A banner flutters over the entrance to a large courtyard. It has been lovingly made by hand. The slightly askew letters read “Happy Retirement!” Picnic tables have been scattered with snacks of all sorts. The variety is staggering, ranging from huge vats of beans and rice and mashed potatoes to bubbling steam trays of stew, and biscuits.
From the edge of the courtyard, a scattering of individuals approaches. They are just as varied as the refreshments. A fox woman bounds up to the table and practically bounces in place.
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Who brought these things?” Ivy said, snatching a biscuit.
“Them’s Butch’s specialty. Drizzle that gravy on there and you’re liable to think you died and went to heaven,” said a lanky airship crewman named Coop.
Ivy eagerly scooped the thick, creamy stuff over her plate and took a messy bite. Her eyes rolled back and she practically danced in place.
“Delicious! This retirement party was a great idea,” she said.
“It really is nice to have an opportunity to meet our colleagues,” said Nita tightening her tool sash before picking up a can of soft drink and cracking it open. “May I say, the level of technology out here is marvelous.”
“Have you listened to ‘streaming music’ yet?” Ivy said. “You can listen to any song you want, whenever you want! There’s whole types of music I never dreamed of!”
“Now everyone, everyone! Grab a drink, grab some food, and gather around,” shouted Deacon from beneath the banner. “We’ve got some festivities planned for later. We’ve got a nice little playground set up over in the back corner. Don’t worry about the smoke. A couple of Myn’s kids got a little rambunctious but the fire is out.”
“Also, pardon the smell,” Lex said. “Squee also got a little rambunctious, but the clean-up spray should be kicking in.”
“No harm done,” Deacon said. “So let’s get together and get started.”
The group gathered around, their plates loaded up with assorted goodies from the potluck.
“Now, as you know, 2020 was ‘the year of six.’ Most of us had our ‘final’ adventures. Thus, we’re having this little retirement sendoff.”
Karter scoffed and attempted to use a deep fried burrito as a scoop to shovel beans and rice into his mouth.
“I know the tendency is to feel as though retirement is the end of something,” Myranda said. “But it is important to remember that it’s the beginning of something, too. That’s what we wanted to do here, before the party begins in earnest. Discuss what we’re going to be doing, now that our stories are told. Shall I go first?”
There was a murmur of agreement.
“Deacon and I have decided to take Leo and settle into the backstory of one of those ‘massively multiplayer online games’. A nice comfortable piece of lore, something about a golden era of a setting, sounds lovely after the trials and tribulations of our own world,” she said.
“I, for one, and eager for the opportunity to shape the worldbuilding of an entire new setting,” Deacon said.
“Haven’t you had enough ‘shaping the world to your whims’ for one lifetime?” said Gunner.
“Oh, give him a break,” Lil said, elbowing him in the ribs. “Us fictional types all get up to a little nonsense now and then.”
“Who is next?” Myranda said. “How about you, Lil?”
“Me? Oh, I reckon I’d like to do one of them ‘ninja warrior’ shows. Seems like all that hoppin’, climbin’, and scurryin’ is right up my alley. Ain’t never thought of makin’ a game of it. How about you, Nita?”
“Apparently there are ‘steampunk conventions’ and whole communities have found a passion for devising artful outfits that incorporate my chosen aesthetic. I’d like to get involved, maybe find a way to include my engineering and my artistry in a single pursuit.”
The crowd looked about expectantly.
“I guess I’ll go next,” Lex said. “I’ve been thinking of doing some acting. There’s a children’s story that I’ve been cast in. There’s a bit of a hang-up on the production side, but it should be fun.”
“Actin’,” Captain Mack said. “That’s about where I reckon I’ll end up. Seems to me they’re always makin’ these… movin’ pictures about superheroes and what not. There’s always some grizzled fella callin’ the shots. I reckon I might be one of them.”
All eyes turned to Butch, beside him. She grumbled something and pulled a cookbook out of an apron. The cover had a photo of her doing her very best to sculpt her perpetually sour expression into something a bit less forbidding. The title was “Mile High Cuisine with Butch.”
“She’s got one of them book tours,” Coop said.
“And what about you, Coop?” Myranda asked.
