The 'Maniacs Meet 07
Raijin's Log

Thursday:

4:30 am - After so many dreams in the last few weeks involving this wake-up call, I wasn't too sure if this was the real thing at first. Fortunately, unlike all those dreams, I had not slept in and missed my flight. In fact, everything went right smoothly. Sorry, no Snakes on a Plane references here. Not yet, anyway. The first flight took off at 6:25, landed just an hour later in Winnipeg, then it was right onto the next flight which landed at 12:18 in Toronto. When looking at the itinerary at first, I guess I neglected to keep in mind I was going two timezones east, so I was expecting it to last a little longer. The first trip was over so fast I barely had time to nap.

12:30 pm - The anticipation before the first meeting was really getting my heart racing. From the point where the city became visible out the plane window all through the bus ride to the hotel, I couldn't stop grinning like an idiot. That bus ride was a little sight-seeing tour on its own. I got to see so many things I hardly ever see in Regina. A harbour! Homeless people! Congested traffic! About a dozen construction cranes scattered throughout the city like it had just suffered from a massive superhero/supervillain battle and had to rebuild everything in a rush to get things back to normal by the next issue! I also caught a glimpse of my hotel about 15 minutes before getting anywhere near it thanks to the large sign depicting its name in the distance. I felt like if I had binoculars I could actually see Top waiting for me in the lobby. Yes, the suspense was killing me.

1:00 - Finally, I reached the hotel. I looked around the lobby, expecting someone to sneak up behind me and surprise me at any moment. That wasn't to be though, as my eyes were easily drawn to the bright orange cap pointed straight at me as the head it was attached to hunched over, staring intently at the drawing pad in the figure's lap, sitting in a chair in the middle of the area. Turns out Topman is really easy to spot in a crowd, an attribute that would come in handy countless times throughout the body-clogged convention. I headed on over to get a closer look at what he's drawing. A familiar toy-headed robot in a familiar drawing style greeted me. When the artist glanced up to see who's looking over his shoulder a second later, a more typical greeting took place. It's hard to describe what exactly was going through my mind at this point, but I think Rich put it best as "meeting old friends for the first time".

Off to business. We headed to check-in together. What should have been a rather mundane task would come back to haunt us later. They wanted a $400 deposit from both of us for "incidentals". I assured the lady we had no interest in touching the mini-bar or anything else and got the deposit bumped down to $100 apiece. Top put his on credit, and I took mine off debit, with the promise of getting it back in cash on check-out. Oh, if only it were that simple.

We headed to our room to settle in. Ninth floor, window had a lovely view of the CN Tower. I got to see my own team T-shirt right off the bat, but put it aside to save for the con. Turns out Top and I didn't have a whole lot to say to each other at first. Some initial awkwardness, I suppose. Plus, I'm not much of a conversationalist to begin with. That's right, in real life too, not just on AIM. Top had already had an extra hour in the area to scope around, so while he stayed in the room to draw, I went to do a little exploration myself. Mainly, I just walked around the block until I found a convenience store to buy a Dr Pepper from. It must have been my lucky day, because I won a free one from the inner bottlecap! Unfortunately, I then realized I did not have access to the fridge in our room, so I had to drink it fast before it got too warm. I just bought cans of the stuff for the rest of the trip.

2:00 - So, feeling settled-in enough, I decided my next move would be to ring up the phone number Gauntlet had given me, and see if we were going to meet up with him that day. A monumental moment, first time hearing Gauntlet's voice! I could tell it was really him too, as he said "Hm" a lot, and seemed to not be paying much attention to what I was saying. The reception was terrible - I could barely understand a word he was saying, except that he didn't get much sleep, he was driving to the mall, and that he wouldn't be in town for another couple of hours. I could also hear a female voice in the background. I asked who it was, wondering if it was Needle, but he hung up before I could get an answer.

It also sounded like he introduced himself as "Porthos"...It was a bad connection.

Top and I chilled in the room for a bit more. He let me borrow his copy of MMZ so I could experience that game series for the first time ever. Back when it first came out I vowed I wasn't going to support that spinoff series and avoid it at all costs. Since then I've heard so many good things about it, it was getting impossible to stick to that vow. I had actually decided to buy the games a few months ago, but still haven't gotten around to it. This felt like as good a time as any to try it out.

I drew a little during the time as well. Though Top drew quite a bit more. He was pretty dedicated to his sketching the whole trip, which I really admired. I barely ever draw just for the hell of it any more, and I always have to find time to sit down and do it. That's something that changed quite suddenly during the trip, but I'll get to that later when all the other prolific artists show up.

3:00 - Top and I decided it was high time for some site-seeing. We opted for the CN Tower, since it was within walking distance and everything, plus to get there we went right through the building where the Con would take place the next day.

The whole area was ripe with revolving doors and other strangely hinged doors I was unaccustomed to dealing with. I kept on moronically sliding into the same revolving door compartment as whoever I was following, getting smacked in the backside or crushed in the gap as a reward for my stupidity. Snakeman getting eaten by doors became a quick running gag during the trip, sadly enough.

Top had already scoped this place out before I arrived, so he led the way. The path was fairly straightforward, though long, due to the cumbersome barrier of delapidated railroad tracks between the north and south segments of the building. We would walk those skywalks many times during the weekend. A bad omen for me, as walking was not on my side. G phoned at one point along the way, but all I could make out was that they were still an hour or so away.

$20 to go up to the observation deck of the tower. Not quite the top of the world, but the best value considering the lines to get any higher were very long. The ticket lady claimed the line just to get to the deck was 15 minutes long, which must have been a bald faced lie. We got the first elevator ride up as soon as we got there.

I had been on the same tour about a decade ago with my family, and nothing really changed much except the security. 9/11 and all that. It was kind of baffling though, as the security at the base of the tower was more stringent than it was at airport. The metal detector shot little air jets at us. The hell? After relaying the story to my family last night, my dad suggested it was to blow the smell of the bombs around for the dogs to smell (there were no dogs that I could see, just a large, intimidating man prodding me with a handheld metal detector) my mom suggested it was to press my clothes against my skin to reveal any suspicious lumps. Both theories sounded kind of goofy.

At the top, Top and I looked out over the city, trudged through the wind in the outdoor deck, stood on the glass floor, and took some pictures. All in all, a pretty touristy time. Hey, we had to do at least a little bit of that, might as well have gotten it out of the way early.

I'll post the pics a little later. They're the best ones I ended up taking with my phone, which it turns out I should have had more practice with before building up half my trip album with it. You should know I RARELY ever use my cell phone, much less the camera feature in it. Somehow I was lucky enough to get Thursday's pics in a decent size, but without warning, all the others turned out thumbnail-size and unintelligible. I guess the damn thing switched to low res to save space on Friday, and if I had at least known that it had such a lame space problem, I might have taken more pics with my MP3 player camera instead of about half and half. Not that the Player photos are much better. The lighting is awful, it's unwieldly to shoot with, the pics are all dithered badly, and most come out blurred thanks to the inconsistent speed. Combine that with the fact I'm even worse at photography than I am at using a phone or talking to people, and I'm just glad Top had the brains to bring a decent camera along and do most of the gallery-building. Just look at my crappy photos as examples of what NOT to do.

