“Ready?” the warden removed a key from his neck. The head guard did the same, and they both inserted them into their respective locks. “Turn on three.”

At the warden’s count, the locks clicked open and the cell began to peel apart. Sections withdrew into the ceiling and floor, revealing the stasis tube holding the prisoner. Brayden Ellis Cunningham, age 16, looking just as dangerous as he had the day he’d been brought in.

“Doesn’t look that dangerous,” said Agent Tenga. “Just like any other snot-nosed kid.”

The warden and chief guard jammed their keys into a second set of locks and turned, beginning the stasis flush procedure amid klaxons. “That ‘snot-nosed kid’ caused 4 billion dollars’ worth of damage,” said the warden with a sneer. “He killed 27 people. Be careful.”

The stasis liquid drained from the tube, leaving Brayden Ellis Cunningham awake but groggy. The chief guard handed Agent Tenga a microphone. “Here, you can talk to him on this. No physical contact.”

Agent Tenga picked up the mic. “Mr. Cunningham?” he said. “Braydon Ellis Cunningham? This is Agent Tenga of the RIAA. We need your help.”

“Ah,” said Braydon. “First you lock me up for pirating Misty Chalmers’ new album, the entire fall lineup of NBS, and every movie released on Webfilmz since 2013. Then you ask for my help? Laughable.”

“You drove two dozen network executives to suicide,” said Agent Tenga. “But we’re willing to overlook that in exchange for your cooperation.”

“Cooperation with what?” said Brayden. “It’d better be good.”

“Someone has pirated the Oscar telecast,” said Agent Tenga, lowering his head. “It’s been leaking out at the rate of one minute per day.”

“That’s it?” Brayden cried. “Who cares? There’s another Oscars in a month anyway!”

“No, you don’t understand.” Tenga put a hand over his mouth and bit his finger for a moment before continuing. “Someone pirated this year’s Oscars. They haven’t even been filmed yet!”

“Oh. Oh, now that is interesting,” said Brayden.

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White white. Endless frigid, colorless expanses, its desolation sparkling in crystal. All the more pale, all the more cold, all the more colorless for the few shades that try to color it, snowy white wearing fresh-ground dirt. Endless in all directions, the doom of the ill-prepared.

What’s that? A blizzard? No, I was talking about the Oscars.

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Anderton Schultz looked back at Kent, his eyes wild. One of the contact lenses had slipped, with blue appearing like an eclipsed moon from behind the blood red. The latex appliances were coming off in spots, and hadn’t really been applied properly in the first place.

“Think about what you’re doing!” Kent cried. “You’re not well, Andy!”

“Cast the warm-bloods into the Caverns of Ice!” growled Schultz. “Cast the warm-bloods into the Caverns of Ice!”

“Stop saying that stupid line!” Kent snapped despite himself. “Andy, for shit’s sake, snap out of it!”

Even if Schultz’s hatred toward Kent hadn’t been laser-sharp and incandescent, he wouldn’t have heard a word. The movie had been made in 1990, and he’d been buried under makeup, but in light of his recent reversals, Schultz had realized that after fighting it for so long, it was time for an embrace.

With a gutteral growl, Schultz hefted Kent up over his head with both hands, using the strength that he’d used often in doing his own stunts. Upon seeing the inky abyss before him, concealing the canyon floor 100 feet down, Kent’s wheedling abruptly turned into frenzied, infantile shrieks.

“Cast…the warm-bloods…into..the Caverns of Ice!”

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Anderton Schultz had worked his way up in the entertainment industry the old-fashioned way: through hard work and dedicated, scene-stealing supporting performances. Schultz wasn’t a vain man, but there was a measure of deep satisfaction in dropping a mention of his Oscar nomination into conversation with people who’d insisted he was too short or too homely for a successful career in pictures. It had been gratifying, working his way up from “what’s his name” to “that guy” to “that guy from Summers With Charles” “Hey, it’s Andy Schultz!”

Being recognized on the street at least some of the time had its perks, to be sure.

But there was always that guy, that one guy, who’d bring a copy of the 1990 remake of The Lizard Men for Schultz to sign.

It was a trashy movie; he’d spent the entire thing under a mound of Rick Baker latex prostheses. But it had a cult following, as did the campy 1969 original. No matter how many Oscar nominations there were, there’d always be his latex-smeared face leering from a DVD cover and fans snarling his character’s most “memorable” line at him:

“Cast the warm-bloods into the Caverns of Ice!”

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