Perpetually Prepared

Written by:
Linda Kay


BILL & TED characters are trademarks of Nelson 1991 Inc. The motion picture BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE & © 1989 Nelson Films Inc. All Rights Reserved. The motion picture BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY © 1991 Orion Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Feel free to share these stories with your friends, but please don't repost on the web without asking the author's permission first. Thanks!!


Author's note: I actually started this story way back in 1991 . . . hence the reference to Bohemian Rhapsody below was actually written *before* Wayne's World came out!  Whoa!  Only recently did I finish this epic . . . it was a long time coming!  Enjoy!


"Seven bottles of beer on the wall . . . seven bottles of beer! You take one down and pass it around, six bottles of beer on the wall . . . !"

The ambience surrounding the occupants of the many rows of painfully hard, padded, bench-style seats was one of great excitement, with just enough anxiety thrown in to create an air of adventure. The high-pitched, adolescent male voices grew louder and louder as the song drew to its predictable climax, much to the aggravation of the already distracted bus driver, who could have sworn there was some other annoyingly familiar tune, much quieter, going on at the same time.

" . . . . and pass it around, no more bottles of beer on the wall!" The busload of boys cheered and applauded their overrated achievement, slowly allowing the whoops and howls to subside. As the din quieted into casual talking, a strange rising and falling of voices were confirmed as coming from the back of the vehicle. Confused and intrigued by the odd sounds, the boys became silent row by row, turning to pinpoint the source.

Even without any hoopla in the foreground, this odd duet was indiscernible. If the unexpected audience didnít know any better, the two off-pitch voices seemed to wail....

"Scaramouch, scaramouch, will you do the Fandango - "

"Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me - "

"Gallileo . . . ."

"Gallileo . . . ."

"Gallileo . . . ."

"Gallileo . . . ."

"Gallileo figaro - Magnifico-o-o-o-o . . . ."

On the last "o", Bill became painfully aware of the faces staring over the metal-barred tops of the seats, and clamped his mouth shut as Ted continued to sing, unbridled.

"But Iím just a poor boy and nobody loves me . . . ."

When Bill didnít confirm the fact that he was a poor boy from a poor family, Ted threw him a frustrated look before elbowing his friendís arm sharply. Without a word, Bill pointed out the bewildered expressions facing them. Ted confronted the faces with a smile.

"Howís it goiní, fellow wilderness dudes?"

None of the boys replied, instead turning back in their seats to whisper amongst themselves.

Bill slouched in the seat, pouting. "It doesnít appear that Ďmaking the best of thisí is going to work, Ted. I doubt there is a best of this!"

"Yah," Ted sighed, searching his pocket for the last quarter of a Mars bar he knew heíd placed there the week before. "You wanna try ĎBohemian Rhapsodyí again?"

"Naw," Bill groaned, sitting dejectedly with his arms crossed.

Ted gave up groping in one pocket and shifted his weight, diving into the pocket on the other side. "Wanna try something else by Queen?"

Bill swung his feet with growing impatience. "This is all your fault, yíknow."

There was more depression than spite in Billís voice, but Ted still took it to heart. "My fault?"

"If your dad hadnít talked my parents into sending me on this stupid camping trip, Iíd be home sleeping right now!"

"I didnít know my dad was going to call your folks."

Bill looked at him disbelievingly. "You told him you wished I could go, too!"

Ted continued to finger the contents of his pocket, looking guilty. "This is true. I didnít want to come up here all by myself."

Dropping his chin to his chest, Bill continued to brood, poring over the plans which had been ruined by his being shanghaied. Sleeping late was just one of the things heíd been looking forward to. He probably would have worked in some lounging by the pool. Oh, and of course going to Waterloop was high on his list. He imagined the high school girls would have been there; he would have made himself comfortable on the steps of the large pool to watch them slide down the chutes head first. He closed his eyes and tried to fully picture it, accidentally letting a smile cross his lips as he envisioned Susan, Catherine . . . and that luscious blonde, Missy . . . . "

Opening his eyes, he found himself staring down at a small square of candy bar sticking out of a peeled back wrapper which Ted was holding in front of him as a peace offering. With a sigh of resignation, Bill pulled the stale candy from the paper and tried, without much success, to break it in half as Ted pocketed the garbage. Tired of straining his fingers, Bill clamped his teeth down in the middle of the piece and bit hard, working his jaws back and forth like a saw until heíd managed to divide it in two. He handed the one half to Ted, who popped it into his mouth, and they both sat, putting a great deal of effort into chewing.

"I suppose," Bill smacked, "we should resign ourselves to anticipate what is sure to be a rich and rewarding week of hiking, crafts and pork and beans."

They glared at one another, smirking nauseously. "Not!"

The bus continued its bouncy journey along the obscure mountain road for some time until it rounded a bend of trees and rolled underneath the commonplace, carved wood sign proclaiming the entrance of Camp Cordillera.

"Here we are!" the bus driver announced over the loudspeaker. It was completely unnecessary to do so. Ignoring the continuing instructions to remain seated until the camp director boarded the bus, the boys began climbing over one another to catch a glimpse of the cabins and administration offices, all constructed to appear rustic, although blatant evidence of modern utilities such as power lines and water meters seemed to be in direct contrast with the campís image.

As the bus rattled to a stop, the boys milled about, gathering their things and chatting noisily. The driver opened the door and the camp director, dressed in a khaki-colored uniform not unlike a rangerís outfit, stepped aboard.

"Welcome, campers!"

The greeting was generally ignored as the boys continued to laugh and talk amongst themselves. The camp director gave the bus driver a sympathetic glance, which the frazzled, middle-aged man really appreciated. Knowing full well what was coming, the driver placed his fingers in his ears and braced himself as the camp director pulled a shiny whistle on a chain from under his shirt and blew a high-pitched blare that brought the boys to silence.

"Greetings, campers!" the director tried again.

"Greetings, camp director dude!" Bill and Ted answered from the back of the bus, inadvertently interrupting the manís memorized speech.

"Yes, well, Iíd like to welcome all of you to Camp Cordillera. If youíll gather your gear and exit the bus in an orderly fashion, weíll assemble in front of the directorís office for orientation."

The man stepped off the bus as the boys lifted their backpacks and began filing into the narrow aisle. Ted stood as Bill reached beneath their seat and pulled out a worn rucksack, handing it over. Ted stepped into the aisle, slipping the bag over his shoulders, then watched as Bill knelt down, struggling with two matching suitcases, one notably larger than the other. Bill looked up at Ted, who was eyeing the suitcases with a confused gaze.

"Samsonite," Bill offered.

"Very nice," Ted stated, although it didnít seem entirely sincere.

Bill was obviously touchy about this subject. "It happens to be the sturdiest luggage available! Havenít you seen the commercials with the gorilla?"

"Yah . . . but I donít think they have gorillas in the mountains, dude."

"You never can tell!" Bill defended himself feebly.

Ted couldnít fathom this logic. "None of the other guys had suitcases," he pointed out.

Bill shot him a look. "Shut up, Ted!" He handed both bags to his friend, who took them without protest, and they turned to exit the bus. "I told my parents I needed a knapsack!" Bill mumbled.

Two counselors directed the boys into two straight lines facing the administration cabin. As they waited for orientation to begin, some nudged their neighbors, pointing out the sign nailed to one of the porchís roof supports which boldly stated, "Camp Cordillera - Where the Boys are Men". Directly beneath it, unsuccessfully hidden under a coat of paint, was scratched, "And the Men Wear Short Pants". It was true. Though not noticeable over the bus seats, the camp director stood before them on the top step above a line of counselors. All were men and all were wearing shorts.

"Attention, men! Are all present and accounted for?" When there was no reply, he continued. "Okay, listen up! Youíre here to learn how to adapt and survive in the wilderness! Itíll be tough, and you have a lot to learn, but I think you will find the experience enriching and highly rewarding! Now then, tonight you will be . . . . "

A loud ruckus again interrupted the memorized speech. Heads turned and the director stood stunned at the sight of Ted awkwardly struggling to get off the bus, trying several times to maneuver through the opening with both suitcases holding him back. Bill stood at the top of the steps, impatiently waiting for Ted to disembark. Realizing they could be there all day by the look of Tedís progress, Bill threw his weight against Tedís back, causing Ted to stumble out of the bus and onto the ground with the suitcases landing on either side of him. Bill caught himself on the step railing and hung clumsily above Ted.

"Thanks, dude," Ted mumbled, his face in the dust.

"Whoa! Didnít mean to push that hard!" Bill apologized, jumping off the bus to help Ted to his feet.

"Excuse me . . . young men!"

Realizing the two boys were out of earshot, the camp director reached behind him to pick up a megaphone, flipping its switch before raising it to his mouth. "Hey!" boomed his now over-amplified voice. "You two, by the bus!"

Bill had pulled Ted to his feet and both turned to give the camp director their attention.

"Is there some sort of problem going on over there?"

The camp director watched as the smaller, blonde boy motioned for his friend to turn around, unzipping the rucksack strapped to the boyís back, and pulling out what looked like a portable transistor radio, which he handed to the taller boy before groping again for something else. The dark haired one turned the radio on at its highest volume and adjusted the tuning knob until he located a free frequency. At the same time, the blonde tapped the large end of a Mr. Microphone until the sound echoed loudly.

"No, sir!" Bill finally replied in an annoyingly loud, static-ladened voice. "Everything is under control!"

"Uh oh . . . attitudes!" the camp director thought silently before lifting the megaphone again. "Oh, a couple of wise guys, huh?"

"No way!" Bill whined.

Ted pulled the microphone in his direction. "You should see our report cards!"

Bill pushed Ted away from the microphone with a look of disbelief.

"What are your names?" the camp director inquired, quickly losing patience.

"I am Bill S. Preston, Esq.!"

"And I am Ted ĎTheodoreí Logan!"

"And weíre gonna start a band!" Bill added. "Just as soon as we think of a name."

"Yah!" Ted confirmed. "We were thinking about calling ourselves ĎUntamed Horsesí, but we canít figure out a way to mis-spell it."

"Would you mind very much joining us for orientation?"

Bill took the radio from Ted and turned it off before motioning to the bags and leading the way to the lines of boys. After taking their position at the end of one line, Ted set the bags at his feet and both came to attention, saluting the camp director vigorously.

Trying to shake off this distraction, the camp director continued. "Now then, tonight will be spent here in the cabins. You will be divided into groups of ten or so and you will pack the provisions needed for a weekís stay in the woods. Are there any questions?"

Ted automatically raised his hand. "I have a question, camp leader dude."

Already dreading the impending inquiry, the camp director fidgeted nervously before responding. "What is it?"

Ted lowered his arm and saluted the man again, speaking in the most serious tone he could muster. "Will there be an opportunity for us to stop off at a local convenience store for some much needed items? For instance, we are heinously low on pudding cups!"

The camp director stared at the inquisitive expressions on the two boysí faces incredulously. Unable to think of a suitable reply, he ignored the question. "Letís have the counselors assign groups and take your names before showing you to your cabins to relax and socialize. Gentlemen?"

The counselors stepped forward to the lines and began separating the boys into groups of ten. The counselor on the far end approached the camp director, who was busy looking over a list of names.

"Excuse me, but do you think I should separate the two troublemakers?"

Throwing a glance over his shoulder at Bill and Ted, the camp director shook his head. "I donít think we could get those two apart without more hassle than any of us need. Just keep an eye on them."

"Yes, sir."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The boys raced into cabin number four, quickly claiming nearby bunks. After the initial confusion, territories were pretty well established and the young men settled into their surroundings, getting to know one another as they unpacked.

Bill dragged the larger suitcase to the last available bunk beds and studied the sleeping arrangements.

"I want the top one!" Ted stated eagerly, bouncing as he approached.

Bill threw Ted an unsure glance. "I dunno, dude . . . . "

Ted tilted his head questioningly. "What?"