4:00 - On the way back through the skywalk, G phoned again, sounding slightly more awake. He announced that he was in town, just a few blocks from the convention hall. I informed him where we were, and the female voice in the background suggests meeting up at the Eastside Marios down the block. This time G did confirm for me that he had his sister in tow, so in a few minutes, half the team would be face-to-face.

Ah, but I had no idea "a few minutes" meant about twenty. Top and I were standing outside the restaurant almost immediately, and pacing nervously for a long time as the suspense built as high as that crazy tower we just came from. Top's paranoia had plenty of time to go to work during this time, and he kept sharing his theories on what was about to happen. Would they pretend not to recognize us and sneak up behind us to surprise us? Were they already in the restaurant and looking at us out the window, laughing, wondering how long before we give up on waiting? Would G have some other guy pretend to be him for a few days while the real deal stalks in the shadows? Was he just going to stand us up? I did my best to quell the conspiracy theories while not pondering their validity myself too much. Top also said he had an odd feeling that Needle's real name was Christina, based on someone else he had met by that name or something.

It took me nearly the whole time to recall the street name G mentioned on the phone and to look it up on the map I took with me. Turns out they parked a couple dozen blocks away to save on parking costs. That's Gauntlet for you. There was no conspiracy or anything, they were just walking a long-ass way.

I had my phone out, ready to call and see how close they were, when they walked right up and showed themselves in plain sight. I didn't quite consider it when I noticed them looking at me, or when I noticed them smiling at me, but when I noticed the shades the guy was wearing, I knew it was really him. I'd looked forward to that meeting for years, and it was everything I hoped it could be.

And yeah, we finally got real names! If you want a hint, his name is not "Porthos", nor does it sound anything like "Porthos". Her name is not "Christina", nor does it sound anything like "Christina". He is also not Tony, nor am I Brion. That should narrow it down for you. Real ages would come later. We had to refer back to the "Guess Gauntlet's Age Contest" to see who won anyway.

5:00 - Our first stop was the food court to catch a bite, get acquainted, and see some sketchbooks. Now I've seen examples of their art before, but I never knew just how little a percentage of their art actually gets posted. Like Top, G and Needle were pretty dedicated to their drawings, doing a lot of sketching just for the hell of it, whenever they had a chance to sit down and pull out a drawing pad. It was pretty inspiring for me, who has only really drawn things in the last several years because I had promised to draw it for somebody, because I wanted to add something to one of my sites, or because I needed reference images. I'd nearly forgotten what made me want to draw in the first place, it had become some sort of chore. Meeting these guys really made the idea of drawing fun again.

We hit it off with Needle surprisingly well, considering what little previous contact we've had with her, and how uninterested in the team scene she's come off as. We had our common artistic interests to thank for that, I guess. She still zoned out somewhat whenever we talked about MM or team stuff, but we had more to shoot the breeze about than just that, and I was wrong to think she was in anyway unenthusiastic about the group. She just doesn't have easy access to a computer like the rest of us, she's still very much a full member of the team.

6:00 - After dinner, we grabbed the subway to go shopping for a whip for Needlegal's 60's Catwoman costume. It was my first time on any sort of Subway, but the others had lived with them their whole lives, so I just followed their lead. Toronto's insanity revealed itself in the form of its subway transfers, which unlike in Montreal, do not allow you access back to through the station once you return to the surface. The transfer is evidently good for a one-way continuous trip, which makes no sense considering there is no one down there to even show the transfers to. It seems you could just ride the trains all day until you go up for air, and if you want back in, then you have to pay again. So the transfers are basically worthless. Unfortunately, this was not the only worthless piece of paper we would pick up in this ludicrous town. I'll get to that later.

Needle leads us into a place called "Seduction". Interesting name, sounds almost like some kind of sex sho-...oh. Yep, we had gone whip shopping in the bondage section of a sex shop. How could I not see that coming? Naive and inexperienced as I am, I might have been pretty uncomfortable wandering around in there, but being in the company of three other people reduced the awkwardness considerably. Even though the whips were on the same wall as the ball gags, and the person minding the counter a few feet away was a transvestite, I felt like I fit right in. Unfortunately, it sounded like Needle didn't find the kind of whip she wanted, having to settle on a short, tassled flail as the closest substitute.

It was back to the subway in the other direction after this. This time the car was a lot more crowded, with someone in a wheelchair right in the door making squeezing in especially difficult. I was the last one in, and naturally, the door tried to close on me. Damn, those train doors are strong. Just as soon as I wormed my torso out of the death grip, it clamped down on the sole of my shoe. It didn't hurt or anything, but man, those Toronto doors would just not let me go. I must have been really tasty to them.

After that, we realized we were headed in the wrong direction, and the trains going the right way were considerably less crowded. Go figure.

G then took us to a nice comic shop called the Silver Snail, or the Crystal Snail, or something like that. I like my local comic shops, but I have to admit this place had them one-upped on toy, manga, and video content. It even had a certain issue containing a certain cameo I was looking for that apparently hadn't even made it to Regina yet. G suggested waiting until the Con to buy it since it would be cheaper, but I ignored reason and bought it early.

By now I started to notice my unbearable foot pain. No, the train door didn't take a heavier toll than I let on, I actually have my job to thank. What is normally a sitting desk job well-fitting my lazy lifestyle, had just last week turned more physical labour oriented, having me walk back and forth through the factory floor, upstairs and down, carrying heavy file tote boxes between locations. It's left my feet in a sore, blistery mess just in time for my walking tour of Toronto. Joy. I bought brand new shoes last Tuesday in anticipation for this, but they ended up making matters worse. I refused to slow the group down though, so I toughed it out, though not without annoying the others with my endless whining about my poor, poor feet.

7:00 - We walked from the Slippery Snail to Chinatown, where Gauntlet took us to check out some anime/manga places. Unfortunately, some places were already closing by this time, so we missed out on some bits. On our way out of the mall, our exit was slowed by Needle's frequent distractions. Turns out small, shiny, cute things racked up on display will stop her in her tracks. G expressed exasperation with his sister's short attention span. You'd never realize from the eps that Needle showed so many symptoms of ADD.

Our final stop on the tour was a little shop dealing in asian pirate toys such as "Transforners", "Super Construction Justice Warrior", "Ultra Fighter Six-in-One" and the like. It was all very amusing.

Thankfully, it turned out the place where G parked is only a short walk from the pirate store. We got a ride back to the hotel in the famous stolen Sunfire, except it's not really a Sunfire, nor is it stolen as far as I can tell. Just when I thought the walking was over, G parked a few blocks away from the hotel, again to save money. Damnit.

9:00 - Back in our hotel room with G and Needle, Top and I got out our own sketchbooks and we showed off the rest of our drawings to each other. We also all put on our team shirts since it's getting hard to resist trying them on. The night turned into a big sketching fest, with the four of us drawing whatever the hell comes to mind. It turned out to be a somewhat educational experience. A passing mention of how I mete out human proportions ended up being a big help to Top's style, and Needle had some suggestions for me on how to make my sketching more clean and solid. You might be seeing a significant jump in quality from a couple of Mechs' arts in the near future thanks to this.

The siblings had to head off at about 10:30. After that, there wasn't much left to do but go to sleep and rest up for tomorrow.

