence.

Goddard looked quite pleased with himself. He opened up the front of his chest chamber, and wrote on the screen: “ I AM YOUR FAIRY DOG-MOTHER.

Cindy gaped. “My Fairy…Dog-Mother? But, how did you get here?”


“I – I guess I did, didn’t I?” Cindy said in amazement. She sat down on a large cushioned chair, brushing a strand of dirt-covered blonde hair behind her ear. “I was getting worried that we would get stuck at this point, with no Fairy God-Mother – er, Dog-Mother to come along. I guess this means the machine sucked you in, too, huh?”

Goddard barked an affirmation and wagged his tail.

The blonde girl smiled. “So, can you help me get to the ball tonight?” Cindy asked, getting straight to the point.


Cindy nodded and smiled. “Not a problem, Fairy Dog-Mother. Oh, and by chance, you don’t happen to have a pair of glass slippers with you, do you?”

A gloved hand extended from Goddard’s back, giving her a thumbs-up. Winking, Goddard released a burst of fabric, glitter, and flowers from a secret compartment, exploding the items around the room like a tornado of elegance.

* * * * *

Jimmy was having a great deal of difficulty staying in character as Libby, Sheen, and Carl arrived at the ball. His lips were pursed and his cheeks inflated and red, in an attempt to contain his laughter.

Libby was dressed quite nicely, in a yellow lacey gown, with marigold accents in her bows and sashes. But Carl and Sheen, well…they were another story altogether.

Sheen strutted in proudly, hips swaying in his powder blue satin dress, which was poofed out in all the right places. A sparkling sapphire necklace lay around his neck. Carl followed behind him, in an off-white gown, adorned with a sash of pale pink flowers around his waist and along the edging. A matching pink flower barrette sat atop Carl’s red hair, and the large boy had never looked daintier.

Jimmy did his best to keep his mouth from gaping open as the trio curtsied.

“Er…welcome,” he finally managed to say without laughing. “Welcome to the ball,” he said, his voice more assured. “Please, enjoy yourself, and join the other guests on the dance floor.” Jimmy gestured behind him where a crowd of smartly dressed people spun and twirled surrounded by chandelier light.

Libby nodded, “Thank you, your Highness. We look forward to this evening of – ” she paused, glancing sharply behind Jimmy. Sheen was marching up to a girl on the ballroom floor who was wearing a dress identical to his, rolling up his sleeves and narrowing his eyes. “Um…please excuse me,” she said, bowing again, before racing after her rogue ‘daughter’, shouting angrily.

Carl waved shyly, then pranced off after Libby.

Jimmy shook his head, rolling his eyes. He turned back to the door, “Now that has to have been the creepiest thing I’ve ever…” his voice trailed off, staring at the silhouette in the doorframe. His mouth dropped open for the second time that night, but this time for an entirely different reason.

Cindy entered the ballroom gracefully, but her eyes betrayed her nervousness. She wore an emerald green gown, which sparkled around the small waist before leading to a large flowing skirt. She walked towards the center of the room and self-consciously adjusted the bun her hair was wrapped up in when she noticed the boy genius standing in wait for her. Her eyes seemed to melt a little as they settled on Jimmy in his royal attire. To cover up, she quickly curtsied and bowed her head.

“Uh…uh…” Jimmy stuttered, clearly taken by surprise, despite knowing fully how the story was supposed to play out. “Welcome to the ball, my lady,” he said, barely keeping up with his character.

Cindy raised her head, an expression of determination now set on her face. “Thank you, your Highness.”

There was an awkward silence between the two, and after a few moments Cindy’s patience began to wear thin. She set her eyes into a glare and jerked her head toward the dance floor.

Jimmy blinked in surprise. “Right! Dancing. Storyline. Right.” The words tumbled out, but he still did not budge an inch.

Cindy rolled her eyes. “Yes, of course I accept your invitation to dance, your Highness,” she said pointedly, taking his arm and dragging him off towards the other dancers.

As they began to waltz, Jimmy immediately tripped over himself a couple of times, his eyes never leaving the girl in front of him. Cindy sighed in exasperation. “Will you stop gawking and get back into character before we get kicked out of the story again?” she hissed in his ear.

That seemed to snap Jimmy out of it. “ Gawking?” he asked in offense. “I am not gawking, I was simply…er…trying to act the part of the Prince, is all.”

“Uh huh,” Cindy said, thoroughly unconvinced. There was something akin to a victory glint in her eye. “I am pretty sure that royalty would know how to stop their eyes from falling out of their heads.”

Jimmy began spinning Cindy faster, his irritation bubbling up through his dancing. “It was just an attempt to enact the infatuation the Prince is meant to experience upon meeting Cinderella-”

Cindy’s eyes narrowed. “An act?” she asked, pulling their dance to a halt. “Just an act? What, so you have to pretend that I’m actually pretty?”