Bill hesitated before speaking. "Have you . . . yíknow, gotten that . . . Ďproblemí under control?"

Ted looked even more confused. "What problem, dude?"

Bill glared at Ted impatiently, but his friend remained perplexed. Finally he leaned over and whispered in Tedís ear.

Ted pulled back, surprised. "That was you, dude!" he reminded Bill.

Bill thought about this, then nodded. "You take the top one," he stated, embarrassed.

Ted pulled his backpack off and tossed it onto the top bunk before jumping up after it. "Excellent! Just hope I donít get a nosebleed up here."

Bill pushed the large suitcase under the bed with his foot. It didnít contain anything of great importance anyway; only shirts, socks, clean underwear . . . that sort of thing. He sat down on the bed, taking care not to hit the back of his head on the upper bunk, then pulled the smaller suitcase up and leaned against it, listening to the springs above him creak unsteadily. Sometimes he wondered if Ted had some kind of hyperactivity problem, since it seemed as if his friend never stopped moving.

The other boys appeared to be getting acquainted rather quickly. Bill didnít get a strong impression that any of them wanted to have anything to do with the pair, and he assumed it was probably because of their clumsy display getting off the bus. He would have to show good standing now, or their chances of being included as two of "the guys" would be hopeless and the week could easily prove to be a living hell.

"So, fellow camping-type dudes," Bill started, getting the nearest boysí attention. "Wanna outline our after-dark escapades for the week?"

"How díya mean?" one boy asked.

"Well, I thought, for a start, we could pull off a truly covert panty raid."

The two nearest boys turned to glare at each other, then looked at Bill with disgust. "What are you? Fags or something?"

"No way!" Bill cried. "I meant on the girlsí cabin!"

"Youíre so lame! Thereís no girls up here!"

Ted lurched over the edge of the top bunk in shock. "No babes?"

"Drag!" Bill and Ted both sighed.

"So, whatíre we gonna do all week?" Bill asked. "Short-sheet each othersí beds and stop up the camp directorís toilet?"

A large, older boy named Peterson, whoíd already taken the position of cabin leader, stepped forward to interrupt the conversation, standing with his arms crossed to look as authoritative as possible. "What kind of week do you think this is going to be?"

Bill and Ted shrugged.

"This isnít Knottís Berry Farm! This is wilderness survival camp!"

Ted looked down at Bill in confusion, then up at the intense boy. "How much trouble does the wilderness have surviving, anyway?"

"Shut up, bonehead!" Peterson snapped.

Bill jumped to his feet, coming up far too short against the other boy but unintimidated nonetheless. "Hey, you canít talk to my friend that way!"

"Yah!" Ted harped in. "You tell him, dude!"

"Shut up, Ted!" Bill snapped.

"Get it through your thick skulls!" the group leader continued. "Weíre spending a week in the woods living on the barest essentials. No electricity, no telephones . . . . "

"No t.v.?" Ted asked worriedly.

"Nothing but our wits!" He turned, leaving the two pondering this statement, and approached his bunkmate. "Obviously our cabin ended up with the dead weight in that department!"

"Yeah," the second boy agreed, eyeing Bill and Ted warily.

Peterson suddenly looked thoughtful, keeping his voice down. "Then again . . . this might work to our advantage."

Bill sat back on the edge of the lower bunk to worry. "Ted, I am deeply concerned about this most heinous turn of events."

"Yah," Ted sighed, dropping his chin onto his crossed arms.

Bill looked up at Ted worriedly. "How many pudding cups we got left, anyway?"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Group four . . . halt!"

The counselor turned as the line of boys approached, gathering around the spot where he had stopped.

"Okay, men! This will be your campsite for the next five days. I hope all of you were paying attention at the training talk this morning. To really understand the basics of survival, it is vital you work together as a group. Learn to rely on yourself and your fellow camper. Right?"

"Yes, sir," the boys answered.

"Now then, Iíll give you fellows a chance to set up your campsite. Should take you about ninety minutes to get the tents up. Do you think you can manage it?"

"Yes, sir!" the boys again answered in unison.

"Remember, Iíll be camped about fifty yards to the north. Are there any questions?"

"Yah!" Bill stated as he and Ted finally caught up with the group. "Did we miss anything important just now?"

The counselor stepped toward the group leader and eyed him apologetically. "Iíll trust you to fill them in, Peterson."

Turning away, the counselor followed a path leading north as the boys wriggled free of their heavy backpacks and Peterson stepped to Bill and Ted smugly.

"So, whatíd the counselor say?" Bill asked.

"He said the last ones to reach the campsite have to pitch the tents while the rest of the group checks out the surrounding area."

"Bogus!" Bill and Ted sighed.

Peterson pointed to where the others had dropped their gear. "Theyíre over there. And make sure you do a good job!"

The rest of the group giggled among themselves as they followed Peterson into the woods, leaving the bewildered pair standing alone in the clearing. Once the boys were out of sight, Ted allowed his legs to buckle, moaning under the weight of his overstuffed rucksack strapped to his back. He threw his shoulders back, allowing the burden to drop to the ground noisily.

"Watch it!" Bill cried. "All my stuffís in there!"

"As if my back couldnít tell," Ted whined painfully.

"I couldnít drag those suitcases all the way up here! Besides, I only packed the barest of essentials!"

Ted eyed Bill with confusion. "Your best suit?"

Bill motioned wildly. "I never know when Iíll need it!"

"Yah, but I donít remember the camp director saying anything about holding a formal around the campfire."

"Come on!" Bill moaned. "What about all the cassette tapes you insisted on bringing?"

"I wanna be able to listen to my music!" Ted explained.

Bill tilted his head with a smirk. "We donít got a tape deck, dude!"

Ted thought about this. "Oh . . . yah."

Bill sighed, realizing this was getting them nowhere. "Weíd better pitch the tents before the guys get back or our social standing will be in most heinous jeopardy."

"Whoa!" Ted exclaimed. "They really do want us to rough it! We donít even get to use the tents!"

Having found a shady place above a small brook not far from the campsite, Peterson and the others were relaxing.

"I canít believe you duped those guys into setting up the tents for us!" one boy laughed.

Peterson leaned back against a tree and sighed deeply. "If we play our cards right, we could have them doing everything!"

"Hey, howís it goiní, slothful camping dudes?" a voice called out.

The boys turned to see Bill and Ted approaching.

"You havenít finished pitching the tents, have you?" Peterson asked.

"Yes, sir!" Ted saluted. "It was a most non-challenging task."

The boys exchanged looks of disbelief. "This Iíve got to see!" Peterson stated with a laugh, and the boys quickly got to their feet and headed back to the clearing, rushing past Bill and Ted, who shrugged and followed.

The group came to a confused stop when they reached the campsite and saw pretty much what theyíd left before; an empty clearing.

Peterson turned on Bill and Ted angrily. "You said you pitched the tents!"

"We did," Bill assured him.

Peterson looked around again, just to make sure he hadnít somehow missed them. "Well, where are they?"

"At the bottom of a most deep ravine," Ted said proudly. "When we pitch something, it stays pitched!"

As this news hit them, the boys turned fierce looks of anger upon Peterson, who wished he could simply disappear.

"No need to thank us for a job most triumphantly accomplished!" Bill stated not so humbly.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Lions and tigers and bear . . . . "

"Okay!" Bill cried. "I got the idea already!"

Ted obligingly stopped chanting as they walked along a narrow path through the woods. "I sure hope group three will have lunch ready by the time we get there! I am most famished."

"Yah," Bill agreed. "I havenít seen one Circle K since we got here!"

They walked without saying a word to each other for a while.

"Maybe theyíll have the camp set up by the time we get there, and we wonít have to do any work!" Ted thought aloud.

Bill shook his head. "I dunno. If group three is as undermanned as Peterson said, they may have us workiní a lot!"

"Heinous," they both sighed.

Ted flipped his bangs aside and brightened. "We must be most excellent wilderness survivalists! Out of all the guys, they picked us to go help our fellow campers in their hour of need!"

"Yah," Bill agreed, furrowing his eyebrows. "I wonder how they knew group three needed more dudes."

They stared at one another for a second then shrugged.

"This must be their encampment," Bill reported as they stepped out of the woods to find themselves at the edge of group threeís campsite.

"Fear not, egregiously undermanned group three dudes!" Ted announced loudly to get the groupís attention. "We are here to save the day!"

The group leader, a slender boy named Thompson, approached them with confusion. "Whatíre you guys doing here? Youíre not part of our group!"

"Our group leader said we should come help your group, seeing how our group has too many guys and your group doesnít have nearly enough."

The boys of group three had gathered around, listening with surprise. "But we have ten members, just like all the other groups!" one boy pointed out.

Bill and Ted exchanged bewildered looks, then eyed the boys again. "Maybe the guys youíve got are just totally useless," Ted suggested.

This statement was greeted with rather harsh stares and grumblings.

"Not true, Ted," Bill stated, pointing to the large parachute tent set up in the middle of the clearing. "Look at the size of the tent they set up!"

"Whoa!" Ted gasped in awe. "Not bad! That must be the camp leaderís quarters. Boy, he sure knows how to camp in style!"

The group walked toward the tent as Thompson spoke. "Donít be so retarded! We decided to take the parachute tent instead of everyone having to carry up their own. Saves us energy and space."

"You mean youíre all gonna sleep in there . . . " Bill gulped loudly. " . . . together?"

"Of course," Thompson confirmed.

Bill and Ted glared at each other, close to saying aloud what was on their minds but holding their tongues.

"We were about to cook lunch," another boy informed them.

"Excellent!" Bill said eagerly, motioning for Ted to drop his backpack. "We are truly famished!"

"Yeah, well, we donít need any freeloaders in this group! Seeing as you didnít help with the tent, you can cook the food! That way you can earn your meals."

"Certainly," Ted agreed. "Whereís the hibachi?"

"Thereís no hibachi!" another boy moaned, pushing a package of hot dogs and a can of beans into their hands. "You gotta make a fire and cook it that way!"

"You do know how to start a fire, donít you?" Thompson asked.

"Most assuredly," Bill and Ted answered.

"Do not worry," Bill added. "We will have a fabulous feast prepared in no time!"

"All right then," Thompson sighed, not thoroughly convinced. "Weíll get some wood. You get started." He motioned to the others. "Come on, guys. And nothing green!"

Ted turned to Bill after the boys busily started looking for nearby wood. "How do we get started, exactly?"

"Rocks, dude," Bill reminded him.

"Oh, yeah!" Ted brightened. He looked around, locating two rocks as Bill began to search as well. Eyeing the stones uncertainly, Ted shrugged before bringing them together sharply, then dropped them with a yelp as the resounding shock painfully shot through his hands.

Bill turned with concern. "Whatíre ya doiní, dude?"

Ted shook his hands. "I was trying to start a fire! You said we needed rocks."

Bill tilted his head with impatience. "The rocks are to make the fire in, Ted! You donít start a fire with rocks!"

"What do you start a fire with, then? Sticks?"

"Donít be primitive, dude," Bill scolded, then shoved his fingers into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a cigarette lighter. "Weíll use this!"

"Whoa! You still carryiní that around?"

"Of course, Ted," Bill answered proudly.

Ted shook his head, deeply moved. "I gave that to you two years ago to take to our first rock concert."

"Yeah," Bill sighed, remembering. "And when we go to our first rock concert, itíll be there in all its burning glory."

"Undoubtedly, it will be a most unrivaled event," Ted sighed dreamily.

Bill raised the lighter over his head, as if he had practiced the move many times before, and flicked the small, metal wheel several times before a bright flame shot out of the small, plastic instrument. The two boys stood in respect of the make-believe rock idols they pretended to face, unaware as the flame reached up and enveloped one of the ropes of the large tent.

When group three returned to the campsite with their arms loaded with firewood, they came to an abrupt halt; their mouths hanging open in shock.

