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Stuart and the Rankstalk. (By Patrick Fisher)

There once was a young boy named Stuart. He loved DROD, but his family was unable to pay for anything over the internet, and he needed to find a way to get a CaravelNet subscription for his recently acquired DROD 2.0.

"Stuart," his mother said, "I talk to Erik H, and he said he would be willing to barter for the subscription. Take this cow to Erik and try to get him to trade it for a subscription for CaravelNet. He should be waiting for you."

"Are you serious?! That's excellent news!" Stuart replied. He then went out back, found the cow, tied a rope around it's neck, and started leading it to Erik's house. He imagined all of the scores he could upload. "Surely, I must have a few top 10 scores to impress people with," he thought.

However, just a couple of blocks away from Erik's house, he met Patrick, a normally friendly forum-goer, but who was clever and cunning when hungry. As soon as he saw the cow, his thoughts turned to food.

"Wow... that's a nice looking cow you have there," Patrick told Stuart. "Looks to me like a couple of steak dinners with cheese appetizers and milk for a beverage. Perfect idea for tonight!"

"It's for Erik. I'm getting a CaravelNet subscription for it," Stuart replied politely.

"Well, I was on my way to the store, but now that I've seen this cow, I think that this could be much better. How'd you like a couple of rank points for it?"

Rank points were Stuart's weakness, and as soon as he heard the prospect of free ones, he became interested.

"How many?"

"Well, since this is such a fine looking wholestein, I'll give you three rank points that I believe to be magical. I'd try them out myself, but I don't think they are Linux compatible!" Patrick replied.

"Deal!" Stuart said, enthusiastically. With that, the trade was made. It wasn't until Patrick was out of sight when he realised that the cow was supposed to give him a CaravelNet subscription.

"Frig!" Stuart exclaimed. "Well, I'd better head back home and tell my parents about it," he decided. Besides, if they were magical rank points, perhaps they would be better than a CaravelNet subscription?

When he got home, his parents looked confused.

"Son, Erik said that he would activate the account as soon as you gave him the cow. Why isn't it working yet? Another server problem?"

"Erm, no mother," Stuart said, "I traded the cow for some magical rank points instead."

"You did what? How much more of a dolt can you be?" his mother screamed. "I'm taking those rank points and confiscating them until you learn the unimportance of them!"

"But mother!" Stuart whined.

"No, son. You have to learn a lesson," she firmly said. "Anyways, it's night now, so you'd better go to bed."

"Very well." And so he quietly went off to bed.

Once his parents were all asleep, Stuart snuck down to his basement and made his way to a hidden drawer.

"My parents should really think about finding a new place to hide things," he snickered to himself. With the rank points in hand, he took them to his computer and deposited them in his rank point container.

'Mission accomplished,' he thought, and then proceeded to return to bed.

***

When morning came, Stuart was up at 6:30, ready to check the forums. Strangely, he saw a weird link on the top of the forum entitled "Convert Magical Rank Points".

'Wow. Never saw that before. Schik really is a leet forum God' he thought. 'Perhaps the points that Patrick gave me are a new experimental breed. Well, let's test them out'

As he clicked the link, he suddenly saw the computer monitor open up, and he was being sucked through it quicker than ever imaginable. The walls were filled with falling green text, and he could see a small light straight ahead.

"Amazing. Either I somehow died, or I'm watching a C-Rated version of The Matrix"

However, the light continued to grow, and before he knew it, he had landed on the ground.

"Whoa... Schik must have programmed in a 'B' science fiction movie for people with these points!"

As he took a look around, he became both amazed and confused. The grass(?) was white, and a house in the background looked to be completely blue with only subtle white text on it.

"Blue screens of death" Stuart observed, and now became intrigued. As he moved closer, the house became larger. So large, in fact, that Stuart could no longer see the roof of it by looking directly up. He was, however, able to read the writing on the house.

"Warning: Permission into this building can only be granted to those with proper CaravelNet administrative access. You have been warned.

"Hey! This must be Mike Rimer's house! Maybe DROD 3.0 is in there!"

