New Year's Eve:

The clock struck midnight; the calendar rolled over to 01/01/07.

"Happy New Year!" Hi-Tech yelled, tossing a handful of confetti into the air. The sound of his voice echoed back to him in the otherwise empty lab.

"Happy New Year," he said again, sighing as the robotic vacuum cleaner skittered out to sweep up the confetti. He watched it chirping happily as it rounded up each and every scrap of paper.

"At least somebody's having a good time," he said, tearing up a napkin and scattering the bits. The vacuum wheeped excitedly and charged at the snowfall of paper.

Despite himself, Hi-Tech grinned at the robo-vacuum's antics. He turned, scanning his desk for more trash to help prolong the game.

"Ah! French fries!" Hi-Tech shook the last, cold remnants of his dinner into his hand, selected one and tossed it. "Okay, Rosie, go long!"

The fry had barely hit the ground before the scorpion-like vacuum had skittered over and pounced on it.

"That was an easy one!" Hi-Tech lobbed a fry into a corner of the room. With an almost insolent chirp, the vacuum strolled over and released a smaller hose to daintily suck up the fry. It turned toward him, motion sensors watching him closely.

He smirked at the vacuum and held up the last two fries. Tauntingly, he held one in each hand and waved them back and forth. Left, right, up, down, in a circle he moved them, the vacuum's motion sensors following his every movement.

"Go get 'em!" Hi-Tech threw each fry violently away in opposite directions. The vacuum yeeped angrily, skittering back and forth as it struggled to decide which fry to chase.

Hi-Tech threw his head back and laughed. "I win!" he said, moving over to the still baffled vacuum. He knelt down beside the unit and pet it. "Okay, it was a cheap shot, but war is hell. Besides, I'll see what I can do to tweak your AI so you won't have these problems anymore."

"Hey! Hi-Tech? Hey! You in here?" Tunnel Rat's yelling made Hi-Tech jump. "He ain't here!"

"Give him a chance to answer, stupid," Heavy Duty said. "Hey, Hi-Tech?"

"I'm in here!" Hi-Tech stood up as Heavy Duty and Tunnel Rat entered the lab. "I thought you guys were at a New Year's Eve party?"

"We were," Heavy Duty said with a shrug, "but Tunnel Rat scared off our dates."

"How was I supposed to know they were vegans?" Tunnel Rat looked wounded and put-upon. "That's really something you should warn a guy about beforehand, y'know? I mean, if they don't eat meat, then--"

"Man, that joke wasn't funny when you told it to them an' it still ain't funny now! Is it Hi-Tech?"

Hi-Tech quickly wiped the grin off his face. "No, no," he said. "Not funny at all; very not funny."

Heavy Duty knuckle-rubbed the top of Tunnel Rat's head. "You got no couth, y'know that?"

"Oww! Quit it! Geeze!" Tunnel Rat swatted at Heavy Duty, stepping away from him. "Anyway, Hi-Tech, since our dates bailed on us an' we figured you had to be bored out of your mind back here..."

"We grabbed a couple pizzas and some Chinese food and headed back here," Heavy Duty finished. "An' since Tunnel Rat got that Wii for Christmas from his folks, we figured maybe you might be able to figure out how to hook it up to the big projection screen in the briefing room."

"Yeah, the sports games are pretty cool, you can go bowlin' an box an' play baseball and stuff," Tunnel Rat said. "So, you in, Hi-Tech?"

"That depends," Hi-Tech said, rubbing his chin. "What's on the pizzas?"

Heavy Duty grinned. "Just regular supremes," he said. "I did the ordering; I made Tunnel Rat stay in the car."

"Aww c'mon! Like Dominos is gonna have crickets anyway," Tunnel Rat said. "C'mon, Hi-Tech, we got beers too."

"Well, if it's beers too," Hi-Tech said, clapping his hands together and rubbing them briskly. "Count me in and be ready to get your butts handed to you. Did I mention I knew one of the guys who worked on the Wii development team?"