"What the Hell . . . ?" Thompson cried.

"Worry not, diligent firewood gatherers!" Ted interrupted, turning the hot dogs pierced on a stick so the other sides could get brown over the still burning remains of the tent. "We have the situation totally under control!"

"This is most accurate," Bill agreed. "Your sleeping quarters were highly combustible, but makes for most resplendent barbecuing!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Okay, guys! Letís get the supplies sorted out and stored! Food over there, medical supplies over there . . . . "

"And where do you want us?" an unfamiliar voice interrupted.

The group leader, a small, muscular boy named Harrison, turned with surprise as Bill and Ted walked out of the woods. "What are you guys doing here?"

"We were sent by a most irate group three," Bill informed the group.

"But . . . I thought you guys were with group four!" another boy pointed out.

"That was a substantial amount of time ago," Bill explained. "Now weíre gonna be part of your group!"

The members of group two moaned audibly until Harrison shushed them, although his expression wasnít much happier. "We donít need any more guys in our group."

"It would stand to reason the more dudes you got the better when it comes to wilderness survival," Ted hypothesized.

"That is a most logical conclusion," Bill agreed, patting Tedís shoulder. "There must be something you can find for us to do!"

Harrison looked around, hoping something would come to mind. "Well, as a matter of fact, you could store the food so itís safe. You remember how they told us to do that?"

Bill and Ted exchanged a glance, recounting the important air guitar duet they had been practicing during that part of the orientation, but, fearing being rejected again, they werenít about to admit their ignorance.

"Yah, sure!" Bill assured Harrison. "We will storage your food so it is safe from all manner of wilderness beast."

"Okay, then go ahead. Weíll be busy sorting out the other supplies. Come on, guys."

Bill and Ted eyed the food supplies with concern. "Howíre we gonna store this stuff?" Ted asked.

"I dunno, Ted. Do you remember anything that guy was saying this morning?"

Ted shook his head vigorously. "Uh uh. Except that you should make sure no vicious animals can get into the stuff. I guess he meant like wolverines and pumas."

Bill looked skeptical. "They wouldnít let kids camp in areas with real wild animals! Think what their insurance rates would be like!"

Ted nodded in agreement. "I guess they meant rats and mice, then."

"So whatta we do? We donít got no mousetraps or roach motels."

Something rustling in the bushes caught Tedís attention, and he eagerly tugged at Billís sleeve, motioning to the small form wandering nearby. "Check it out, dude!"

"Whoa!" Bill exclaimed. "A timely solution to our most heinous predicament!"

The members of group two felt a proud sense of accomplishment once their supplies were sorted and stored properly. They walked across the campsite to where theyíd left Bill and Ted to store the food, and found the pair seated comfortably in front of a small tent.

"How did it go?" Harrison asked.

"Most triumphantly," Bill stated. "The chow is truly safe from predatory vermin."

Harrison looked up at the trees nearby, but could not see any supplies dangling from the branches as he would have expected. "Yeah? So where is it?"

"In this tent." Ted pointed behind him.

Harrison shook his head as if he hadnít heard right. "How do you figure the food is safe in a tent?"

"As luck would have it, a wayward kitty cat was more than happy to volunteer for guard duty, thereby insuring no rats or mice will be able to infiltrate your munchies."

"Cat?" the boys cried, already imagining with some dread what kind of animal was now enclosed within the canvas tent with their food. Harrison cautiously stepped forward, followed closely by two other boys, as they approached the tent flap and pulled it aside. Seeing no immediate danger, the three stepped inside. Moments later, screams came from within the tent, and the boys raced out desperately, yelling and shouting profanities as they dashed about in great distress. A strong, sickening odor began permeating the campsite as the other boys joined in the aggravated exclamations. Bill and Ted pinched their noses but remained seated where they were, watching as the black and white striped "cat" exited the tent and strolled casually into the woods.

"Whew, Ted . . . I think an odor-eliminating cat box litter would truly be in order at this time."

"Definitely," Ted agreed through his pinched nose.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"I fear our previous group experiences have been following a definite pattern," Bill observed as he and Ted walked along the narrow path on their way to group oneís campsite.

"Really?" asked Ted between bites of a Butterfinger bar. "How?"

"Thus far they have been equally disastrous," Bill sighed.

"Really?" Ted repeated, this information truly taking him be surprise. "I thought we were doing quite well, considering this is our first camping excursion."

"I dunno, Ted," Bill continued. "I do not think our fellow campers have much confidence in our wilderness survival capabilities, seeing we have been run out of every group so far."

"I believe we have not yet found out niche," Ted offered hopefully. "Things can only get better. Want the last bite?"

"No thanks, dude."

Ted noisily chomped down the last of the candy. Once he had swallowed it, he began to sing again, softly, under his breath.

"Lions and tigers . . . . "

"And bears!" Bill finished, coming to an abrupt halt.

"Yah!" Ted agreed, happy to see that Bill had finally gotten into the spirit of the song.

"No, Ted," Bill corrected. "Look!"

Ahead of them, on the path, two black bear cubs rolled over one another playfully.

"Whatíre we supposed to do if we run into bears?" Ted asked nervously.

"I think weíre supposed to play dead, dude," Bill thought aloud.

Ted shrugged. "Well, okay."

The two immediately went into over-dramatic versions of dying; the type boys engage in when theyíve been shot by enemy fire in a game of war or cowboys. Flopping to the ground, they each gave a few final kicks and jerks before lying completely still, daring only to open one eye or the other to see if their pathetic masquerade had fooled the cubs.

Apparently it hadnít, as the two young bears became intrigued with the display and hurried over to investigate the seemingly lifeless figures.

Bill kept his eyes clamped shut as the bears approached, one of them casually sniffing him over before moving on to Ted. Pretty soon he could hear Ted giggling uncontrollably, and opened one eye, turning his head to look at his friend in frustration.

"Ted! Dead dudes donít laugh!"

"Iím sorry," Ted managed to say between badly stifled laughs. "But it tickles!"

Bill sat up and saw the two cubs busily licking Tedís fingers, having found the sticky remains of the candy bar Ted had been eating. Realizing he was doing a poor job of being dead, Ted sat up, holding his fingers out so the bears could finish cleaning them.

"Looks like our dramatic performances donít fool even the smallest of woodland creaturesí minds," Bill sighed in defeat.

"Guess we are most non-triumphant actors," Ted agreed as one of the cubs climbed into his lap and sniffed at his face.

Bill climbed to his feet, brushing the dust from his clothes. "Guess weíd better get going. Címon, Ted."

"Aw, canít we hang around a bit longer?" Ted whined, rubbing one of the cubís stomachs. "I think these little guys wanna play!"

"Ted, this is not a petting zoo! We have to get to group oneís camp and make a name for ourselves, or weíll flunk wilderness survival camp and catch some most egregious heat from our folks!"

Ted nodded sadly, gently pushing the cub from his lap as Bill offered him a hand up with his heavy backpack. "Sorry, furry woodland creatures," he apologized. "My compadre is most correct. If thereís one thing we donít wanna do, itís upset any easily angered parental figures."

Giving the two bears a final pat on the head, Ted turned to follow Bill down the path. The cubs sat in confusion a moment, crying gently. Finally they scurried after the two boys, hoping to catch up to them for more sugary fingers and tummy rubs. Unbeknownst to all four youngsters, an easily angered parental figure, now unable to find her babies, was not far behind.

"Hey there, group numero uno dudes!" Bill greeted as they approached the circle of seated boys. "Whatís up?"

Group oneís leader, a dark, tall boy named Wilson, eyed Bill and Ted with surprise. "Arenít you guys quite a ways from your group?"

"Not really," Ted said, "seeing this is now our group."

A collected moan rose from the circle. Wilson was quick to intervene. "We donít have room in our group for any more guys," he said apologetically.

"Surely you can squeeze us in," Bill stated. "We are two dudes ready to conform to your camping standards."

"Thatís nice, but you see, weíre right in the middle of presenting our nature finds."

"Ooh, nature finds!" Ted gasped excitedly before leaning to whisper in Billís ear. "Whatíre nature finds?"

Wilson held up a small branch with leaves as an example. "Everyoneís supposed to gather something interesting from the surrounding area and share it with the rest of the group. Since you guys donít have anything, I guess that leaves you out."

The group of boys let out false moans of disappointment and a few giggles as they ignored Bill and Ted, who stood dejected outside the circle.

"Again we are most alienated," Ted sighed.

"If only we had found some nature to share with the group," Bill sighed. "Perhaps we would have been eagerly accepted instead."

A rustling sound behind them caught Tedís attention and he turned to see the bear cubs running toward them eagerly.

"Whoa, Bill! I believe there may yet be a solution to our problem!"

Wilson had just finished explaining the background of the larch tree when Bill and Ted coughed loudly, attracting the groupís attention. The boys turned to see the two standing behind them, each holding a bear cub clumsily in their arms.

"Are these outstanding nature finds, or what?" Ted asked.

The boysí eyes grew wide and they jumped to their feet, backing away as the huge form of an angry mother bear appeared from the woods behind the heedless Bill and Ted.

"Maybe these donít count," Bill realized worriedly, "seeing as how they found us instead of us finding them."

Ted seriously turned this over in his mind. "I think it could be considered a mutual find," he concluded matter-of-factly.

When they turned back to face the group, the boys had disappeared. Looking around, they finally realized the boys were now hanging from the branches of the trees all around.

"Is this a different part of your nature studies?" Bill asked curiously, unaware of the mother bear approaching from behind.

"Get out of here!" Wilson cried in frustration from above.

Bill and Ted stared up at the group leader sadly. "Does this mean we donít get to be in your group?"

"No! Go back to group four, where you belong!"

Exchanging hurt glances, Bill and Ted gently lowered the bear cubs to the ground. "Okay, okay," Bill sighed. "We can take a hint. Címon, Ted."

Group one watched as Bill and Ted walked away from the cubs. The mother bear hurried to her babies, carefully sniffing them over to make sure they were all right. Seeing no harm was done, the cubs busied themselves eating the nuts and berries the boys had gathered for their nature find studies as their mother worked on ripping apart one of the closest tents.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The two boys walked along the narrow path, their heads lowered.

"Ted, my friend, do you realize we have been booted out of every single group?"

"Yah. Guess thatís what they mean by Ďbootí camp. I wonder what the guys in group four will say when we show up again."

Bill stopped suddenly and slumped into a sitting position on a nearby rock. Ted walked over to him in surprise.

"Ted, if we go back to group four, theyíll just kick us out again!" He placed his chin on one hand as Ted sat beside him. "Letís face it . . . we are total washouts when it comes to camping. No one wants us."

Ted dropped his head sadly, then raised it questioningly. "So whatíre we gonna do?"

Bill stood up again, hands on hips. "This wilderness survival stuff is most bogus! What say we go back to the cabins and spend the rest of the week there?"

"Wonít the camp director get cheesed off at us?" Ted asked, struggling to stand again with the heavy backpack weighing him down.

"I donít think anyoneís gonna care, as long as weíre out of everybodyís way."

Ted nodded vigorously. "Okay. Which way is it?"

Bill shaded his eyes from the bright, afternoon sun and tried to get his bearings. "Letís see . . . when we left the camp this morning, we were walking away from the sun. So if we walk towards the sun it should lead us back to where we started, right?"

"A most logical conclusion!" Ted agreed eagerly.

"Címon," Bill motioned. "Iíll bet we can find some food in the mess hall for dinner when we get there."

They continued on for some time, discussing important matters such as the new album releases and upcoming concerts they probably wouldnít be able to talk their parents into letting them attend, until they both realized they were getting pretty tired and stopped to rest.

"Dude," Ted moaned, shifting his shoulders to reposition the backpack. "Shouldnít we be there by now?"

"I dunno, Ted," Bill admitted, looking around to see if anything looked familiar, which it didnít. "Whoever designed the woods shouldíve thought to put in a few roadsigns."

