“I’m not dead!” he cried to all those sitting around the grave site looking down. “It’s *just* a ring.”
It all came together at the end for Mouse. Too late, of course.
“So this is it,” Man About Time exclaimed mildly. As usual. “The thing that did him in.”
“LOVE, yeah,” answered Jeffrey Phillips, wondering how he himself could talk again. He died as well (!). “He… couldn’t pass through the O, got stuck in it. Spy Guy Benjamin tried to help, but…”
“… got stuck himself,” completed MAT for Jeffrey, having read the story up to this point too. What was the point? Just close the damn coffin lid why don’t you.
“He can’t die in Vain.”
“He didn’t,” answered MAT truthfully.
“Good for you, MAT,” said Jeffrey Phillips. “I didn’t think you would take this so swell.”
“It’s just a game. Endtime.”
“Yes, death will do that to you. Lure you in, like a fish. And when you land on the shore — it’s *only* when you land on the shore…”
“You see the water,” completed MAT again.
Next door (sometime in the past):
They say the doctor before this new one, Jr. — he was married to an alien woman. Found her spaceship crashed up in the hills.”
“That’s — not — right,” the littler golden robot squeaked back.
“You’re right, Jr. It *wasn’t* right. He should have turned her *in*. And now he’s paid the price: banishment. *Now*, are you ready to go inside and let the new doctor, this Diper fellow, take a look at those gold plated tonsils?”
“Guess — so.”
“You guess so.” Claude Sr. blew out air from his mechanical lungs. “I had mine taken out about the same age as you are, in fact, the exact same age.”
“12 — I — know.”
“That’s right, Jr. 12. All mechanoids have to have their original tonsils taken out, then. Else: viruses.”
“I — read — the pamphlets.”
“Nice.” But Claude Sr. knew it wasn’t tonsils that were taken out. The pamphlets lied. He’d find out soon enough. Just like with Santa Claude.
They head inside for the operation.