“What?!” Jimmy stepped back in surprise. “No! I mean…yes and no…I mean, I’m just trying to – listen, you’re the one who is speaking out of character right now, not me!”

ME?!” Cindy said incredulously, letting go of Jimmy’s arms completely. “ME! Do you know how long I’ve had to play this part? And how many times I’ve had to perform over and over? You just STARTED your lines, and you’re already messing them up!”

Jimmy threw his hands up in a cautionary gesture. “Cindy, careful, you’re going to get us –”

“Going to what, Neutron, get us kicked out?” Cindy ranted loudly, “Well if I do, then it’s your fault!”

“WARNING – ” a voice began to boom.

Libby raced over to the shouting duo, panic crossing her face. “GUYS! KNOCK IT OFF OR WE HAVE TO START ALL OVER AGAIN!”


WAIT!” Jimmy and Cindy shouted simultaneously.

The booming voice paused and the room fell silent, as all attention settled on the previously arguing pair. Jimmy and Cindy stared at one another, each forcing their expression back to one of civility.

Taking a deep breath, Jimmy spoke. “I…I would be honored if you would join me in a dance, my lady.”

Cindy considered him carefully, before finally agreeing. “I accept, your Highness.”

Libby, Carl, and Sheen held their breath as the pair moved onto the ballroom floor, but there was not another angry word uttered.

The two spun silently at first, neither looking one another in the eye. Sheen and Carl stared onwards, equally silent until Sheen whispered, “Five bucks Jimmy’ll mess this up first.”

Carl clasped Sheen’s hand and shook it. “You’re on!” he whispered back.

Libby rolled her eyes. “Will you two can it? We might actually get through this.”

Back on the dance floor, Cindy and Jimmy were still avoiding one another’s gaze. Cindy’s eyes held the unmistakable steely defenses she usually surrounded herself with, while Jimmy’s eyes fluttered about in a kind of panic.

Swallowing, the short boy seemed to reach a decision. “I…Cindy, I’m sorry if you were offended earlier.”

Cindy froze, causing their dance to momentarily be tripped up. She looked at Jimmy, more than a little shocked. “Well, I…” she tried to start, then paused. “Er…thank you, Jimmy. I…” she bit her lip in uncertainty and glanced over at the trio of the remaining gang members, who were watching them like one would watch the end of an action movie. “I’m sorry, too. I might have overreacted.”

Jimmy opened his mouth, as if to give a smart remark, then closed it. “Thank you, Cindy,” he said instead, smiling warmly. “And you do look very pretty, tonight,” he added, in his best suave tone.

Cindy blushed as a very silly grin plastered itself across her face. “Oh, Neutron, you are such a –”

Suddenly, a deep bell rang out, interrupting Cindy before she could finish that thought.

Cindy’s mouth fell open. “The clock!” she gasped. The pair turned to check the large grandfather clock in the hall, which had both hands pointing straight up. “It’s midnight! I…I have to go.” She looked back at Jimmy, eyebrows knitting in disappointment.

Jimmy’s face fell, his mouth twitching as if searching for the right words for her to stay.

“I…I have to,” Cindy said again, dropping her hand from his. She gave him one last sad look, then turned and raced from the hall.

“Cindy! Wait!” Jimmy yelled, the realization of what was going on finally sinking in. “Wait!”

Cindy raced down the stairs, tripping towards the bottom. She hopped back to her feet, then looked down and rolled her eyes in annoyance. “Oh, come on. Do I have to do everything myself?”

Both feet were still clad in the glass slippers she had been wearing all evening. Reaching down, she yanked one off and chucked it up the stairs, accidentally beaning the doorman over the head.

“Sorry!” she yelled up, awkwardly, and then ran off.

Jimmy finally made it to the stair case, but Cindy was long gone. He bent down and picked up the slipper that lay next to his unconscious doorman. Letting out an audible sigh, Jimmy turned around and headed back inside.

* * * * *

“I’m telling you, it fits!” Sheen’s coarse voice rang out, as he tried to jam his foot into the petite glass slipper in front of him.

“Listen, and I mean no offense by this, but if yours is the foot that this slipper belongs to, then I’m THE DALAI LAMA!” Jimmy yelled in frustration.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous, your Highness. There is no such thing as a dolly llama,” Carl chimed in from the other side of the room, where he sat icing a badly bruised foot from earlier slipper-based escapades. “Now, a dolly alpaca, that I can see…”

Jimmy tore the slipper off Sheen’s foot, who gave a very loud shout of pain. “Can one of you please just take me to the girl whose slipper this is?!” he asked, sounding quite exasperated.