Ted shaded his eyes from the lowering sun. "How much daylight you think we got left?"

Bill looked at Ted impatiently. "How should I know? Youíve got the watch, dude!"

"Oh . . . yah!" Ted looked down at his wrist and immediately brightened. "Whoa, dude, itís only ten eighteen in the morning! We still got tons of time!"

Bill walked over to Ted and pulled his friendís wrist up to his ear to listen to the timepiece. "Ted . . . . "

"Oh," Ted sighed, realizing. "I forgot again?"

"One of these days you gotta ask your folks for an electric watch."

"But I like this one!" Ted moaned.

"Itís a piece of junk!"

"You gave it to me!"

"Did I say I had good taste???"

Billís voice was unusually high, and Ted sensed a great deal of tension from his friend. He didnít consider this a good sign. "Are we lost, dude?"

Bill eyed Ted worriedly. "I fear so, Ted."

"Whatíre we gonna do?" Ted asked nervously. "We donít got tents or supplies or woodsmanship-know-how."

"Theyíve gotta come lookiní for us," Bill pointed out. "It wouldnít do them any good to have to tell our folks they lost us!"

"But everybody thinks weíre with everybody elseís group," Ted sighed. "They might not notice us missing for days! Weíll starve without a Circle K!"

"Címon, Ted! Get a grip! Weíre not gonna starve!"

The wide-eyed expression Ted gave him after this statement absolutely baffled him. "What? What??"

"You donít mean . . . I mean, if I go first . . . would you??"

Billís face wrinkled when he realized what Ted was inferring. "Ugh! That is a most repulsive thought!"

The hurt look on Tedís face only further confused Bill. "So, whatíre you saying, exactly?"

Bill sighed in exasperation. "Geez, Ted! Would you eat me?"

"No," Ted admitted. "But I wouldnít say that to your face."

Bill felt his head spin. "Look, neither of us is gonna starve and we arenít going to have to eat one another. Okay?"

"So . . . what are we gonna do?"

Bill hesitated, wanting to make the right decision. "The camp canít be too far away. Weíll keep walking and if we donít find anyone in an hour weíll stop and rethink our strategy."

"Sounds good, dude," Ted agreed as they began walking again.

"Oh, and dude . . . . "

"What?"

"Wind your watch, will ya?"

"Oh yah."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"How longís it been?"

Ted lifted his wrist, sighing nervously as he eyed his watch. "Just Ďbout an hour, dude, and we appear to be no closer to finding anything resembling a campground."

They came to a stop on a ridge above an incline, taking a moment to glance around just in case theyíd missed a cabin or campsite.

"Is it time to rethink our strategy?" Ted asked.

"Sípose so," Bill sighed. "Any ideas?"

Ted dropped the backpack from his shoulders, allowing it to dangle at his left side. "I dunno. I never got lost before."

"You said you got lost at Disneyland once," Bill pointed out.

"Oh yah! Thatís right! And I got outta there okay!"

"Great!" Bill said excitedly. "Whatíd ya do?"

Ted thought about this intensely, finishing with a snap of his fingers. "Goofy came along and took me to this booth until my parents came to get me!"

Bill moaned with disappointment. "Somehow I donít think Goofyís gonna materialize and lead us home."

Ted rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Well, of course not! Weíre in the woods!"

They stood in silence a moment.

"Winnie the Pooh, on the other hand, would be most probable," Ted concluded aloud.

This statement produced a wide-eyed look of disbelief on Billís face, which dissolved into an accusing smirk as he reached out and gave Ted a playful shove. "Get outta here, dude!"

Stepping back to counter the force of the shove, Ted felt his foot begin to slide down the incline behind him. The weight of the backpack further threw him off balance, and the next thing he knew he was falling backwards.

"Whoooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa . . . . "

Ted disappeared so quickly, it took Bill a second to react. He stood, stunned, horrified at what heíd done.

"Ted?" he called, hopefully.

When there was no reply, he got down on his knees and leaned closer to the edge nervously. "Ted?"

With a sudden flurry of movement, Ted popped up in front of him. "Did it sound like I fell a long way?" he asked playfully.

Anger and relief simultaneously rushed through Bill as he lunged at Ted roughly. Together they tumbled down the small incline, roughhousing like two playful puppies until they came to a rest at the bottom of the hill beside the backpack.

Bill sat on top of Ted to hold him down, which was really unnecessary since Ted was giggling so hard he could barely offer any defense. Bill lightly slapped at Tedís face, tiredly exhaling in a style somewhere between sighing and laughing. "Donít scare me like that!"

"Sorry, dude," Ted laughed, blocking the harmless blows his friend was trying to inflict.

Suddenly Bill froze, having caught the sound of something humming in a way that didnít seem to fit in the woods. As it grew louder, he urged Ted to be quiet so he could listen. Ted turned his head, straining to place the sound as well. Moments later, a large truck slowly rolled by on a curving dirt road which neither of them had noticed was only ten feet from where theyíd landed. Bushes kept them hidden from the driverís view as they watched the truck come to a near stop to negotiate the turn ahead.

Bill pushed himself up quickly, inadvertently using Tedís face to do so. "Whoa, Ted! Címon!"

Without question, Ted jumped to his feet, scooping up the backpack before chasing after Bill, who was running toward the truck as it lurched uphill, gradually picking up speed.

By the time Bill reached the back of the truck, it was moving along steadily. Ted had almost made up the distance behind him as Bill reached out to grab a handle on the truckís back panel and jump onto the runner, clinging unsteadily until heíd managed to sit down sideways.

Holding on with one hand, Bill stretched the other out to Ted, taking the backpack from him and pulling it aboard safely. Ted then managed an extra burst of speed to grab onto the opposite handle and pull himself up. The truck seemed to slow slightly with the extra weight, then noisily switched into a lower gear to pick up speed again.

"Not bad!" Bill commented excitedly.

"Yah! I wonder where weíre goiní!"

"Canít be any worse than where weíve been!"

* * * * * * * * * * * *

For about half an hour the truck bounced along the windy, mountain road, its driver unaware of the two hitchhikers clinging to the back. As the sky grew darker, there were fewer bends in the road and the grade became hardly noticeable as the vehicle turned onto a two lane highway with more traffic.

"Are you a vegetable?" Bill yelled out to be heard over the truckís engine.

Ted thought about this for some time. "Yah!"

"Are you a tank?" Bill asked with some skepticism.

"Yah!!" Ted answered, amazed.

"I thought you said you were a vegetable, dude."

"Yah?" Tedís voice was confused.

Bill laughed. "A tank isnít a vegetable, dude!"

"Oh," Ted sighed, then he gave Bill a questioning look. "Then whyíd you guess a tank?"

"Youíre always a tank!" Bill laughed.

"Yah," Ted smiled, nodding.

The boys then noticed they were passing a small antique shop; its storefront resembling a log cabin. An auto parts store and cafe also whizzed by before the truck slowed and bumped up a driveway into a gas station, pulling to a stop beside a long semi.

When the truck had come to a complete stop, Bill and Ted stepped off the back runner, stretching to reacquaint themselves with their cramped leg muscles. The driver of the truck stepped around to his gas tank and noticed the two boys.

"Thanks a lot, trucker dude!" Bill offered, leaving the man baffled.

"How far díya think weíve gone?" Ted asked, looking around as they walked along the side of the semi.

"Mustíve been a long way!" Bill dramatized. "But I still donít think weíre that close to San Dimas."

"This still looks like the mountains," Ted observed.

"Itís just as well," Bill sighed.

"Why?"

"Think about it, dude. We canít go home. Our parentsíll be cheesed off if they find out we bailed on survival camp!"

"I donít wanna go back there, Bill," Ted moaned, shouldering the backpack.

"I thoroughly agree with you, Ted. Itís gettiní dark, and it will undoubtedly be cold out there in the woods!"

"But whatíll we do? Where can we go?"

Bill was about to offer some kind of answer when the semi next to them revved to life, so he waited, hoping something would come to mind in the short time it would take the truck to pull out of the gas station. They watched the 18-wheeler shift into gear and drive away, revealing what it had been hiding from their view.

"Whoa!" both boys sighed in awe, gaping at the five story, rustic mountain resort nestled in the hills across the road from them. As if on cue, the lights lining the long, shiny driveway leading upwards to the hotelís front doors came to life, as if beckoning them toward the sanctuary.

"Not bad!" Bill gasped. "I wouldnít mind staying in a place like that!"

"Me neither. But we barely have enough money between us for a low-priced hoagie!" Ted reminded Bill with disappointment.

"It doesnít cost to look! Címon, Ted!"

They jogged across the street to the driveway and followed it to the doors of the hotel, giving "hang loose" signs to the doorman, who eyed them somewhat skeptically as they entered.

The young boys came to a stop inside the revolving doors, gaping at the lavish interior design which screamed of opulence. Chandeliers glittered above the dark wood reception desk; its unassuming signs directing the clientele were gold with engraved lettering. All of the furniture was plush with velvet upholstery that showed little, if no, sign of wear. In fact, everywhere they looked their eyes came across something luxurious.

"Whoa!" was all they could offer, slowly stepping forward into this wonderland as if they werenít quite sure they were really there.

As they passed the reception desk, they couldnít help but notice an excited, middle-aged man, apparently the hotel manager, speaking anxiously to the bell captain.

"Is everything ready?"

"Yes, sir," the bell captain answered.

"Good," the manager sighed with relief. "Mr. Jones will be arriving at any time!" He looked worried again. "Have the caterers delivered the dishes he requested for room service tonight?"

"In the kitchen," the bell captain calmly informed him. "What about the limo service? He wants it available at all times, remember?"

The manager eyed the bell captain impatiently. "Iíve made a mental note of it."

Bill and Ted passed the desk unnoticed by the worried manager.

"This Mr. Jones must be one important dude!" Ted remarked.

"Undoubtedly," Bill agreed.

Beyond the reception desk, the hotel branched several directions. On the corner to their left was a doorway leading to a darkened room spotted with the flicker of candlelight which was reflecting in the mirror above a wetbar. Soft piano music from the lounge caught their ears as they passed, directing their attention to the large windows ahead from them which revealed a glowing, bright blue, indoor swimming pool.

They ran up a grand staircase to the second floor hallway which led to several conference rooms and a small ballroom. The other side of the walkway was lined with windows that offered an interesting view of the swimming pool below. The hotel seemed fairly quiet, although two people were swimming in the shining water.

"Truly, this is a five star establishment," Bill stated.

"No doubt, Bill. I bet all the rooms got towels with the hotelís name embroidered on the edge!"

"And those little bottles of shampoos and other assorted toiletries," Bill added.

A dreamy look came to Tedís face. "And a tiny, little mint in the middle of the pillow."

Billís eyes grew large in awe. "Iíve heard about that!"

The smile on Tedís face parted into a large yawn. The contagious act forced Bill to do the same, and he realized he was incredibly tired. He eyed Ted with concern, realizing his friend had to be even more tired, having to carry the weight of their possessions all day.

Motioning for Ted to follow, Bill walked the length of the hallway overlooking the pool area. The corridor continued beyond that, providing access to the conference rooms, but Bill stopped to open a door on the pool side, revealing a staircase leading upward. Without question, Ted followed Bill up the stairs, just as curious to find out where they led.

At the top of the stairs was another door, and Bill pushed it open, stepping out onto the roof above the pool. Ted followed, allowing the door to shut, unlocked, behind them. A good portion of the roof area was covered with large, domed skylights which glowed with the shimmering light from the pool beneath them. They stopped at one of the glass windows, taken in by the distance they were above the pool and the peculiar view the skylight allowed.

Ted pulled his shoulders free from the backpack and set it down next to the skylight, sitting beside it. Surprisingly, the roof wasnít cold; warmed by the heat of the pool area below and the warm air being exhausted from the huge vents all around them. Ted gazed up at the two stories still above them as Bill sat down next to him.