Friday:

7:00 - I was the first one to get up and get ready. Top decided to sleep in for another hour or so. I seemed to have slept well enough, since I was plenty energetic all day, though I recall the sleeping itself wasn't all that great. Unfamiliar bed and all that. Great pillows, lousy sheets. Plus excitement tends to keep you from really nodding off. I must have recharged on semi-consciousness alone. Same for the rest of the weekend. I was fine during the day though. Did a bit more drawing and Gameboying, and listened to my mp3 player while it was nice and quiet.

9:00 - Top and I went hunting for a good place for breakfast. We opt for the buffet under the hotel. Not a good plan. $20 for the all-you-can-eat, and somehow I forgot I can only ever eat $10 worth of stuff at a time. I really felt like waffles though, and wouldn't you know it, I only found the waffles' hiding spot after I was already full.

I hate getting full on breakfast. That's one of the worst times of day to get full.

10:00 - I forget why exactly, but instead of heading straight back to the hotel, we keep exploring "PATH". "PATH" is the name of the bizarre, maze-like, never-ending undergorund mall that weaves its way throughout much of downtown Toronto. We thought it would be simple to just walk along, and then head back the way we came when necessary, but when it came time to backtrack, we quickly realized how lost we were. We found a whole of two maps scattered throughout the walls of this labyrinth, one of which was upside-down, and one of which was missing the "You Are Here" marker. We would get lost in PATH a few times throughout the trip, each time thinking we finally got the hang of it, and each time we would end up going ridiculously far in the wrong direction, and eventually give up and surface, finding our way back home through the searing heat. I dramaticize, but it really was pretty pathetic.

10:30 - At long last, we NetBattle! I'd never had a human opponent to take on in EXE before. Neither Top nor I had picked up an EXE game in months, and were embarassingly out of practice, but I wasn't going to miss the oppurtunity. While unprepared, both of us had fairly complete game files. In my case, I unwittingly brought the copy of BN2 that had the strange save-data-erasing-incident a couple years back.

Basically, I'd gotten a perfect file on Normal Mode, and finished up on Hard Mode (BN2 keeps two separate files for Normal and Hard), and one day I turn the game on to find the Normal file completely missing while the Hard file remains completely in tact. At that point I must have tried to speed-run through Normal to get things back to normal, transferring a complete library of chips over from my sceondary BN2 cart to speed things up, but must have gotten bored with this just before the airplane mission (shoulda played that during my flight, woulda been appropriate).

So since you can't Network in Hard Mode, I had to battle Top with my half-finished Normal file. MM only had HeatCustom style, Lv.64, with 680 HP. But thanks to basically cheating, he had all the strongest chips in the game, including Sanctuary.

Top started out with Hubstyle, making his defense actually weaker than mine despite his MM being more complete in terms of Level. After he figured this out, he switched to WoodSomething, which still had the disadvantage against my Heat, especially since he kept charging up his buster but forgetting the range of the Twister attack.

We both had the strongest chips in the game, but didn't remember quite how to use them correctly. So it was essentially two morons bludgeoning each other with nuclear weapons. We played four times, with a 2/2 record. All I can say is that the fights we all over too fast, and it was silly to see us both using a preset FastGuage right off the bat simultaneously. Top actually pulled out all his time-stopping chips first at the beginning of turns, suggesting he's faster to the draw than I am. Remind me never to face him in the town square at high noon.

11:00 - Called Hard's number somewhere around here to see how close they were. Hard says they just crossed "the bridge" like I know which bridge he's talking about. Turns out they're still in Michigan at this point and ETA is another four hours. Guess those Premium Pass 2:30 entrance time is gonna go to waste for them. Suckers. I musta phoned G somewhere around here too, though I don't have it written down in my notes. Their ETA was just as far off. So Top and I were stuck alone for a while longer. We went to Harvey's for lunch at one point, and drew or lazed around for the rest of the time.

2:00 - It was finally time for the Con to start, at least for us special VIP people who get to go in before everyone else. Not as fun as it sounds. Not for me, at least, considering I was hardly interested in the con to begin with, and was more interested in meeting up with the others, who were still two hours away. Top and I wander around the con floor in its least-crowded state, which is still fairly crowded. We were given special goodie bags containing short comics, buttons, a small movie poster...a pacifier, wtf? Nice thought, but none of it stuff I would have bought for myself if given the choice. Then again, I'm pretty frugal.

I was a little excited when I got to the used videogame booths and saw them putting their wares fresh onto the table. "Oh boy!" I thought. "First dibs on the games I might not be able to find anywhere else! This early admission might pay for itself after all!" But alas, the selection was not much better than my local EB, they just had a lot more of the stuff nobody else buys. Other than that, there wasn't much to catch my eye.

4:00 - After an hour of walking around like this, I became paifully aware of my feet once again. It was getting completely unbearable at this point, and I made a mental note to limp my way over to the nearest place that sells cushioned insoles on my way back, which was about now. It was almost time to meet up with Rich and Hard anyway. On our way through the skywalk, we ran into Needle, with some guy in tow (Literally, the guy was on a leash). It was there that we were introduced to the Maniacs' newest member, Bondageboy. I had my doubts about this guy and his mesh shirt at first, but he proved his worth almost immediately by suggesting I could find cushioned insoles at the same Shoppers Drugmart where I purchased some vinyl erasers earlier in the day while we were holed up in our room drawing. How did he know I was looking for insoles, you ask? Did I mention I wouldn't shut up about my damned foot pain? It was basically "Nice to meet you, Bondageboy. My feet hurt."

As we continued on in opposite directions, Needle informed us that she'd have green hair the next time we see her. All right then. Further down the hall we ran into Gauntlet, lugging around the laptop we'd need to communicate with our absentees later. He passed it onto us to drop off in our room.

When we got back to the hotel, I immediatelt split off to find some cushies for my feeties. I hastily grabbed the first Scholl's I saw, put it back when I realized it was women's sized, and grabbed the next one I saw instead. Back at the room, I was pretty dazed as Top informed me Rich and Hard were waiting in the lobby. The excitement I should have felt this time was kinda drowned out by the screaming coming from my shoes. I noticed an immediate improvement as soon as I started "gellin'" though, and while they didn't completely cure me, they at least slowed the foot pain down enough for me to keep up with the others for the rest of the weekend.

Now some of you may have noticed Hard is almost as secretive as Gauntlet. I had no idea what he looked like 'til this point, and amazingly enough, I never did get his age even though I got Gauntlet's. I got his name a couple of times in the past few years, but kept forgetting it. He signed our group photo with it and I'm still not sure I can remember what it is. I was delighted to find that he was the tallest of our group, however. Not quite fourteen feet, but still a couple inches above the rest. Top was the shortest guy too (taller than Needle though) so we all matched the size roles of our characters fairly well. Just something that made me smirk.

I was kinda confused to see how Rich was dressed. He warned us that he would be dressed in black, which I can sympathize with enough, but what was with the poofy pants? At first I thought he had some kind of undisclosed artsy beatnik fashion sense that was only slightly less laughable than the guy in the leash and mesh shirt. As we got back to the con and he donned a black poncho and a red bandana, it became apparent that he was cosplaying somehow. That was certainly a surprise. I asked him who he was supposed to be and I think he muttered "Eigen". I'm not sure if that means he was a not-quite-accurate TM2 Magnetman, or the Japanese wrestler he took the name from. At any rate, he looked good, especially with the poncho covering up those fruity pants. He didn't stay in character long though. The red bandana disappeared quite quickly for some reason.

