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By K. M. Hollar

Do not adjust your browser; we are in control. You have just crossed over into a realm of the unknown. A land of shadows ... and a lot of weirdness. You have just entered the 'What If' zone. We offer for your consideration: Metal Sonic. An assassin robot, his home is the city of Robotropolis. He is known for his cunning, his speed, and his red eyes. But this robot is about to enter the 'What If' zone. He is about to have Windows 95 installed on his operating system.

* * *

It all began when Packbell requested a meeting with Robotnik. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the alien software beamed to them from another planet. It had every indication of being more advanced than anything they had at that time. "Have you tested it?" Robotnik asked, watching Packbell narrowly. The android shook his head. "No sir, not yet. I have been reluctant to install it to the main computer. You see, sir, it has a disclaimer. The disclaimer has two yards of fine print at the bottom." "Ah," said Robotnik, leaning back in his chair. "That could be a problem." There was a moment of silence. Then, "Try it on a robot." "What robot, sir? SWAT-bots are too basic." Robotnik's eyes lit up oddly. "Install it to Metal Sonic's system. He could tell you all you wanted to know."

* * *

It was not long before Metal Sonic was connected to the Robotropolis mainframe, the software downloading into his memory banks. "This is a big program," he growled to Packbell, who was overseeing the operation. "We have been here two hours. It is ninety-eight percent done, and THEN has to unzip. I won't have much disk space left at this rate." The computer screen above them said, "100% done. Unpacking migration files." Mecha stood quietly, letting the program install itself. Suddenly he lifted one hand in salute and cried, "All hail Bill Gates!" At the same time, the mainframe computer played a cutesy little chime sound. Packbell stared at him, then up at the system-status screen. Mecha's memory was a 50 bytes free and dropping. "Stop the download!" Packbell yelped. "It's a virus or something!" "No," Metal Sonic replied. "It's okay. This is a remarkable program!" His voice was slowing down, stretching out. "Winndooowss ninnetyy-ffiivve. Iii amm mmorre effecciieenntt tthaann eevverr ..." With that, he collapsed to the floor. The system-status screen said, "Insufficient disk space. Older software found. Delete Y/N?"

* * *

Yes, Windows 95 proved to be a double-edged sword. Even though it provided Metal Sonic with hundreds of new options, it took all of his disk and memory space, ruthlessly deleting all in its path. Soon he would be a slave, a walking Windows 95 logo. For example.

* * *

Several days after Mecha had acquired his new program, he embarked on his usual patrol of the city. A window popped up on his screen that said, "You've got mail. View now?" OK, he replied. The message came up: *All robot alert. Priority hedgehog spotted in northwest sector. Bring him down!* He closed the message and headed in that direction. "Load weapons," he told his computer. Instead of obeying, Windows replied with, "Filename not found." He opened the Start menu, selected 'Programs', went to 'Accessories', then opened 'weapons'. The program began to load, occupying all free space. "Warning," his driving control said. "Low disk space." He shut the warning down, but narrowly avoided coasting into a wall. With low memory, his steering would go crooked. Mecha rounded a corner and nearly collided with Sonic, who was coming from the opposite direction. "Hiya, Mecha," Sonic said, dodging around him. "Tag, you're it!" As the robot whirled to follow him, the weapons program finished loading. He selected laser cannon. The panels on his lower arm opened, and the laser appeared. Before he could fire, however, a message came up that said, "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be terminated." Cursing inwardly, he launched the program again. Sonic was twenty feet ahead, jogging along, peering down the side streets for SWAT-bots. Mecha closed in on him, steadily and silently. His enemy didn't notice him until he was almost within pouncing distance. Then Sonic yelped and leaped to the side. Metal Sonic moved with him, and -- Windows, hampered by lack of disk space, locked up. Sonic fled the premises as Mecha froze in mid-air, arms outstretched. A few seconds later he clunked to the ground, one hand fumbling for 'internal reset'. Then he lay there for approximately twenty minutes as Windows 95 rebooted. When it finally did, he bounded to his feet, saluted to no one in particular and yelled, "All hail Bill Gates!"

* * *

Without knowing it, Packbell and Robotnik had destroyed Metal Sonic. He had become enslaved and devalued by Windows 95. Never again would he work properly. Deleting the program would do no good, for it would take down all the other software with it. Mecha only survived a few months after that. When Windows 95 crashed, his software was unsalvageable. He was dumped in the junkyard and forgotten. So if Windows 95 is installed on your machine, be very careful. His fate could very well be yours. But it was not a total loss. The freedom fighters discovered Windows 95 and installed it to the Robotropolis mainframe. Total victory was theirs. THE END