"Weíre not goiní anywhere tonight, dude," Bill pointed out. "Maybe weíd better get some sleep."

"Yah," Ted sighed, untying his jacket from around his waist to roll into a ball and use as a pillow. Bill watched him, then looked to his own waist to find he didnít have a jacket tied there as well. Ted was about to lie down, but paused to eye Bill worriedly. Bill reached for the backpack and unzipped it, pulling out his good suit which he proceeded to wad into a bundle.

"I knew it would come in handy," Bill commented as both boys laid down to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The smell of hotcakes was so strong he could actually taste them. Slowly Bill lifted his head, inhaling deeply to enjoy the aroma, even though he was still mostly asleep. He forced one eye open, unsure of where he was for a moment. By the time the second eye opened, he recognized the roof of the hotel, even though it was now getting light.

The delicious odor wafting from one of the nearest vents seemed to reach into his very stomach, churning it into deep growls.

"Hey, Ted. Wake up!"

"Mmphmmm?" Ted moaned in unconscious reply.

"Wake up, dude! I smell breakfast!"

Ted groggily lifted his head, looking around through thick lashes of sleepy eyes. "Did someone say breakfast? I am most supremely hungry."

"Get up!" Bill urged. "Letís find out where that smell is coming from!"

After gathering their things, they hurried down the stairs to the lobby, pausing at the bottom to look around. The smell was already stronger, and they followed it down the hallway past the now closed bar.

Bill and Ted just caught a glimpse of a man dressed in white exiting the dining area through a swinging double door on the other side of the room when they entered. Small tables with flowered centerpieces were arranged all around and a long buffet table of various breakfast foods was set up against the adjoining wall. They hurried to the table and gazed hungrily at the piles of hotcakes, heated trays of scrambled eggs and bacon and baskets of muffins.

"A most excellent spread," Bill said in awe, reaching out to take a muffin.

"But, Bill!" Ted caught his arm. "We arenít guests of the hotel. This food doesnít belong to us!"

"Oh yah," Bill sighed sadly, remembering. "Maybe thereís something we can do to earn some food."

"Like what?"

Bill looked around before spotting several piles of plates and containers of silverware at the head of the table. "I got it, Ted! The waiters have not yet set the tables. That oughta be worth a coupla hotcakes, anyway."

"Okay!" Ted agreed.

They immediately busied themselves with the task, placing the plates at every table with the proper silverware and napkins at each setting. In no time they had every place set.

"Thatíll save the kitchen dudes some work," Bill commented, brushing his hands together confidently. "Weíll just take a little food to tide us over Ďtil later."

They each took two hotcakes and a blueberry muffin apiece before exiting the dining area. Moments later, the man in white returned and stared in stunned silence at the tables which were now set.

"What in the world . . . ?" the man gasped, scratching his head as he tried to figure out how the plates and silverware had moved from their proper place at the head of the buffet table.

Carrying a tray of hashed brown potatoes for the buffet, the head waiter entered the dining area, passing the stunned waiter. "Whatís with you?" he asked, laughing slightly at the manís startled expression. He stopped, following the shaking finger as it pointed toward the set tables. The head waiter took in this sight with some surprise, then turned an angry smirk toward his subordinate. "Youíd care to explain?"

"I . . . I donít know! They werenít like that a minute ago!"

The head waiter walked to the buffet table and set down the tray over a low flame gas burner. "I suppose the silverware just set itself then." He laughed heartily all the way back to the kitchen with the poor, baffled waiter scurrying behind him, begging to be believed.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"That was a most resplendent breakfast," Ted sighed, licking his fingers.

"Yah," Bill agreed, pushing himself up from the foot of the stairs where they were sitting. "Certainly better than nuts and berries, which is probably what our fellow camping dudes are eating."

"Are we gonna go back?" Ted asked nervously, grabbing the handles of his rucksack. "Theyíre probably totally cheesed off at us for bailing."

Bill thought a moment. "Well . . . they say when youíre lost you should stay where you are until somebody finds you."

"And we are most definitely lost," Ted confirmed.

"Yah. I donít think we could find out way back to the camp if we wanted to."

"And we donít want to anyway . . . not really."

Bill looked at Ted worriedly. "But we gotta go back! No one will think to look for us here. And weíll miss the bus back to San Dimas."

"But the bus wonít be here until Saturday," Ted pointed out.

They both remained silent a moment, trying to think.

"Weíll worry about it later," Bill decided. "As long as weíre back by Saturday."

Ted smiled broadly as he got to his feet, pulling the rucksack onto his shoulders. "And that gives us plenty of time to scope out the rest of this most excellent hotel!"

"Yah!" Bill agreed happily. "Hey, I wonder how fast the elevators go!"

They hurried to the elevator and pressed the up button. The doors slid open and they waited until two elderly people had exited before stepping in. Bill pushed the button for the fifth floor and within moments the doors closed and the elevator began its journey upward. Both boys cringed as their stomachs sank with the odd movement.

"I hate this part!" they informed each other aloud.

The elevator slowed as the number four above the doors lit up, followed by the number five. The doors pulled open and the boys stepped out, looking around inquisitively. Directly in front of them was a sign indicating the locations of the different rooms. The arrow pointing left was labeled "Mountain View Suite". The short hallway was empty, but to their right they could hear someone nearby, and by the tone of the voice they could tell something was wrong.

Turning the corner, they saw a maidís cart sitting alongside one wall. A short woman, dressed in a pale, pink uniform, was on one knee in front of a door, fumbling awkwardly as she mumbled in a worried rhubarb of Spanish. They approached the maid, who had stopped fumbling and slumped to both knees, almost sobbing.

"Whoa, what is causing you such distress, troubled cleaning woman?" Bill asked.

The woman looked up, startled, and began dabbing her eyes. "No. Please, is nothing."

"Youíre certainly overwrought over nothing," Ted observed, holding out a hand to help her to her feet.

Once standing, the woman tried to compose herself in front of the small boys. "Gracias. No, see, I lock the passkey in this room and I cannot open the door."

"Heinous!" Bill sympathized. "Doesnít the hotel manager have a key or something?"

The womanís eyes opened wide with horror. "No, no! He must not know! This the third time, and if he finds out I do again he will fire me! Already I am so far behind on my rounds. I must get this door open!" Again she squatted, ignoring Bill and Ted as she fumbled with a hairpin, trying to undo the lock.

Bill and Ted exchanged glances before continuing down the hall, looking back at the poor woman as she worked feverishly.

"Bill, I feel sorry for her. I wish we could help."

"Yah, me too," Bill agreed. He then noticed a smaller hallway which opened to their right to allow the light from a window to reach the main corridor. Eyeing it, Bill stopped. "Wait, I got an idea. Címon, Ted."

Walking to the window, Bill found it was slightly open already, and he pushed it farther, noticing a good sized ledge outside. Leaning out the window, he saw the ledge continued down the length of the building. "This might work," he reported, crawling carefully out of the window. In tune with Billís train of thought, Ted removed his backpack and followed his friend.

Sighing in defeat, the maid pulled the twisted hairpin from the lock and got to her feet, sniffing. She knew she would have to go downstairs and get the managerís passkey, and she didnít look forward to the manís reaction. At the very least he would lecture her in front of the other employees, which was embarrassing enough, but she was more afraid of being fired.... something she simply couldnít afford.

Dropping the hairpin into the garbage sack on her cart, she started toward the elevators when a rattling sound caught her ear. She turned, and much to her surprise the door of the room opened and Bill and Ted stepped out.

"Here you go," Bill said, offering her the keyring as she ran back to them.

"Oh gracias, gracias! I cannot thank you enough!"

"Hey, no problem," Ted assured her. "Just make sure you hang onto them from now on."

"Si! Si!"

Bill and Ted walked back to the window to gather the rucksack, then continued to explore the fifth floor as the maid hurriedly returned to her work.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The indoor pool area offered warm sanctuary from the somewhat cool mountain air outside, while the large glass windows allowed a perfect view of the nearby mountain range. The sun beamed through the skylights above, creating the perfect environment for pure relaxation.

Sinking into the lounge chair with his eyes closed, Bill began to think about how coming to wilderness survival camp with Ted was turning out much better than heíd thought it would. This was his idea of a week away from home; not hiking around in the forest with no record stores or convenience marts. He was glad that they had at least packed their swimtrunks . . . For a second he thought he felt rain, but that didnít make any sense since they were indoors. Opening his eyes, Bill sat up and saw that Ted, who was in the lounge chair next to his, had also felt it. Simultaneously, they looked over their shoulders where they pinpointed the nozzles above that occasionally released a mist to cool off pool patrons.

"Not bad!" they agreed, lying back down to relax again.

The manager of the hotel was hurrying past the indoor pool on his way to the front desk, where heíd been summoned to deal with a potential guest complaining about a lost reservation. Glancing through the glass, he spotted the two boys and wondered for a moment who they were with. He didnít remember anyone checking in with young boys. He made a mental note to check on it later.

The pool area was so tranquil it was impossible not to nod off. With the real world shut out by closed eyelids, Bill could actually picture himself at Waterloop, basking in the warm San Dimas sun. He could hear the soft lapping of the water, brought to life by an artificial wave machine . . . the splashing sounded so real. And he could almost smell the suntan lotion mixed with chlorine. The girls were sliding down the tubes.... could it be in slow motion?

"Oh yah," Bill sighed dreamily in his sleep.

Billís soft comment stirred Ted, and he sleepily opened his eyes, noting Billís smile with some amusement. He wished he could step into his friendís head and check out what was so pleasant.

The sound of water splashing directed his attention to the pool, where he could make out a dark shape moving toward them, splashing slightly as it moved fluidly.

As the figure approached, Bill began to awaken, realizing the splashing sound wasnít just in his dream. He opened his eyes just as the swimmer reached their end of the pool.

Inch by inch, a beautiful woman emerged from the bright, blue water, pushing her long, dark hair back from her face, which helped to accentuate the lines of her body underneath the tight-fitting, one piece bathing suit.

"Whoa!" Bill and Ted sighed quietly, mouth agape.

After rubbing the water from her eyes, the swimmer saw the two young boys sitting up and looking at her, not particularly noticing the stunned expressions of awe on their faces.

"Oh, Iím sorry. I didnít mean to wake you boys."

"Síokay," both Bill and Ted quickly assured her.

The womanís warm smile melted them like butter. "Who are you?" Ted asked eagerly.

"My name is Melanie," she answered.

"Melanie . . . . " they repeated dumbfoundedly.

By this time, she had retrieved her towel from a nearby lounge chair and was bent over, rubbing her wet hair briskly. "And you are....?"

"I am Bill S. Preston, Esquire . . . . "

"And Iím Ted ĎTheodoreí Logan."

"Youíre here with your parents?"

Bill and Ted eyed each other with concern. "Well, um . . . . " Ted began, fumbling.

"Our parents arenít here . . . right now," Bill answered.

"Oh, theyíre working?" Melanie asked.

"Yah, thatís right. Theyíre working," Ted replied.

"Iím here alone, too," Melanie offered sympathetically. "Itís kind of nice, though, to be away from everything for a while and on your own. Donít you think?"

"Oh yah!" Bill and Ted answered.

Smiling, she turned from them and walked to a nearby lounge chair. Suddenly two blurs zipped by and headed her off, wheeling the chair closer so she wouldnít have to walk as far.

"Here, let us!" Bill insisted, spreading a dry towel across the chair.

"Yah, you just relax," Ted told her, adjusting the chair to a reclining position.

"Well, thank you, boys!" She took the seat offered to her, not lying down right away.

"Can we get you anything?" Bill asked hopefully. "Another towel? A soda?"

"No, no, this is fine." She adjusted the towel before lying back into the chair, pulling her wet hair to the sides so it could dry. Once done, she closed her eyes to relax. After a moment, she squinted up through the bright sunlight with one eye to see that Bill and Ted were still standing over her, staring down with somewhat expectant expressions.