5:00 - Speaking of cosplay, guess who we found next once the four of us got down to the now fully-crowded convention floor? When Needle said "green hair", for some silly reason, I thought she meant she was quickly going to dye her hair green and she would otherwise look the same. So I was cought off guard when the others pointed out Morrigan Aensland and upon closer inspection, it was indeed Needlegal, or at least she was dragging around the same slave on a leash. I suppose she was easy enough to notice, since she was certainly hogging a lot of attention from the passers-by. In fact, when we saw her she was being interviewed by some TV station, Sci-Fi from what I hear, though possibly Space, since they had a fairly strong presence there (Wonder what kinda CNA coverage they'll show on Hypaspace Weekly tomorrow afternoon? Better tune in for once to check.) Being the shameless spotlight stealers we are, a couple of us got right into frame behind Needle and did the "Hi mom" stuff.

Now all that was left was to find the elusive Gauntlet. But where could we ever - oh there he is. Turns out he was waiting nearby Needle (wisely off camera), browsing the comics and not noticing us. It took us a couple minutes of milling around Needle's interview to notice him too, but naturally our attention was fixed on her most of the time. Can you blame us?

So at last, the six of us were united! It was time to escape to the food court to catch up, though it wasn't easy. We couldn't go five steps in the convention building without someone hitting up Morrigan for a picture, and the cosplayer's code forbids turning down a photo-op, apparently. Eventually, Hard volunteered to count the seconds between photo requests. The interval rose as we got farther away from the action, but amazingly, the guy continued to count while simultaneously holding a conversation. He must have a built-in stopwatch. I wouldn't be surprised if he were still counting at this very moment.

So once again we met to eat and began showing off our drawings to one another. Gauntlet brought a whole issue of Kids' Stuff, which is on too-large paper to be scanned easily, hence why we'll never see it online. G also haded out special gifts for each of us - lineart for the TM2 bio art! Nicely inked on big paper, everyone got the original art for their own character. Personalized Gauntlet art to take home and keep! Now that's a convention freebie! Rich also brought a sample of the Dragon Skin he's going to be making more of his toys of from now on, as well as the skull of General Cutman. Both samples were too fun to pick up and touch and the rest of us found it hard to put the damn things down. Some time during lunch Morrigan slipped away and Needle returned in her place. Top was too engaged in reading Kids' Stuff at the time to notice and was surprised to look up and suddenly see her changed.

6:00 - This brief reunion wasn't to last once we got back to the con, where we pretty much split up and got lost as soon as we hit the floor. It would be the same all weekend. Turns out cell reception was terrible in the area too, making it impossible to find each other once we got separated. Gauntlet blended into the crowd the best, I was never able to hunt him down, always had to wait for him to find me. As mentioned before, Top was the easiest to spot, despite much of the crowd being taller than him, his hat still shone like a bright orange rescue flare to guide me back to the group every time I went astray. You'd think Needle would be easy to find. It's not like there were a whole lot of Morrigans at that con, but she was almost as hard to keep track of as her brother. Mags and Hard tended to keep close to Top when there, except for today, when Hard was the first to run off on hos own without telling the rest of us where he was heading.

Hard, G, Top, and Needle were the only ones with much actual interest in what was going on down there. I was too reluctant to buy things, which made me reluctant to even look at things, while Mags just didn't find it to be his kind of scene. I mostly just followed the others around while they looked at things, and maybe looked at something that really caught my eye, like the TF stuff that Gauntlet was obsessing over on the first day. This led me to a table with a bunch of old, used toys, which featured a Transmetal Waspinator that became my first purchase at the con. I'd long wanted a TM Waspy to join my original Waspy, who was the only Beast Wars toy my parents got for me back when it first came out, hence he became a sort of favourite of mine. I also got a box of Pocky, just to see what everyone was talking about. Chocolate pretzel sticks, just like I'd heard.

9:00 - The con ended early this first night. We were there as the lights went off and everyone was ushered out the doors. By now, the whole team had met up just before around artists' alley, but Needle (first time I'd seen her in three hours, now re-Morriganned) was being easily distracted and we lost track of her on the way out. We waited just outside the doors for a while to see if she was going to come out, but turns out she eventually went on ahead of us, which we found out when G called her after about fifteen minutes. By now I was getting too tired of waiting around in those painful shoes and just went on ahead back to the hotel. Mags kept pace with me while the others apparently tracked Needle down in the other skywalk. I was so relieved to get those shoes off that I didn't put them back on to walk through the hotel when we went down to meet in Mags/Hard's room.

Turns out Needle couldn't make it to the group for the rest of the night. She was off doing something with her other friends, which was understandable, but disappointing considering we were about to conference in Lennon. After getting down to the Camaro crew's room on the second floor, I found out that I was supposed to bring the laptop from our room, so I had to walk all the way back, find it hidden behind Top's bed, make it down to the third floor and knock on the wrong room, think that the scared person behind the latched door was the guys messing with me, get the door slammed in my face, realize I was on the wrong floor, and then make it down to the correct room, all in my blistery, sore, sock feet. Damnit you guys.

Where was Top during all of this? Turns out he couldn't buy something he wanted from the con on credit because a certain hotel took out a $600 deposit instead of the $100 deposit they were supposed to, and he was down at the front desk trying to get that sorted out. Oh, if only that were the only bit of madness we were to experience due to the hotel's complete ineptitude at handling cash.

10:00 - After much struggling with the hotel's internet connection, the laptop's settings, and AIM's insufferable firewall problems, we finally get a videochat with Lennon working on MSN. Normally when someone tells me to get off AIM and use MSN, my first response is to give them the finger. But for once it was the right choice. I was amazed there was only a half-second satellite delay for communicating with someone on nearly the opposite end of the planet. I guess all those news reporters really are faking it. We could hear our voices as they exited Lennon's speakers, re-entered his mic, and fed back through our speakers with the slight delay. Because we're huge dorks, we had some fun with the "echo" effect. Because we're huge dorks, we also had some fun with Gauntlet's identity and how to reveal it to Lennon. It was a hastily-made plan, and not very well executed, but first we had the camera pointed at a card with the letter "G" drawn on it, then we had Rich go on camera in sunglasses and a facewrap and pretend to be Gauntlet, then the real Gauntlet went onto the laptop but he "accidently" knocked over the webcam, and I think that's when we finally gave it to him straight.

There was a whole lot of loud talkign for the rest of the night. It got hard to keep Lennon in the conversation though, especially since the audio started to get unbearably choppy, making him impossible to understand. We eventually had to turn off the sound and chat with him via keyboard while the video was still active and he could apparently still hear us. With the more engaging conversations happening right there in the room though, poor Lennon was starting to get left in the dust. Everytime it was my turn to sit at the laptop, my head was frequently craned over my shoulder to laugh at the nonsense behind me. Everytime it was Hard's turn to sit at the laptop he'd say "Not it!" and sit still on his bed.

G left the laptop and the comic book with us when he eventually had to leave, and the rest of us continued to annoy the neighbours with out racuous chatter until after 2:00 am. For me, the night culminated, as many would, in a Clone High quote-off. I went back up to my room, nearly forgetting my socks, and completely forgetting my phone.

Saturday:

10:00 - Not up quite as early today, but of course we were up much later the previous night. Today the con started at 10, so we were already missing out by this time. At least this time we weren't missing out on the extra features we paid for in that stupid Premium Pass. Gauntlet and Needle got down there a lot earlier than the rest of us, and I don't believe either of them bothered to call us, though I think we would have kept sleeping-in even if they did.