Just then, there was the distinct sound of a door being karate-kicked open.

“Ugh, they just don’t make padlocks like they used to!” Libby pouted, putting her hands on her hips. “Uh...just ignore her, your Highness” she said nervously, as Cindy stormed down into the room. “She’s just the help. A servant girl. Please excuse her disruption – ”

“Sorry, your Highness, I don’t mean to interrupt,” Cindy said, curtseying. “I just thought that you might like the match to that slipper.” The blonde girl held up a second glass slipper, which sparkled as it caught the light.

Jimmy gave a very large smile, and offered up the slipper for Cindy to try on. Her foot slid into it perfectly.

“I knew it! It was you at the ball!” he exclaimed, taking her dramatically in his arms. “Come! We shall be wed, and you shall be my Queen!”

“Yes,” Cindy said, her face aglow and her voice theatrical. “Nothing would make me happier, your Highness!”

The booming voice spoke again, a sentence none of them had heard before:


With that, the gang was sucked back into the darkness.

* * * * *

Five sets of eyeballs could be seen blinking in confusion.

“What? What is this?” Cindy’s angry voice could be heard cutting through their black surroundings. “We’re back at the beginning again?!”

“Ahhhh! No!” Sheen shouted in frustration. “I’m TIRED of being my Chickipoo’s daughter! That’s just WRONG!”

Jimmy put a hand to his forehead. “Upon completion of an archetypal plotline, we should have been returned to our original universe,” he pondered aloud, “This makes no sense, statistical or otherwise!” he said, clearly confused.

“Well, it had better START making sense, Neutron,” Cindy threatened.

“Yeah,” Libby said, “You’re going to make me miss the premiere of Smallie Big Big’s new music video!”

“And my mom wants me home by dinnertime,” Carl added.

Jimmy paced back and forth. “Alright, I have an idea, but let me figure something out first.” He looked up. “Computer!” he said loudly, “Why were we not returned upon completion of the story?”

“Wow, what a great plan,” Cindy said, rolling her eyes. “It’s got to take a genius to decide to just ask the computer to tell us what we need to do.”


Jimmy sighed. “Yes, we figured that out. What CAN we do to get home?”


The gang gasped in a mixture of panic and accusations.

Jimmy held his hands up to calm everyone down. “Now wait just a minute, nobody panic! There has to be a way out of this.”

Goddard suddenly barked, trying to get Jimmy’s attention.

“What is it, boy?” Jimmy asked, bending down.

Goddard opened up the front of his chest to reveal his green screen. “ RESET.”

Jimmy stared for a moment, then his face broke out into a relieved grin. “That’s it, Goddard! We just need to reset the machine!”

Carl fiddled with his fingers nervously. “And how exactly are we going to do that, Jim? Seeing as we’re inside it and all...”

Jimmy smirked. “Simple. We’ll crash the system. Confuse the machine so that it doesn’t know what storyline to follow anymore.”

Cindy narrowed her eyes. “Now wait a moment. How do you know that when the system crashes, it won’t take us down with it?”

Jimmy shrugged. “I don’t know that. But it’s the only plan we have, and we have to try something.”

“Uh, Jimmy?” Sheen asked. “I still have no idea what the plan is.”

“It’s easy, Sheen,” Jimmy explained. “All we have to do is act out different stories. We each pick half a dozen, and spout lines at random. The machine will become so confused, it won’t be able to operate, and will HAVE to reboot!”

“Oh, I get it. Awesome!” Sheen grinned. “When can we start?”

“The sooner the better,” the short boy answered. “Everyone ready to do this?”



“Alright, yeah...”

“Sure. Fine. Whatever. Let’s go crash the computer we’re currently trapped inside. This will be fun.” Cindy said, her tone flat.

Jimmy purposefully ignored her. “Okay, guys. Everyone move toward the light in three…two…one…”

The five kids took a step forward, and were zapped out into the story once again.

* * * * *

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s ULTRALORD, in his first big screen adventure! Soaring into theaters this summer!” Sheen ran by, arms out as if in flight, his purple skirt billowing out behind him.

Carl took a step forward and gulped awkwardly. “Uh…uh…” he stammered, trying to come up with a line. “Um…”

Libby climbed up on the table and placed her hands on her heart. “Romeo, oh Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Sheen did a 180 at that, and ran back toward his girl, leaping from the Ultralord pose and sliding across the wooden table on his stomach. “You called?” he asked Libby, waggling his eyebrows, his neck craned up at a very awkward angle in order to look her.

Libby rolled her eyes. “Nice try.” She glanced over at her friend, who was watching on dubiously. “Oh, come on, Cindy. Just give it a chance.”