"Really, Iím fine. This is wonderful."

"Excellent," Ted smiled.

"Okay, well, just call on us if you need anything," Bill insisted, putting as much charm into his smile as was possible. "We are at your service."

They stood over Melanie for another awkward moment before realizing she really wasnít going to ask for anything else. Slowly they backed away, nodding and smiling.

Tickled with their manners, Melanie felt she had to leave them with something more, so she sat up slightly and smiled. "You two are really quite the gentlemen. Maybe weíll run into each other again."

With that, Melanie leaned back and turned her head the other way, not catching the motionless, stunned looks on Bill & Tedís faces, which had simultaneously come over them. Slowly they turned around, making their way back to their deck chairs.

They sat in silence a moment, then looked at one another with the same wide-eyed expressions.

"Dude," Bill gasped softly. "I am about to utter words which I never thought I would hear myself say."

"What?"

Billís open mouth slowly turned up into a knowing smile. "I like wilderness survival camp!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

The afternoon sun was sinking behind the mountain, giving the impression that it was later in the day than it actually was. Bill & Ted had hung around the pool area for some time after Melanie had picked up her towel and bid them adieu. Now they were wandering around the hotel aimlessly.

Finally Bill stopped, stating what was obviously on both of their minds. "You got anything left to eat in your backpack?" Bill asked worriedly.

Ted thought about this question, then shook his head earnestly. "I believe we are still down to our last pudding cup, and you said we shouldnít eat that until weíre totally out of viable options."

"Yah!" Bill sighed. "We should ration it carefully and be prepared for the worst. I fear that if things get too desperate, we may even be forced to lick the lid!"

"Bogus!" sighed Ted worriedly.

Bill turned the situation over in his mind. "If we were still at wilderness survival camp, theyíd probably have us forage for food."

"How do we do that in a hotel?" Ted asked.

Bill began walking again, heading to the elevator. "I guess we just gotta look! They told us that sometimes food can be found in the most unexpected places!"

The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and Bill and Ted stepped out. As they made their way down the corridor Bill noticed there were a number of dinner trays sitting outside various doors, obviously picked over and left for the maids to collect. It didnít take them long to realize that people had left food on these trays, so slowly they worked their way up and down the corridor, sitting down to help themselves to whatever appetizing morsels they could find.

"Bill," Ted said with a flip of his bangs as they sat in front of room 409 and rummaged through some tempting fried chicken they found under the covered plate. "Is what weíre doing wrong?"

"The person in this room must not care much for fried chicken," Bill commented offhandedly, noting how much was left over. After picking up a wing and taking a bite he eyed his friend with delayed surprise. "What do you mean?"

Ted tilted his head, trying to think of how to put into words what he was feeling. "What weíre doing. I mean, staying at this hotel when weíre not paying for it. Eating peopleís leftover food. Is it wrong?"

Bill nibbled on some french fries heíd found in a small basket on the tray and thought about it. "I dunno, Ted. But I guess, well . . . weíre surviving. Thatís what we were sent up here to do."

Ted shook his head worriedly. "I donít think this is what my dad had in mind," he pointed out.

Bill offered Ted an apparently untouched chicken leg then sat back against the wall, his eyebrows furrowed in thought as he licked his fingers. "I guess weíre freeloading, yeah. But itís not like weíll do this forever. I mean, weíll only stay until the end of the week. And weíre not sleeping anywhere that anyone else would, so weíre not taking up a room. And we helped set the dishes this morning to pay for our breakfast. And this food, well . . . it would be just thrown away."

Ted nodded his head, realizing he was too hungry be moralistic at the moment. "Yeah, I guess youíre right. Maybe someday when weíre rich and famous we can come back and stay here with our band and not trash the place or something."

Bill nodded, looking around the tray for something else to eat. He moved a napkin to one side and was surprised when he saw what looked like a fancy ring that was partially covered by the edge of the plate. "Whoa, Ted! Look at this!" He lifted the ring for his friend to see.

"Whoa!" Ted said in awe. "Thatís like the biggest rhinestone Iíve ever seen!"

Bill scowled at it with distaste. "It looks like something my mom would wear!"

"Do you think itís a real diamond or something?" Ted asked in a soft voice.

"I dunno, Ted," Bill said. "But I do not think the lady who owns it meant to leave it as a tip."

"Maybe she did!" Ted suggested. "Maybe sheís a super rich lady and sheís got millions to burn and she wanted to do something nice for the maid or something!"

Bill eyed Ted skeptically. "A nice thought, Ted, but somehow I doubt it. I think she must have dropped it on the tray by mistake."

"Oh," Ted sighed. "The maidís gonna be disappointed!"

Bill turned to look at the door behind him, then stood up and knocked. He waited a moment, then tried again. "Hello?" he called. When there was no answer he looked down at Ted. "I guess theyíre not in."

"Maybe you can stick it under the door," Ted suggested.

Bill knelt down and tried to push the ring under the door. "No use, dude. Itís too big."

"Well, whatíre we gonna do?" Ted asked. "Wait until they get back?"

"I dunno . . . maybe they have a lost and found or something."

"We could leave it at the front desk!" Ted suddenly realized.

Bill smiled widely. He was always amazed when Ted showed such clarity. "Good thinking, Ted! People are always leaving stuff for people at hotel desks! Iíve seen it on the late shows! Come on!"

They walked down the corridor and took the elevator to the lobby. As they entered the lobby they turned to approach the front desk, but Bill stopped Ted when he spotted the surly manager scolding the woman on duty there.

"Hold up, Ted," Bill cautioned. "I do not think that dude likes us very much."

"Whatíll we do?" Ted asked.

Bill directed Ted to the side of the lobby where a table was set up with stationery, envelopes and pens for hotel guests to use. They stood beside the desk, trying to act nonchalant as the manager continued to point out how the clerk had once again hung the room keys on the wrong pegs.

Bill looked at the stationery and motioned to Ted. "I got an idea, dude," he said. He reached over and took one of the envelopes and a pen. "What was the room number where we found the ring, dude?"

"409 . . . " Ted answered after a little thought. "Like the cleaning product."

Bill wrote the numbers "409" down in big letters on the envelope, then took the ring and placed it inside and sealed it. "Weíll give this to the clerk when the manager-dudeís done yelling at her."

"Excellent!" Ted said. "It is just like in the late show!"

"Yeah. Except everythingís not black and white," Bill pointed out.

"True," Ted agreed. "Bill, I wonder what it was like when the world didnít have any color."

Bill looked at his friend incredulously. "Ted, you bonehead. They had color, it just wasnít patented yet."

"Oh," Ted said, thinking. "So who patented color?"

"Kodak or somebody. Then people could film in color but only if they paid Kodak to do so. Thatís why some old movies are in color and some are in black and white!"

"Whoa, Bill, youíre one smart dude!" Ted smiled.

"Just be more careful about what youíre doing!" the manager finished with a flourish before storming off to his office.

"Come on, dude," Bill suggested. "Nowís our chance."

They walked up to the front desk where the woman was reorganizing the room keys. Even with her back turned to them they could tell she was still upset about having been scolded.

"Excuse us, front desk babe," Bill said gently, although he still managed to startle the young woman.

"Oh! Um, yes, what can I do for you boys?" she asked.

"We have something we need to leave for someone in room 409," Bill said, reaching up to hand the envelope to her.

"Oh, okay," the woman said, taking the envelope. "Iíll put it up here for them, all right?"

"Sure, thanks!" Ted smiled, and he and Bill walked away as the woman turned and shoved the envelope into one of the cubbyholes next to the room key display.

"Iíll bet the lady will be glad to get her ring back!" Ted said as they headed back upstairs to look for more food.

"Itís the least we could do, seeing she left us some good fried chicken for dinner!" Bill agreed.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The smell of hotcakes once again beckoned to Bill as he lifted his head. He rubbed his face, feeling the indentations which the folds of Tedís shirt had pressed into his cheek. Tedís stomach wasnít the best pillow in the world, but it was more comfortable than even his best suit.

"Ted, dude, wake up! Breakfast time!"

"Pop tarts?" Ted sat up, his hair falling over his face. He sighed when he remember where they were. "Oh yeah . . . muffins and hot cakes again, dude?"

"Sure, itís better than eating leftovers," Bill pointed out, helping Ted to his feet.

"Whoa!" Ted moaned, taking a moment to stretch and reacquaint himself with his muscles. "I think I must have been lying on the Mr. Microphone in my backpack," he moaned, rubbing his ear. "I kept dreaming I was getting my ear checked at the doctorís office."

"Címon, Ted!" Bill urged, heading for the door. "I am most supremely hungry!"

They headed downstairs and reached the dining room to find it in much the same state as the day before.

"Weíre in luck, Ted! They have not yet set the tables again!"

"Letís hurry up and finish, dude," Ted said. "I canít wait to go swimming again!"

"Weíve got to wait one hour anyway," Bill reminded him, and they set to work placing the settings at each seat of the many tables in the room.

In the kitchen the head waiter was speaking with the chef while his subordinate waiter stood to the side, looking irritated.

"You mean he actually set the places?" the chef laughed, shaking his head.

"I swear, I didnít do it!" the waiter moaned.

"Well, I didnít do it!" the head waiter laughed. "And it took him forever to get everything put back in time before we opened."

The waiter was getting more aggravated. "Come on, have you got the fruit salad ready to go out yet?"

"Itís just about ready," the chef said. "Why donít you get the milks out of the refrigerator instead of just standing there whining?"

"Or you could go set the tables again!" the head waiter laughed.

The waiter happily retrieved the small cartons of milk from the large refrigerator and arranged them in a large bowl of ice. By that time the chef had finished the fruit salad bowl and the head waiter picked it up and moved to follow the waiter into the dining room.

As they entered the dining room the waiter came to such an abrupt halt the head waiter came close to dropping the fruit salad as he stopped short to keep from running into the back of him.

"What is wrong with you?" the head waiter snarled.

"It happened again!" the waiter cried in exasperation.

The head waiter realized the waiter was right . . . all the places had been set.

"What on earth are you trying to pull?" the head waiter yelled.

"It wasnít me! You saw it yourself . . . it wasnít like this when we went into the kitchen! And you were in there with me the entire time! It couldnít have been more than ten minutes!"

The head waiter thought about this and then began to shake. "Then . . . just what is going on around here??"

"You donít suppose itís . . . ghosts!" the waiter said in a tiny voice. "Iíve heard tales that this hotel is haunted!"

"I donít know what to think!" the head waiter whispered, "but weíre going to get to the bottom of this mystery! I have an idea . . . . "

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ted rubbed his hand through his still-damp hair, letting the light breeze dry it as they walked. The road ahead had only light traffic and they were able to scurry across the two lane highway to the other side where the antique mall beckoned.

The building looked bigger on the inside than it had on the outside, mostly because there were far more rooms hidden behind the rustic cabin facade than they would have guessed. Ted handed his bag to the elderly woman at the front and they picked their way through the narrow aisles to an adjacent room filled with fascinating items; lit curios with small, ornate decorations and glasses, shelves lined with old, dusty books, immaculate furniture sharing floor space with shoddy furnishings and old well-loved dolls and stuffed animals. Every inch of space seemed to be occupied . . . the walls were taken up with paintings, clocks and housewares hanging from hooks and collectibles even hung from the ceilings, everything from chandeliers to scooters to farm tools.

"Whoa, Bill . . . they have everything here!" Ted said softly. "I wish we had some money."

"We have one of those in my garage," Bill noted, pointing to a cuckoo clock hanging on the wall. I wonder if itís worth anything."

"I like it when it your clock cuckoos," Ted smiled. "Oh wow, look at this old guitar!"

"Whoa," Bill smiled, picking up the acoustic guitar. "Now this I wish we had in my garage!"

"I wanna get an electric guitar, though," Ted said. "A Gibson or a Fender."