11:00 - We met down at the Camaro Room so we could go to breakfast together. I was pleased to find Classi had joined us at this point, as in she was on AIM and chatting with Rich for a while already. Apparently Rich managed to sleep for less than four hours and was up and at 'em by 7:00. I don't need to tell you he wasn't very energetic that day. I took over at the laptop to catch up with Classi when I got there. It was great to get in touch with her then, because unfortunately, we couldn't synch up for the rest of the weekend. We made plans to try a voicechat (she doesn't have a webcam) later that night along with Lennon and the others so we could get all eight talking to each other at the same time, but it wasn't to be. We made the best out of it though. And G had to take the laptop back at the end of the night, so this was the last day we even had the chance. When everyone was finally ready, the four travellers headed to Tim Horton's for a good old-fashioned Canadian breakfast of coffee and donuts.

12:00 - At this point I was still feeling lazy, not about to head for the convention right away, so I opted to go back to my room and draw for a bit. Top had learned of a Printing Shop somewhere in the underground PATH, and wanted to go print off some pictures of some Clockwork Orange cosplay he did a while ago, Hard and Rich decided to follow him for some reason. I just lent Top my USB drive so he could transfer the pics and set to lazing around the hotel room.

Here's where the weekend's most amusing adventure in the death maze known as PATH took place, and I missed it completely. I guess I should be grateful though. They encountered another infuriating facet of Toronto's insanity - none of the shops in PATH were open on weekends. Or maybe they just opened really late in the afternoon. Or maybe they just saw us coming and decided it would be best to close. To make matters worse, many of the doorways connecting one tunnel to another, or even heading back to the surface, were inexplicably locked. So the maze had a lot more dead ends than before (Ah, that reminds me, when we met up at the con on Friday, Hard presented G with another addition to his Dead End Minicon army. Aren't we nice to each other?). By some incredible stroke of luck, it turned out the one shop down there that WAS open that day was the Printing Shop, so their search wasn't in vain. Although I believe on Monday just before check-out, he learned of another Printing Place that was right inside the hotel, so maybe it was after all. I didn't get to see just how frustrating their underground adventure was, but they seemed pretty relieved to get back to civilization eventually.

2:00 - I was apparently still in my room at this point. I only went out to buy some Tylenol at the Shoppers' for the headache I somehow picked up at breakfast (musta been all the chocolate in my breakfast donut). I mostly spent all this time drawing personalized pics for everyone to take home with them. I got the idea Friday morning, and when G passed out his own gift art later that day, I knew I had to get to work on my own gifts. I didn't have as much time to clean everything up or ink or stuff like that, but everyone says they like my messy pencilling style somehow, so I'll take their word for it. More importantly, I made sure to have fun with it.

3:00 - Finally, Rich phoned me saying to meet up at his room. I thought we were getting ready to head down to the con, but it turned out he was already down there with the others for a while and had gotten his fill of it. I guess that's what I get for proclaiming my laziness and complaining about my feet, when it comes time to go to the con, no one bothers to invite me. :(

I couldn't have been to eager to catch up though, since I spent nearly another hour just hanging out with Rich and doing more drawing. I also took the chance to browse the net, check on some webcomics, and read the forums, which I was feeling deprived of after two whole days. Eventually, I did want to check out the con though. Rich was practically done with the whole concept of conventions by now and decided to stay behind.

4:00 - Just before getting into the convention building, Gauntlet finally called back. Turns out I'd just missed him and Needle, who had left to get something to eat. It wasn't a total loss though, as Top and Hard found me on the escalator and the three of us hit the con for a while. There were a couple things I was interested in buying at this point. First was a DVD for the first season of IGPX. I don't get Cartoon Network up here, but I'd seen magazine ads for this show. You may not know this about me, but I have a bit of a fandom in futuristic racing. Racing videogames in general are the only kinds of sport games I'll touch, and when you combine that with advanced technology like in my beloved Megaman franchise, I'm all over it. So this IGPX thing caught my eye. When Hard gave it an endorsement in conversation the previous night, my mind was pretty much made up. The second thing I was interested in was a $150 transforming Soundwave MP3 player with Frenzy/Rumble earpieces. Gauntlet pointed it out on Friday but wasn't about to drop that much money, even though it was half the regular price. I certainly had money to burn since I wasn't about to buy anything else, so I decided to grab it on Saturday. Unfortunately, they seemed to be completely sold-out by now, so we were both screwed. Instead, I noticed another toy booth had a Fox Kids black and silver Transmetal Tarantulus on the racks. I thought my Beast Wars quota was filled with the two Waspinators, but 1)I'd always loved the Tarantulus character, 2)I've always liked spiders, 3)I REALLY liked his TM design, particularly the big barrel shoulders, and his motorbike transport mode. and 4)Call me shallow, but a black and silver repaint really works for me. So black and silver Spider-Bike became my last purchase at the con. That's right, I kept my wallet sealed up for the rest of the day and all of Sunday. I kept walking around the place though, unlike Rich, who just stopped going. I really have a lot to learn about how these convention things work.

5:00 - Spent about another hour wandering around, seeing if I could find G and Needle if they came back, but invariably ending up back on Hard and Top's tail. Top was spending some time trying to get a good deal on some Buffy or Angel comics or something like that, Hard was out for some celebrity autographs, and both of them were enthralled by the varied Mario merchandise, such as the delicious-looking plush Mushrooms and keychains that played classic game sound-effects. I wasn't paying much attention though. I was getting bored. I forget how, but somehow down the line we met up with Gauntlet. He must have jumped down from the rafters in front of us or something, because I have no idea where he was all day.

6:00 - We met up briefly before leaving the con. On Saturday, closing time was 7:00, but the Masquerade (cosplay event, which Needle obviously had a vested interest in) started at 8:00, so she couldn't leave with us. We were lucky enough to at least meet her for a minute before the Masquerade's Green Room closed up. This was the day she was wearing the 60's Catwoman costume we'd bought the whip for on Thursday. We made sure to snap a few pics before splitting up again. Gauntlet warned us that the Masquerade tends to take several hours, and our Catwoman/Riddler duo would only be on stage for a few unaccounted seconds, so staying to watch was probably a bad idea unless we were really interested in seeing a lot of cosplay, which not all of us were (I wasn't).

7:00 - We phoned ol' Shut-In Rich and told him to meet us at Casey's for supper. We mostly got appetizers. I got a big plate of nachos. Gauntlet, having Crorq on the mind, got some chicken wings. We didn't get many questions about our team shirts over the weekend (probably since we weren't all together in public that often) but the waiter here asked what "MM3 was up to" until we flashed him the URL on the backs, to which he responded "Oh". Top and Hard relayed the story of an adorable little Megaman cosplayer they saw earlier. Apparently it was a great costume, but was falling apart in some way when they found him or her. They asked for a photo, but the kid had to run off and fix the costume before they got a chance. Too bad. Maybe there are some other photos floating around online. I'd like to see what they were talking about.

8:00 - It was back to the hotel for a rerun of last night. We did a lot more throwing around of epilogue ideas this time, since we'd racked up a lot in just a couple days. Once more we were on a videochat with Lennon, but this time we didn't even bother to turn the sound on. Rich also turned on the TV and found Full Metal Jacket playing on what I can only guess was the History Channel. That provided some entertaining background noise for the next couple of hours. Hard seemed somewhat surprised that Canadian stations were showing American historical dramas, like for some reason we'd ban all foreign-related entertainment. Yeah, that would be a great idea. Stuck with just Canadian TV? Shoot me before that happens.