The blonde girl sighed. “Okay, fine. Let it be known on the record that I am doing this for you, Libby, and not for any other reason.” With that, Cindy threw her hand up against her forehead dramatically and fell desperately against the wall. “Rhett, Rhett, whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go?”

“That’s it!” Libby cheered her friend on. “Alright, Carl, it’s your turn!”

Carl’s eyes darted back and forth, “Um…uh…”

Sheen took that moment to leap off the table and dump a bucket of water over his head. “I’m SIIIIIIINGING in the rain!” he shouted, prancing around the room. “Just siiiiiiiiiinging in the rain! What a gloooooooorious feeling! I’m hap-hap-happy again!”

Jimmy busted his way into the room, looking as if he had run a long distance. “Good grief, this house is a long way to walk from the castle,” he heaved, then looked around the room in mild amusement. Cindy was dramatically reciting lines from the closing scene of Casablanca, Libby was belting out the chorus from “Hopelessly Devoted To You”, while Sheen was saber-dueling with an invisible adversary, shouting something about how he’d never be his father.

“Goddard, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Jimmy said, grinning. Leaping forward, he joined in the fun. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

“Hey, Jimmy!” Sheen shouted, excitedly. “Wanna see my impression of Sauron?”

Before Jimmy could utter an answer, Sheen jumped on a chair and wiggled his fingers around his face. “I’m a giant EYEBALL! FEAR ME, mortal, if you value your pathetic little life!”


“Quick, if you believe in fairies, clap your hands!” Cindy said, cutting off the computer.

“That’s some pig!” Libby added, for good measure.


“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way,” Jimmy sang in a rush, giving Sheen a thumbs up.

“The HIIIIIIIIIIILLS are aliiiiiiiiiiiiiive!” Sheen’s scratchy voice sang out, “With the sound of muuuuuuuuuuuusiiiiiiiic!”


“I’ll never let go, Jack! I’ll never let go…” Libby said, choking up.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” Cindy said in her best Godfather voice.

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” Sheen yelled, slamming his fist on the table.


“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings,” Jimmy interrupted, brightly.

“E.T. PHONE HOME…” Sheen said, warping his voice.


“We’ve almost got it, guys!” Jimmy yelled, excitedly. “Come on, Carl, give us some help!”

Carl looked absolutely panicked. Wringing his hands, he let out a whimper and shut his eyes. “Um…uh…there’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

“That’s it!” Jimmy encouraged.

“There’s no place like home!” his voice began to rise in volume. “There’s no place like home! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME! THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!” Carl shouted.

Suddenly, the computer’s booming voice puttered out, and the scene around the kids fell apart into pixels as the last unintelligible words from the Warning Voice died out completely.

A bright yellow light flashed and the gang abruptly found themselves sprawled about on the floor of Jimmy’s lab.

Libby sat up first, holding a hand to her head. “Whoa. Now that was a messed up afternoon,” she said, rubbing her temple. Goddard barked his agreement.

“We’re back!” Carl exclaimed, leaping to his feet and hopping back and forth. “I don’t have to be a girl anymore, I don’t have to be a girl anymore!” he sang excitedly, dancing about.

Jimmy and Sheen both climbed to their feet next. “What a relief,” Jimmy said, as Sheen shook his head back and forth to clear his brain from everything that had just happened.

“Seriously, man,” Sheen added, double checking to make sure he was wearing pants once again. “Let’s chalk one up for HERE COME NIGHTMARES FOR WEEKS.”

Cindy stood up last, and without saying a word, walked over to the A.E. 4.0 and unplugged it. “We are never, ever, going to do that again,” she stated coldly, shaking the head of the plug in the gang’s direction to make her point. Narrowing her eyes, she marched up to Jimmy. “And you,” she stuck a finger in his chest. “You are going to dismantle that thing PRONTO, or I’LL dismantle it FOR YOU.”

To add emphasis, she spun and karate-kicked a box of lugnuts all over the floor. “You got that?”

“Cindy, lighten up, girl,” Libby said, interrupting Jimmy from an indignant outburst of his own. “We got out, didn’t we? And you can’t complain too much. You DID get a dance with Jimmy out of the deal.” Libby smirked and put a hand on her hip.

Cindy’s mouth gaped open and close like a fish. Jimmy’s face went beet red and he looked away quickly.

“Libby,” Cindy finally said, with a growl under her voice that suspiciously sounded like a volcano about to explode. “Can I talk to you outside for a minute?”

“Er,” Libby laughed nervously. “Nevermind, girl. Forget I said anything.”

Carl tapped Jimmy on the shoulder, looking concerned. “Jim?” the large boy asked. “Why is your face all red? Are you allergic to transdemented machines? Because I was thinking I might be.”


(“I have some cream for that if you need it, Jim.”)

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