"I donít think they have any of those here," Bill sighed, setting the instrument back down. "And if they do, we certainly couldnít afford one."

They continued to make their way through the antique mall, surprised at how it was seemingly never-ending. They didnít even realize they had made a full circle until they entered the last room next to the front hallway where the counter and cash register were. Bill stopped and then pulled Ted back when he saw Melanie speaking to the elderly woman, who was on the phone.

"Dude, whatís wrong?" Ted asked worriedly.

"Melanieís here!" Bill said in a whisper, pointing to the front counter.

"Whoa, she is?" Ted asked excitedly, straining to lean around the corner of the door to see her.

They listened as Melanie waited for the woman to finish with a phone call. They could see she had a small figurine of a cat sitting on the counter in front of her.

The elderly woman hung up the phone, shaking her head. "Iím sorry, dear, but Iím afraid the price is firm. Eighty-five dollars."

Melanie looked at the small cat again, obviously debating about the price in her mind. "I do love it," she sighed, "but Iím afraid I donít have that much money with me. Oh well . . . . " She set the cat back on the counter and sighed. "Maybe next time!"

"Iím sorry," the woman said sincerely.

"Thank you anyway! Have a nice day!" Melanie walked out into the sunlight and headed back to the hotel.

Bill and Ted ducked back into the room and tried to act nonchalant as the elderly woman entered. She placed the cat back on a shelf and then looked at Bill and Ted. "Finding anything interesting, boys?" she asked in a friendly manner.

"Everythingís interesting!" Bill said honestly. "Is it okay if we just keep looking around?"

"Take your time," the woman said, then went back to the front counter.

Bill and Ted approached the shelf and eyed the small cat. "I sure wish we could buy that for her," Bill sighed.

"I know," Ted agreed. "But we donít got any money, and we certainly donít have fifty dollars!"

Bill nodded sadly. "Yeah, youíre right, dude." He looked around and realized they hadnít explored another room on the other side of them. "Letís check out whatís in here!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

The dark garden surrounding the winding smooth pebbled path suddenly flickered to life in a myriad of colors, lighting their way. They excitedly followed the unfamiliar path to a small footbridge, stopping at the top of its arc to look down into the lit water filled with large, orange and white fish.

Ted lowered the rucksack to dangle at his side as he gazed into the water below. "Whoa, Bill . . . itís like thereís no end to this hotel!"

"Truer words were never spoken, Ted. Every day seems to hold a new experience, another aspect of life to be explored."

"Bill! That sounds like what the brochure for the wilderness survival camp, dude!"

Bill nodded in approval. "At least our parents are getting what they paid for."

They watched the fish swimming for a moment and then Ted looked down the path to see where they were headed. "Whoa, Bill, whatís that?" he asked, motioning to the ornate doorway where the path apparently ended.

"Letís check it out." Bill led the way off the small bridge and the two approached the dark cherry-wood doorway, stopping to eye the golden circular designs before locating a small lit window which housed an unfolded menu.

"Itís a Japanese restaurant, Ted," Bill pointed out, craning his neck to look inside the doorway, only spotting an empty hostís podium. "Smells good, too."

"Wish we had enough money to partake in their most appetizing-sounding cuisine," Ted sighed, hungrily eyeing the menu. "But alas and unfortunately their prices are way beyond our means. Hey, díya think we could at least take a look inside while weíre here?"

Bill shrugged. "I donít see why not. If they ask us to leave, then we leave."

Bill led the way through the door as the hostess returned to the podium, pausing a moment to mark something down in the book there. Bill & Ted immediately turned to the wall, busying themselves by looking at Japanese scrolls and artifacts in an attempt not to draw attention. But they could both feel the hostessí eyes rise from the book and look toward the doorway. As she drew in a sudden breath to speak they braced themselves for the inevitable question of "What are you two doing in here?" to be thrown their direction.

Instead they heard her voice project in the opposite direction from them, as she somewhat quietly announced to the nearest staff, "Heís coming!"

The two young boys glanced at each other in confusion, but their puzzlement was soon abated when a man stepped through the entrance of the restaurant. All at once it seemed as if half the staff had emerged from their regular workstations to be at hand so that anything this man might want could be addressed immediately.

"Good to see you, Mr. Jones," the hostess said in her smoothest and friendliest voice. "Your table is ready."

At the sound of the familiar name, Bill & Ted threw a quick glance over their shoulders and caught sight of the man has he walked across the restaurant to a exclusive booth near the back. This was the first chance theyíd had to lay eyes on this mysterious person. They were excited to see exactly what such a wealthy and important man looked like. They didnít get a terrific look at him, but they could see he was wearing a sharp, gray business suit, his blonde hair was cut in a short, neat haircut and he walked with the poise of a well-respected individual.

"So thatís THE Mr. Jones," Bill said to Ted quietly. "I wonder who he is."

Ted lowered his head in thought, then raised it suddenly. "Maybe heís that dude who owns the stock exchange."

Bill gave him a puzzled look. "What dude?"

"You know! Mr. Dow Jones."

Billís eyebrows unknit and he smiled, slapping Tedís arm lightly. "Oh yeah! I bet thatís who it is!"

"Whoa, Bill . . . he must be rich!"

"Totally."

The excitement died down in the foray as the hostess led the man around a corner and most of the people who had gathered to get a peek at the wealthy man either moved to a new position where they could watch him sit down or went back to doing their jobs.

Bill and Ted took advantage of the fact the waiting area was now empty to step forward and glance around the restaurant. It was dimly lit, but they could make out the dark oriental decorations in mainly red and black schemes. They could see the hostess had seated Mr. Jones in a very secluded corner, on the opposite side of the establishment from where a large group of Japanese businessmen busily ate and discussed their important corporate matters. Only a few other patrons dotted the restaurant, all eating quietly or studying menus.

They were so involved in studying their surroundings, they didnít see the hostess return to her podium. "May I help you boys?" she asked nicely but seriously.

Bill and Ted wheeled to face her, looking like they had been caught with their hands in a cookie jar. "Oh, um. We were just . . . " Ted started, searching his mind for something, anything, to say.

"Are you waiting for someone?" asked the hostess.

"Well . . . yeah, okay," Bill stammered. "But theyíre not here. Maybe we should wait outside, huh, Ted?"

"Excellent idea!" said Ted, grateful for his friendís quick-thinking mind.

The hostess just shrugged as the two boys turned and headed for the door. Just as Bill was about to reach for it, it swung open and Bill and Ted took a surprised step back as Melanie entered the restaurant.

"Well, hello again, boys!" she said with a genuine smile.

Bill and Ted stood together with wide eyes as they chirped in together, "Hello, Ms. . . . Ms. . . . . "

"Itís Melanie," she laughed. "Remember?"

"Oh yeah, we remember!" Bill piped up immediately. "How could we forget?" he thought to himself.

"Itís good to see you two again. Are you having dinner here tonight with your folks?"

"Oh um . . . " Ted started, but again found himself at a loss for words. He looked hopefully to Bill.

"Naw, we just came in to check out the place," Bill said, feeling he could be at least this honest with her. "Our parents are still . . . working."

"Oh, I see," said Melanie. "Well, Iíll see you later then."

She walked past them toward the hostessí stand but then stopped. She turned to see Bill and Ted hadnít moved from their places; they had only wheeled to watch her pass. Smiling even more prettily, she straightened and addressed them directly. "Would you boys do me a favor?"

Bill and Ted lurched forward eagerly and came to a stop right in front of her. "Anything!" they chorused excitedly.

She looked a little shy. "I hate to eat alone. Would you mind very much having dinner with me?"

"Here?" Bill asked in disbelief.

"With you?" Ted asked in awe.

"Well, of course!" she laughed, then stopped and looked concerned. "Do you not like Japanese food?"

"On the contrary!" Ted said emphatically, trying desperately to think of anything he had ever heard about Japanese cuisine. "We think raw fish is most excellent!"

Melanie laughed at his enthusiasm. "Then you will eat with me?"

Bill turned to Ted and without words they debated it with each other. Each came to the same conclusion. "Weíd be honored!"

"Good!" smiled Melanie, and she turned to the hostess. "That will be three for dinner then."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Say, you know your way around chopsticks pretty well!" Melanie commented with respect.

Bill and Ted enjoyed the praise and smiled. "Yeah, well, Billís folks get a lot of Chinese take-out. His mom doesnít cook much."

"She doesnít cook at all," Bill grumbled under his breath, then shook off this brief moment of irritation and examined what was on his plate again. They had already tried a few things that looked semi-familiar to them, but were now interested in the things they had never seen before. Bill motioned to a small pile of green paste on the side of his plate. Ted likewise began studying the strange mush. "Whatís this?" Bill asked, as he and Ted scooped it up with their chopsticks.

"Thatís wasabi," Melanie answered, then finished chewing her mouthful of food. "Be careful . . . itís very hot."

She saw her warning came just a second too late, as both boys had popped the wasabi into their mouths. Billís lips tightened and his eyes opened wide in surprise, his brain only now registering Melanieís belated warning. He swallowed as quickly as he could, but the burning only went down his throat and he gasped for air.

"Oh dear," sighed Melanie, trying not to laugh despite herself. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Bill croaked in a not too convincing manner. He grabbed for his water glass and downed it in a moment.

"Miss?" Melanie called to the waitress over her shoulder. "Weíre going to need some more water over here."

Bill set down his glass and physically shook, ending with a loud, "Brrrrrr! Woo! That was something!"

"Yah!" Ted agreed calmly. "It was a little on the hot side."

Bill and Melanie stared at him in disbelief. He had hardly reacted to the wasabi at all.

"You must have a cast iron tongue," Melanie laughed.

"After my Aunt Dodyís tacos, nothing phases me," Ted answered honestly.

Bill waved his hand in front of his open mouth and rolled his eyes with a nod of his head. Heíd heard about Aunt Dodyís infamous tacos on more than one occasion.

They continued eating their dinner and talking about everything under the sun. As the evening wore on, Bill and Ted became more and more enamored of their beautiful dinner companion.

"Thank you," Melanie said to the waitress, who had brought over the bill.

Bill and Ted gave each other guilty glances. They felt funny having the woman pay for the meal, especially on their "first date". Even though he didnít have any money, Bill felt it was only gentlemanly to say something. "We sure appreciate your inviting us to dinner. Canít we help pay at all?"

"This one is on me," Melanie assured them. "It was nice of you to agree to have dinner with me. Consider it a present."

"A present?" Ted asked, confused.

"Why yes," Melanie smiled, "Otherwise I would have had to eat my birthday dinner alone."

Bill and Tedís eyes opened wide. "Itís youíre birthday today??" they gasped.

Melanie nodded with another pretty smile.

"Happy birthday!" Bill and Ted wished her sincerely.

She laughed again. "Why thank you!"

Bill pushed himself away from the table and tapped Tedís shoulder. "Dude, címere. Would you excuse us a moment, please?" he asked Melanie.

"Certainly," she said, as Ted retrieved his rucksack from the floor and followed Bill away from the table.

"Ted, we cannot let Melanieís birthday go by without doing something special," Bill insisted.

"Youíre right, Bill. Especially not after she bought as that most delicious dinner and everything. But what can we do? We got no money to buy a present or anything."

Bill knit his eyebrows and thought for a moment. Finally he snapped his fingers. "Iíve got it Ted! Give me your rucksack."

Ted handed it over and Bill unzipped it and started rummaging around inside for something. "What have you got in mind?"

"Youíll see! First we gotta find out where this egregious Japanese elevator music is coming from." Bill turned to Melanie. "Weíll just be a moment. Now wait right there!"

She nodded as they hurried away from the table. Once they were away from the table, Bill retrieved the audio tape he was looking for from the rucksack and handed it to Ted. "Here it is!"