9:00 - Despite Gauntlet's expectations, Catwoman and Riddler returned from the Masquerade relatively quickly and joined us at the room for the rest of the night. At last, 7/8ths of the team chilling in the same room...even though one was on the other side of the world and only there via satellite. This was the first time Needle met Lennon though, so we made sure she went to the laptop first.

10:00 - At long last, it was time for our group photo sessions. We got Bondageboy to be our photographer, and he took a few with my camera, so the next pics I post will actually have me in them. We even arranged to have Lennon and Classi in the pics, sorta. We'd temporarily lost the video feed from Lennon for some reason. Since Needle was chatting with him at the time I blamed it on her, earning myself a swat from the tassle-whip thing. That put me in my place. At any rate, it just so happened we saved a screenshot of the videochat from last night, so I put that image on screen so we could pretend that was the webcam. While we were at it, we got Lennon to send us a pic he had of Classi so we could put it on-screen next to him, and then with the six of us crowding around the screen, it would be like all eight of us were together.

11:00 - Needle, BB, and Gauntlet had to leave early, as usual. This time G had to take the laptop with him, so that was the end of our online adventures. The rest of us stayed in and talked loudly until after 1:00am. Once again, I left right in the middle of a Clone High quote-fest. That night we also watched some clips of it on YouTube for research purposes. That's right, we actually needed to be freshening up on Clone High for the epilogues. You'll see soon enough what we're ripping off from that show.

Sunday:

9:00 - We got up a little earlier today. I actually wanted to get to the con on time since I'd heard there was going to be a panel on the relaunch of Reboot, which I had just heard about on Saturday. Though that actually wasn't 'til noon, and the con didn't start until 11:00 today (and ended at 6:00, apparently the last day is the shortest.) At this point I just did the usual morning kicking-back, drawing, and writing down these little notes. This time, since I was up early enough on a weekend, I tuned into CBC French and watched an episode of Code Lyoko. Why french? Because it doesn't air in english in Canada for some crazy reason, and I abhor downloading TV shows to watch on my computer. My french is actually good enough to get the gist of what those kids are saying, and the way most episodes focus on dialogue-light action sequences helps. Why Code Lyoko? Well, I'm not too sure about that one, but I've been hooked on those megacephalic french kids for a while now. I also like the EXE series a lot, so maybe there's your answer.

10:00 - Rich, Top, and I went to the Second Cup for breakfast. Hard kept sleeping for another hour or so, lazy ass. Aside from a bunch of ep and character ideas, we started scheming on what to do next year. For those of you that wanted more cosplay, you just might get it. Rich and Top also brought up their plans for hot tubbing later. Hard was looking forward to it as soon as it was decided we'd be staying at a nice hotel. Me? I didn't even think about it until now. I was thinking, "Boy, I'd love to relax in the hot tub." But then I realized "Crap, no trunks." Well, it was obvious what I had to do, but sadly, I don't think anyone would have liked it if I went to the pool with nothing on. I tried to go buy a new pair from the shops, but of course, PATH was all closed up on Sunday. Defeated, I resigned to missing out. Well, who really needs a soothing hot tub anyway? I was perfectly fine after three days of walking and sleeping in an unfamiliar environment. Didn't need relaxation at all.

11:00 - Top and Rich went to the hot tub while I milled around the room. Hard was apparently just getting up, so he missed out too. I think he got to go later though. Well, whatever, it was almost time for that Reboot thing anyway.

12:00 - I made it to the Reboot thing just in time, and managed to find G, Needle, and Bondageboy already sitting. I believe Top and Hard were looking forward to it too, but didn't get out of the hot tub in time to make it before the doors closed. So yeah, suck on that, hot tub. Well, turns out there wasn't much to take away from the panel except that they really wanted to shape the new series around the fans' input. Seemed like the sort of thing they'd say to a room full of fanboys either way, but seeing as they're taking a fan-submitted script and making a canon(?) comic out of it, they seem to be sincere. Due to some legal mumbo jumbo they don't have all the rights to the franchise at the moment though, so they're depending on the success of the upcoming movies to allow the series to come back in full swing. Also, there will be 3D glasses for some reason. Apparently, all animated movies will be using stereoscopy from now on. *shrug* I was expecting them to show something to the audience on the big screen behind them, but seems they haven't started animating anything yet, so that woulda been kinda hard to pull off. If there was one thing I really liked about the panel, it would have to be the chair. After two straight days of just walking around the vendors' booths on the convention floor, I was delighted to learn that there were things you could do at a convention that involved sitting down. I will have to keep that in mind for next time.

1:00 - After the panel, we called up the others to see what they've been doing the past hour. Turns out they made it just a few minutes too late to be allowed in, so they looked around the con a bit before going for lunch. Seems they were almost done eating, but we convinced them to wait there for the rest of us to catch up with them.

Needle and BB scurried off to get the results of the Masquerade, and came back with a pair of big, red ribbons! The Catwoman/Riddler duo won best comic book theme, or something along those lines. It was an impressive victory, so let's make sure everyone congratulates Needle and Gag on their latest awards.

Rich and the others were apparently eating at the "Richtree", which was a couple blocks past the hotel, opposite the convention centre. I had to rack up a few minutes worth of long distance charges getting the directions from him. He didn't sound too happy about talking to me...well he never sounds too happy when he talks, but this time he was sounding even grumpier than usual. I found out later it was because fumbling with his phone made him drop his restaurant charge card in his soup. Some good came out of that though, Top got some pictures of it.

The Richtree was a pretty crazy establishment. It had a tropical island theme going on inside, with plenty of exotic plantlife seemingly growing right out of the floor. It was heavily crowded and huge, and had a unique ordering method. Instead of the simple, relaxing, lazy "menu" system, or the equally simple, more involved, less lazy "buffet" system, we were subjected to an overwhelming "market" system, which forced us to wander around the complex, paying attention to the various booths and their assigned culinary theme, and ordering our courses from the appropriate booths. It was like being right back on the convention floor, unfortunately. You had your drink booth, your seafood booth, pizza, stir fry, sushi, soup, etc. I went with the Stir Fry, which they prepared right in front of me, to my exact specifications. I gotta admit, it was a nice system if you can handle the action. Despite all the walking and seeking involved, there weren't many lines since everything was spread out, and it's handy to watch your chef prepare your meal. And yeah, charge cards. They give you a card when you go in, the various vendors swipe it every time you take something, and then you pay it off on your way out. Not sure if that's necessary, but it does simplify things a bit when you're going to all those booths, you don't have to deal with money and change every time. Hard said there was no reason anyone should be unemployed in Toronto with a place like the Richtree in business, because the amount of workers needed there was insane.

Top bought a loaf of bread that he carried around all day for us to nibble on.

On our way out, we took some more group pictures in the mall lobby, including a cheesy "in front of the fountain" shot. All of these were on the good camera (Topman's), so you'll have to wait a bit longer to see them.

On our way back into the con through the skywalk, we apparently passed by Commander Riker. I completely failed to notice. All I remember was some pushy guy (bodyguard or somesuch) making us move aside as his party came through the doorway. After being hounded by fanboys all day, I'm sure it must have been refreshing for him to hear me say "who?" when someone pointed out who just walked past us.