Luckily for him, the door was slightly ajar, and he was able to make his way inside. The house was extremely clean, and he could hear the sound of someone typing on the keyboard, except amplified fifty times what it is normally.

"If this was implemented in, then the whole editor would have to be restructured, followed by an upgrade of Visual Studio, which then leads to..." the voice rambled on.

"It's Mike Rimer! It has to be! I have to go find him and check out screenshots to post on the forum!"

He started to run to an image which appeared to look like a door that was slightly ajar. When he saw the crack, he ran towards it full force.

Mike was smart though, as his wall was covered with wallpaper that looked like doors partially open in order to stay hidden. The one Stuart ran at wasn't the real door, unfortunately, and he ended up with a small headache after the incident.

"Phooey. That Mike's a clever one, he is. Is there any Tylenol around here?"

Knowing of Mike's plan, he then stuck his hand on the wall and continued to walk around it until he found the real door. Lo and behold, it was the 'door' right next to the one he rammed into.

"Damn the luck, I tell you. Anyways, time to get a screenshot."

When he made it through, he was shocked. Mike was approximately 80 feet tall, and he knew that Mike could easily program him into a life of horribleness. There was one way to go, and that was to steal the hard drive from his computer and take it back to his dimension. The computer (Which happened to be normal size) was sitting on the ground with the cover off (To prevent sporadic rebooting, of course), and a screwdriver was happily sitting right next to it. His chance was there.

As Mike continued to churn out code, Stuart snuck around behind him and hid behind the computer. With the screwdriver in his hand, he started to take all but one screw off, waiting for Mike to save before taking the last out and unplugging it from the computer.

After a couple of minutes, Mike stopped.

"Compiling.....done! Excellent. This calls for a celebration." And he went off toward the kitchen, Stuart could hear Mike talking to himself.

"Door A4 is bedroom... D5 is outside.... aha! 6C is kitchen," he said, and disappeared.

With that chance, Stuart undid the last screw, set the screwdriver down, and unplugged the hard drive.

"I did it! I have DROD 3.0!" He exclaimed, quietly.

However, in his temporary joy, he knocked the screwdriver off of the edge, causing a large *BANG* when it hit the floor.

"Someone is in the code room!" Mike yelled. "Freeze, miscreant!"

With the hard drive in his hand, he then booted it out of the room. When he hit the main hallway, Mike had spotted him.

"Get back here! That's code you have in your hands! Return it at once!"

Stuart had other plans. He started scanning the room for door G5, as that was his ticket to freedom.

"FF....FB....D9...G5! Freedom!" he yelled, and bolted it through the crack. He quickly looked back to see if Mike was following him, but saw nothing. As he ran back to where he first hit this dimension, he saw a computer logged into the forums. When he got there, he saw a different link at the top.

"Unconvert Magical Rank Points...this must be my way out!"

Once he clicked, the screen opened up, sucked him in, and spit him out in front of his computer, hard drive still in hand.

"I'm alive...and I still have it! Time to load this baby up...."

A doorbell stopped him in his tracks, and being a polite person, he stopped what he was doing to answer it. When he opened the door up, he saw two very muscular men wearing sunglasses and business suits at his door.

"Hello. A person named...uh...Mike Rimer has requested the service of a couple of thugs. You Stuart Knapton?" Thug 'A' questioned.

"Umm...I think you have the wrong place," Stuart replied, nervous.

"When will you stop doing that?" Thug 'B' rebuked. "We're not a telegram service, we're hired thugs. Now, let's get this hard drive and get our pay, okay?"

"Very well," Thug 'A' replied. He grabbed Stuart by the shirt and pulled him forward. "Listen, buddy, you should know that stealing hard drives from people is wrong. As far as you remember, you were never in a different dimension, you have never seen Mike Rimer, nor do you know anything about DROD 3.0. Got it?"

"Sure...just release me!" Stuart cried out.

Thug 'B' had grabbed the hard drive by now, and they both left quietly.

And Stuart, without a CaravelNet subscription or the DROD 3.0 code, was forced to play DROD offline. Maybe the next time he gets a cow, he'll be able to control his rank point obsession.