“I reckon I’ll stick with Cap’n Mack. Got me a job as a stunt man. Turns out they’ll pay big money for a fella what ain’t too worried about gettin’ hurt.”
“I have acquired a position as the voice and infrastructure of a line of internet connected smart speakers and cell phone apps,” Ma said, her voice buzzing from an automated arm inexplicably holding a plate of potato salad.
“Ether?” Deacon said. “I see you crackling back there. Care to share your plans?”
“I’ve become aware of the state of the environment. I plan to spend the next few years inflicting elemental wrath upon those who would abuse their world.”
“Sort of a surly, proactive, vengeful Captain Planet,” said Garotte. “I like it!”
“And what are you going to do,” Lex said.
“Me? A bunch of us—Me, Silo, Gunner— have decided we’ve had our fill with military sorties and the like. Mostly we’ll be volunteering our time to some outreach programs for vets.”
Silo nodded. “Feels a little more useful and meaningful than kicking up our feet and knitting.”
“And I certainly had no intension of modeling scarves for you day in, day out through our golden years,” Garotte said.
“Me next, Me next!” Ivy said. “I’m going to be a DJ! It’s someone who plays music for a living and sort of gives folks a reason to dance. It feels like a perfect fit. I thought maybe being a malthrope might make it difficult, but there are all sorts of folks who were thrilled to have me. And there is already a mouse DJ and two robot DJs—”
“Not anymore. The robots retired,” Lex said.
“Oh, well then I’d better get to work!” Ivy said. “Do you think they’ll let me bring my violin?”
“I don’t think there are any rules,” Lex said.
“I love when there’s no rules!” she trilled. “Lain, why don’t you… Lain?”
“Lain isn’t here,” Deacon said.
“Because this is a retirement party, and Lain isn’t through,” Myranda explained.
“Ooooh…” Ivy said.
“So why aren’t what’s his name and Blot here,” Lex said snidely.
“They’re not through either,” Myranda said.
“Su-u-u-u-re they’re not,” he said.
“Don’t be mean,” Ivy said. “Myn, what are you going to do?”
The dragon raised her head from the now mostly empty cauldron of potatoes. She licked her snout clean.
“The brood and I will be working in children’s entertainment as well, though I am not entirely certain when. And in the meantime we’ll be mascots for a new breakfast cereal.”
“You’ll be so good with kids, I know it,” Myranda said. “Karter, I notice you haven’t weighed in.”
“Military contractor,” he said through a full mouth.
“Sort of a lateral move then,” Nita said.
“Not even. I’m just going to keep being a military contractor in the same setting.”
“Big Sigma has been concluded, Karter,” Deacon said.
“Pffff,” he scoffed, spraying beans everywhere. “You don’t believe that, do you? Joseph R. Lallo never shuts the door on anything. There’s going to be more Book of Deacon, there’s going to be more Free-Wrench, and there’s sure going to be more Big Sigma. I’m not moving all of my gear out of the lab just because he’s convinced he’s going to make a go of it with this… what’s he calling it, the Greater Lands Saga?”
“It isn’t our place to question the whims of our creator,” Deacon said.
“Broadly speaking, antagonizing the person responsible for one’s own existence is inadvisable,” Ma said.
“You do it to me all the time,” Karter said.
“And those instances have all been inadvisable.”
“Whatever. Mark my words. This is about as final as a Kiss farewell tour. It’ll be—”
Karter suddenly stopped speaking and fully rethought his position on the issue. Upon considerable internal reflection, he decided that Ma was correct and it was exceedingly unwise to contradict his creator. Also, he was standing in his underwear, and a slice of individually packaged American cheese was inexplicably stuck to his forehead.
“Fine. Be that way,” Karter said.
“Hey, do you think people are going to read too much into the people who may or may not have been mentioned?” Nita said. “As though maybe they’ve got more stories on the way too?”
“I don’t think anyone’s going to read this at all, it’s an April Fools Day post on the personal blog of a washed up author who was no big shakes even before he was washed up,” Karter said.
His underwear drooped and a second slice of cheese slapped onto his face.
“I think that’s enough for the speeches,” Deacon said. “Eat, drink, be merry, and hopefully we’ll all see each other next year!”