3:00 - Hard suggested we go see a showing of the first two episodes of Fate Stay/Night. Apparently none of us really knew that much about this anime, and I certainly didn't care, but after the Reboot panel I was looking forward to any more con events that involved sitting down. As we filed into the room, we were greeted by a soft, lilting, japanese song that would turn out to be the anime's opening theme. It was a nice melody, or so I thought at first. The Reboot panel had something similar before it started, various tunes from the series played in the background, offering plenty of nostalgia to the fans coming in. Unfortunately, this room only had one such tune, and only the first ten seconds of it, playing on a continuous loop. The start of the showing was delayed about 20 minutes too, so this went on for a while. We had to listen to the same damn song clip about a hundred times in a row before someone finally came in and turned it off. Many of us were calling for a baseball bat to the DVD Player at this point, I'm certain someone in our group said "I don't even want to see this any more." and there was almost a round of applause when the music finally stopped. Of course, there was much groaning when the song started to play again at the beginning of each episode.

The show itself was alright. The main character is a tool. His parents are dead, surprise surprise. The female co-star's parents are also dead, check. Not much action, but fight scenes are fine. Plot not too memorable. I got to sit though, so it was awesome.

4:00 - It was the final stretch at the con. Hard went straight to the line-up for getting Colin Ferguson's autograph, and was there for the whole two hours. He apparently got his autograph at the last minute, even after the con officially ended and others were being ushered out. Lucky break for him, I guess. But man, two hours in line? Screw that. It may not surprise you that I don't go see movies on opening night or rush to buy products on their release dates either. I prefer avoiding line-ups to the exhilaration of whatever.

Dunno what Gauntlet was up to, as usual. He poofed out of nowhere somewhere near the end when it was time to meet up. Needle and Gag wandered around on their own. Oddly enough I found it easier to spot them in the crowds today than I did on the days they were cosplaying. Top and Mags were on a mission to find something appropriate to buy and send to Classi and Lennon as part of their care packages. I would have liked to help with that, but I had no idea what would have been appropriate. I already pointed out the difficulty I have in figuring out what stuff I would like to buy for myself, it's even harder figuring out what to buy for others. So once again, I was walking around with nothing to do, mostly just looking for the others as they split apart.

We called it quits at the con some time after 5:00, except Hard of course. We told him to meet us back at his room when we were done. Just before getting out the door, we remembered that we didn't get any group shots at the con yet. Crap. I suggested walking all the way back to Hard's spot in line so we could take some pics with him there, but Gauntlet didn't have any faith in our ability to stay together long enough to get that far. He had a point. Every time we entered that area as a group, it took a whole five seconds for us to split up in six different directions despite plans to the contrary. It was amazing that we made it that far back to the exit without losing anyone to distractions...except Top ran off to see if he could get a last-minute deal on those comics, and Needle noticed a Sandman figure she wanted to buy at the very end. So we took the quickie con photos right there at the doors, with an incomplete group, just to prove that we had been there. Bing, bang, boom, time to escape.

6:00 - It was back to the Camaro Room for our last night together, and what a night it was! There were problems though. Mags was looking forward to watching the Super Mario Bros. movie all weekend, and we also made last-second arrangements to play MM3 together on the Anniversary Collection. We had a PS2 that was capable of accomplishing both those tasks, but there was a small problem...the hotel TVs were guarded from any peripheral hook-ups! Well, damnit. That was it then. Our night was ruined. There was nothing we could do about an incompatible TV set.

On an unrelated matter, I'd like to request that any hotel staff, law enforcement officials, or squealers of any kind cease reading the log at this moment.

They gone?

...

Now?

Alright then.

We trashed the TV. We ripped that baby a new one. Once again, Gag proved his worth by having impressive electronic engineering know-how inherited from his technician parents. With the tools on hand (including Rich's multi-tool, the mini-bar corkscrew - or as we called it, "Crorqscrew", and even a lighter), we ripped off the connection box, melted, chisled, pryed, and tore off the coaxial shield, very nearly broke off the jack (it was hanging on by a thread), and eventually, got the PS2 hooked up through G's adaptor. At first it seemed like the TV wasn't responding to the signal, until Top noticed some kind of connection between the signal and the lightswitch near the door. As soon as he flipped the switch, we could see Metal Gear. Due to the coaxial damage, there was a lot of static, which went away after some ever-so-careful repositioning of the TV. We put in the copy of MMAC that either Rich brought with him, or G just bought at the con (we had both to choose from, I forget which we used) and we were in business. It was the Mechanical Maniacs' finest hour. Don't tell anyone.

We opted to take turns taking on our own levels. Mags was up first since it was his PS2. His performance was rather impressive. I believe he made it all the way through without dying once. Hard and Top followed with decent skill. Hard died a couple times because he insisted on taking on Hardman without the Magnet Missiles, but made it worth it by managing to dodge at least one Hard Knuckle attack. Top did quite well but had to start over from the beginning after dying once since Hard left him without any extra lives.

The real hilarity ensued when Gauntlet's turn came. He was awful! His excuse was not being used to the control set-up, but you'd think he could have learned the new set-up eventually. He didn't know where any of the commands were, he would often "Slide Slide!" when he was supposed to "Jump Jump!", and he died so many times that we had to take over for him and help him through.

After Hard took out Sparkman in Classi's place, it was my turn. The others seemed to be quite accustomed to the rapid fire feature of the AC, which I wasn't. Still, I managed to put up a decent performance until I was knocked into a pit by that cloud-lift bug which I was somehow unaware of until this point (guess I'd always managed to luckily avoid it until then) and then Snakeman killed me a lot. Someone offered to take over for me at one point, but I demanded one last chance, and managed to win. At least I didn't come off as bad as Gauntlet.

Gag started out on Gem's stage, but Mags and I took over for him when things got hairy. I also made sure I was the one to Search Snake Geminiman himself to death. Then Needle was the only one left. She was reluctant to play, severely doubting her abilities, but we insisted she at least pick up the controller at one point. She didn't make it very far, but she gave it an honest shot. I think Gag took over for her at one point, and I think Top took a shot at it too. I remember Top claiming he had a speed-run pattern in place for one of the stages, I forget if it was Needle's, Sparks' or his own.

Either way, we all got our turns during the first stretch, and continued the cooperative effort right through to the end of the game. We were given the most grief of all in Shadowman's Doc Robot stage. That one made fools of us all, not just Gauntlet. After way too many continues, and Rich, Needle, and Gag eventually giving up on watching and going out to pick up pizza, Hardman was ultimately the hero that would bring us past Woodman and Heatman to victory, though even that was a hassle. There was one point where he was jumping across the trapdoor lifts over the huge pit and we were complaining about him not using Rush Jet, playing for his pride when we'd lost all of it half an hour ago, and it turns out he just forgot he COULD use Rush Jet in that spot. Gaahh.

This was the first time Gauntlet had seen the AC version in action, and was quick to notice the various oddities that the rest of us just glossed over. Like the altered title screen, and the slightly different font, script, and format during story scenes. We also discussed how the final stage would have looked in its extended prototype form, given all the evidence pointing to how it was shortened. Expect some additions to the MM Mysteries section on that.

This was also Gauntlet's first shot at MM8, amazingly enough, and we just had to take him as far as Frostman's stage so he could see "Jump Jump!" and "Slide Slide!" in action.

By now, Rich and the others came back with the pizza. Y'know, I kept thinking I was going to be complaining a lot about Needle's tagalong friend who had nothing to do with the team and we had never met before, and dressed in a weird way, but then he'd go and do something like hand-deliver me a can of Dr Pepper when I didn't even ask for it, and I just wanna fire Lennon and make him the new Geminiman.

After that, it was time for the SMB movie, but damnit, damnit, damnit the disc was unreadable. The surface was pretty scratched up when we took it out of the case, and we were handling it with greasy pizza fingers, and apparently Rich treats his CDs like crap (he confessed this was the third copy of the damn movie he bought already) so it looked like we weren't going to see the Mario Brothers in action after all. Rich was heart-broken.

With little else to do, We plugged in Needle's Ninja Turtles game, and Gag did most of the playing while Needle gave him advice. Apparently Needle was the only on present who knew how to play the game, but was too lazy to actually work the controller herself. I think Gauntlet took a turn too, but I had no interest in it and just watched or did some drawing. Rich, Hard, and Top took the oppurtunity to go down to the hot tub again. Top's bread disappeared some time during the night and we're not sure who finished it off. The bag was found near Hard, but he denied it.

12:00 - By the end of the night, the room was pretty well trashed. Empty pizza boxes, bread bags, Ramune bottles, and Pocky/Pucca wrappers littered the floor, along with crumbs from the various food stuffs. The chocolate mushrooms Rich bought the previous day melted into a chocolatey shroomy goop, which was re-solidified into a weird chocolate bar in the mini bar fridge. Needle had a few bites of that one and left it half-eaten on the bedstand. The TV was destroyed, drawings were everywhere, and con swag was scattered all over the place.

We did our job.

Monday:

10:00 - Well, this was it. After getting up, I started packing up my stuff. It was a considerably easy job since we hadn't been partying in our room like we were in Rich/Hard's. The small amount of con swag I picked up fit neatly into my backpack too. Instead of going for breakfast, Top insisted he treat us to it with the some Second Cup vouchers he got from the hotel as restitution for the credit card fiasco. We had to check out of our room by noon. Plan was to keep our bags in the Camaro Room since Rich was planning on extending the check-out until the evening.

11:00 - For Saturday and Sunday, we'd requested that Gauntlet phone us once he got into town so we could meet up on his schedule. On each day he didn't phone unless we phoned first, I think he wanted to make sure we got all the long distance charges. This time I didn't even bother to wait and caught him before he even left home. Turns out they were being delayed by a "spill" of some kind. Chemical spill? Dunno, something like that. They didn't arrive mutate or with super powers so it mustn't have been a big deal.

Top and I went down for check out. The receptionist said "I see we've already given you your $100 deposit in cash." I responded with "You did? I don't recall that part." and she got a deer in headlights look. Here we go. Toldya it wasn't over. She disappeared for a few minutes to look up the financial records and I heard her claim they were training a new girl the other day, so that's why they're incompotent. While she was gone, Top surmised that the $100 they gave him two days ago was the deposit I gave them. She came back a bit later with the same conclusion. Her solution was to charge another $100 to Top's card so they could give the cash back to me. I was wary about letting them anywhere near a card again, but it looks like everything turned out all right...or did it!?

12:00 - G, Needle, and Gag met up with us in Rich's room, which was still in the process of being cleaned up. Hard found a bra under his bed that morning. How did that get there? I'd like to say the previous night's festivities were even wilder than we remembered, but they weren't, so that must have been there since before they checked in.

After all the trouble getting the PS2 hooked up to the TV, unhooking it turned out to be a challenge too. With the jack hanging loose, it was tough to get a good grip on the coaxial plug to unscrew it. I didn't do much to help during the initial hook-up job (except egging the others on when they were having doubt about the property damage), but my strong finger-grip turned out to be a valuable boon in freeing G's adaptor from the scene of the crime. After that, Rich tried to fix up some of the damage with his rubber glue, which ultimately only made things worse since it gummed up the connection. Gag's techie skills got a faint, staticy image coming through at first, but since we started moving the TV again, it was nothing but snow. That bitch was toast. We put everything back the way it was except the mutilated coaxial shield, which we just left on the floor (I think we kicked it under the cabinet), and then we hanged the mysterious bra over the connector box. I believe our initial plan was to pretend we never watched TV all weekend and blame it on a previous guest (if the housekeeping staff wasn't observant enough to find that bra before we checked in, that just might have worked), and if they did pin it on him, Rich would just pay for the damage, how bad could it be?

Then we got down to the lobby and Rich pulled out an express check-out sheet. When he got down to the "Address" field, he drew a picture of Megaman shooting at a TV with a bra flying off of it. Naaah, that's not incriminating at ALL. In any case, it was funny as hell. He slipped the sheet into the express check-out slot and we high-tailed it out of there, never to return.

Well, we still needed breakfast, or rather lunch at this point. We headed down to the Second Cup beneath the hotel and show them Top's voucher. The manager claimed that the voucher doesn't work at that location, even though it's the only location anywhere near the hotel. So it turns out the epic battle of the Mechanical Maniacs vs. the Evil Hotel is far from over. Back to the same inept receptionists, after several minutes of negotiation, they call the cafe and get them to give us our well-deserved free food. Naturally, we mentioned nothing about the TV.

Back at the Second Cup, we feasted on $40 worth of free bagels, milk, and breakfast cake. We also put a lot of planning into next year's gathering. Strangely enough, most of the innovative and enthusiastic ideas came from none other than Gag. Must be because he was new.

2:00 - We spent the rest of my time down at a food court near a Printing Place where we were getting copies of the cheesy fountain photo printed off for everyone. We had a real con-style autograph session, so when it was all over we each had a group photo signed by everyone else in the group. Naturally, there were a couple extras to send to Classi and Lennon.

We had one last sketching session right there in the food court. To my left, Rich and G got locked in a discussion on how to handle the PCS6 and Crorq in future stories, spending much of the time talking in their mock Torchman voices. To my right, everyone else was talking about stuff that I couldn't keep up with. So for the last hour or so I barely said anything. I just sat there quietly and enjoyed some quality time.

5:00 - All good things must come to an end though. I was the first to split off, since I had a flight to catch. As I got my bags out of G's trunk, it seemed like the perfect moment to do what I was eagerly anticipating all weekend, start an improvised epilogue ending speech with "Well, it looks like everything turned out all right." aaaand I screw it up, horribly, like I knew I would. I ended up saying it when everyone else was talking about something else and didn't hear me, plus it ended up having more impact a few hours earlier when Top said it at lunch. Why did Top say it? Because he's a jerk who steals my big moment, that's why. :P Well, one way or another we got plenty of great material for the epilogue.

I shook everyone's hand, promised to see them all next year, and then it was into my bus, driving away, never to see them since.

Except for a couple minutes later when the bus looped around the block and I could see them walking away to the west. Well, that was a freebie.

This time I had to fly right over Regina to Calgary to get a connecting flight back home. Nearly missed it too since the Toronto plane was held up on the runway and delayed. Had to run to my second gate when I got there. Six hours of flying, but I made it home in one piece, with memories to last a lifetime.

Best vacation of my life. See you all real soon, guys.

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Gatherings: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016


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