Ted glanced at the tape and nodded, then saw what else Bill was pulling out of his bag, and immediately he knew exactly what Ted had in mind. "Got it!" he confirmed excitedly, and ran off to find the restaurantís stereo system.

Melanie waited patiently at the table, smiling to herself. She knew they were planning to do something special for her, but she couldnít even begin to imagine what two young boys could come up with on the spur of the moment. She half expected the waiters to come out with a candle in a dish of green tea ice cream. As she wondered, the barely noticeable music that was playing throughout the restaurant cut out suddenly. She had just dismissed this from her mind when there came a cacophony of sounds, which seemed like a mixture of snippets from various rock songs, interspersed with the most horrific squealing imaginable. Everyone in the restaurant looked quite annoyed, and the employees looked genuinely perplexed.

These noises suddenly came to a stop, but there was the sound of something playing . . . faint scratches could be heard like an old phonograph record was either about to begin or had come to its end. A moment later the restaurant was filled with a heavy and familiar drum riff and guitar strains that completely contrasted the atmosphere of the place.

Confusion permeated the air as this rock tune blared, drowning out all conversation, which had mostly turned to phrases like, "What is going on?" Suddenly Bill and Ted leaped out from the back, Bill holding the Mr. Microphone in his hand, and Ted holding the small, portable radio. The raucous music was compounded tenfold when Bill and Ted both started singing as loud as they could into the microphone, their crackling voices blasting from the radio.

"You say itís your birthday? Itís my birthday, too, yeah! . . . ."

Melanie let out a squeal of glee and laughed heartily as the boys bounced all around the restaurant, singing and air guitaring to the Beatles classic. The employees stood by, too stunned to react. The Japanese businessmen were all watching the scene with their mouths hanging open. Mr. Jones sat silently in the corner, a slight smile crossing his face at the proceedings.

The manager of the hotel had stepped outside and took a deep breath. He looked back at his building, standing proudly like a king surveying his domain. All was right with the world.

Suddenly a horrible rock song blasted from somewhere in the vicinity. He looked around, annoyed. "Darn kids playing their car radios too loud!" he grumbled angrily, but then he realized the music was coming from somewhere within the hotel. After a moment of searching, he pinpointed its source as being the Japanese restaurant. Shocked, and unable to imagine what was happening, he ran down the pebbled path.

"Birthday! I would like you to dance! Birthday! Take a ch - ch - ch -chance . . . . "

Bill and Tedís enthusiasm hadnít waned as the song progressed. If anything, they were getting more energetic, bouncing around the tables and hopping onto chairs to sing to not only Melanie but to other patrons, trying to encourage them to join in. Melanie was already singing along, although she remained seated at her table watching the fun and clapping her hands.

The manager burst into the restaurant and rushed forward, taking in the scene in front of him. "What is going on here?" he demanded angrily.

Bill heard the familiar voice and spotted the manager standing across from them. He nudged Ted and pointed the man out worriedly. Ted heeded his friendís warning and reached for his rucksack, which was sitting against a wall.

When the manager realized it was those same two boys at the bottom of this disturbance, he lunged forward, but the dudes had anticipated this action and had darted in opposite directions, leading the man on a chase as they continued to sing, although somewhat haphazardly.

"Happy birthday, Melanie!" Bill called to her as he ran by her table and headed for the front door.

"Totally! And thanks for dinner!" Ted added as he dashed by on the other side, also heading for the door.

The manager had gotten tangled in some chairs as heíd tried to run around a table, and soon he realized the boys were well out the door and there was no way heíd catch up to them. Angrily, he yelled at a waiter to turn off that infernal music.

The waiter stood in a daze, so the manager stormed by him and stomped to the stereo system, angrily pushing the stop button and ejecting the audio tape. He pulled it from the machine and held it tightly in his hands. "Those darn kids! If I ever get my hands on them, Iíll . . . !" He tried breaking the tape with his bare hands, but found it more difficult to actually do than to imagine.

"May I have that?" a soft voice behind him suddenly asked.

The manager wheeled in surprise and gawked for a moment, wondering about this request and almost blurting out his confusion over it. Thinking again, he just handed the tape over, saying, "Certainly, Mr. Jones. If you would like it . . . . "

"Thank you," Mr. Jones smiled, taking the cassette and walking out of the restaurant.

The manager stood in complete confusion, then he remembered his anger. They had caused him real problems this time. How could he explain what had happened to the patrons? As he walked out from the back his eyes fell upon the group of Japanese businessmen and he blanched. He couldnít lose their business! He walked up to the group, trying to form a suitable explanation in his mind in those few steps.

One of the businessmen looked up at the manager and pointed at him. "This! What just happened here . . . . "

"I know," the manager began, "and Iím very very sorry. You see . . . . "

"Where you get this idea? What kind entertainment this?"

"Entertainment?" the manager asked, not believing his ears.

"Very unique! Very different!"

The other businessmen nodded, smiling.

"Oh well, thank you!" the manager sighed with relief, then realized he would have to explain why it wasnít a regular feature in case the men came back later in the week. "We only do it one day a week, though."

The Japanese businessmen nodded, then went back to talking amongst themselves. As the manager walked away, he could hear one of the men saying, "This could be very popular in Japan!" The manager was grateful the situation had worked out okay and that no one was angry with him.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Bill and Ted slowly entered the hotel lobby through the back door, making their way to the stairway leading upstairs. Both were in a semi-state of bliss, having quickly forgotten the managerís anger and only remembering the joy of the evening.

"That was one most unprecedented evening," Bill voiced their thoughts aloud.

"Most definitely," Ted agreed, then zipped up his still unzipped rucksack with a sad sigh. "Although I do regret losing that tape. It had all my favorite stuff on it . . . ĎStairway to Heavení, Pink Floyd, ĎSpace Oddityí . . . . "

"Donít worry Ďbout it, Ted," Bill assured his friend as they started up the stairs to the second floor. "You can always tape all those songs off again. But how often can two dudes have such a memorable evening with someone so special?"

"Sheís so nice," Ted sighed dreamily.

"And smart," Bill added.

"And a total babe," Ted smiled.

"Totally," Bill agreed, then stopped as they reached the top of the stairs. A sudden thought had just entered his mind, and already it bothered him greatly. "You know, dude . . . itís not really right."

"Oh, I know. We really shoulda paid for dinner, but we didnít have any money," Ted explained matter-of-factly.

"Not that, Ted," Bill said, then hesitated. He wasnít sure how to proceed with expressing his thoughts.

Ted noted the seriousness of his friendís expression and became concerned. "Whatís the matter, Bill?"

Bill took a breath and looked up at his friend with a worldly expression he assumed when explaining something he wasnít sure his friend would be able to grasp thoroughly. "Well, it isnít right to expect a woman to spread her affections around, Ted." Ted just stared at Bill blankly, so Bill continued. "What I mean is . . . she canít date two dudes at once. Itís just not . . . done."

Tedís glance moved slightly away as he thought about this. "Oh . . . " he finally sighed, comprehension beginning to dawn on him. "You mean . . . ?"

Bill nodded seriously. "Itís gotta be one or the other of us."

Ted swung his head back and dropped the rucksack to his side, thinking this over as best he could. "But how do we decide who gets her?"

Bill rolled his eyes at his friendís naivety. "We donít choose! Itís up to her. Sheís gotta choose between us. And undoubtedly she will."

With a nod, Ted seemed satisfied. "Okay, well, then sheíll let us know which of us she wants and thatíll be that!"

Bill sighed in a somewhat aggravated fashion. He was already aware of Melanieís likely choice. Somehow it didnít seem fair that Ted should have the looks and not know what to do with it. He didnít want to feel jealous of his friend, but at the same time heíd had such longings the past few months. Just once he wanted to think he had a chance to be the ladiesí man.

"You know, maybe itís better if she picks me," Bill heard himself say.

"Whyís that?" Ted asked innocently.

"Oh well, Ted . . . letís face it . . . youíre not exactly . . . uh . . . experienced in this kind of thing. An older woman to start out with might be a bit . . . uh . . . much. You know?"

Ted tried to understand what Bill meant, but he couldnít grasp it. "Youíre no more experienced than I am!" he pointed out.

"Look, Ted, Iím only looking out for your best interests here," Bill insisted, trying to convince himself of it, too. "I donít want to see you get hurt!"

Ted was giving him a strange look. "Wait a minute . . . you just wanna talk me out of the running!"

"No, no!" Bill cried, knowing full well that was exactly what he had been doing but not wanting to admit it.

"I think I have just as much of a chance with Melanie as you do!" Ted added.

"Look, I wasnít saying that!" Bill cried, his voice raising unusually high. "Oh man, you just donít understand!"

"No, I donít understand!" Ted cried. "Youíre my best friend and youíre trying to cut me out!"

"Well, maybe I was trying to cut you out for your own good!" Bill yelled, getting more and more frustrated. "Maybe I know whatís better for you than you do!"

Ted stood looking shocked. Bill had talked down to him before, but never so harshly. Somehow he knew he had to stand up to Bill this time. "Maybe you donít, though! What if thatís the case, huh?"

"You just donít get it! Geez, Ted, you can be such an airhead sometimes!" Bill yelled angrily.

"Yeah, well, dude . . . you are just totally too much like your temper! Short!"

Bill wasnít sure what came over him in that next moment, but that statement cut him to the quick and he reacted purely out of emotional instinct. He struck out angrily with a semi-curved hand, catching the side of Tedís face in a sharp blow. The second heíd done it, he regretted it.

Ted stood, staring at Bill in disbelief, and Bill stared back in shock. At the same moment they realized the horrifying truth . . . they were fighting! For the first time in their lives they were actually fighting! This more than the blow made tears well in Tedís eyes.

Bill wanted so much to apologize, to take back what heíd done and said, but the look on Tedís face made him feel so horrible he couldnít find the words to say. Instead he turned and ran down the stairs, not wanting to have to deal with what had happened.

Ted stood, watching Bill run away and not knowing what to do. Sadly, he sat down on the top step of the stairway and sighed, wishing heíd never said such a terrible thing to Bill. He knew Bill was dealing with frustrations at home and going through a difficult time . . . he should have just kept quiet and not challenged him.

Bill ran blindly into the darkened lounge, the first place he could find that would take him out of Tedís sight. He made his way past a couple of empty tables then stopped, grabbing the back of a vinyl covered chair to steady himself. He felt sick to his stomach. How could he have let his longings dictate his actions? How could he have struck the best friend heíd ever had?

Wiping his forehead, Bill turned to lean against the chair, finally taking in his surroundings. The gentle piano music was in such contrast to what he was feeling. He hoped no one was looking at him, that he hadnít caused a scene. But the lounge was empty except for one couple that were leaving a booth in the corner and exiting through the back door to a corridor which led to another wing of the hotel.

Bill pulled the chair he had been leaning against away from the table and sat down roughly, wishing he could turn back time somehow and make everything all right.

"Thatís stupid," he quickly scolded himself silently. "People canít travel through time . . . . "

"You look as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, my friend."

The voice was strangely gentle even though it was amplified . . . it almost sounded as if it were from another world . . . another dimension. Bill looked up, startled, and realized the older man had spoken through a microphone he had attached to the shiny grand piano in front of him. He continued playing a soft melody as he eyed Bill sympathetically.

"Do you need a friend?" the man asked.

A moment ago Bill wouldnít have felt like talking to anyone, but this man seemed so genuinely concerned he found himself getting up and walking toward him slowly. "I had a friend . . . . "

The man nodded. "Youíre lucky . . . friends can be hard to come by."

Bill stopped a few feet from the piano and looked down at his shoes. "I donít think heíll be my friend any more . . . not after what I did."

The man stopped playing and turned to Bill seriously. "Iím sure heíll forgive you . . . if youíre sorry for something you did."

Bill shook his head, not looking up. "I totally blew it, dude. Heíll never speak to me again. And I wouldnít blame him."

The man turned back to the piano. "It couldnít hurt to try an apology anyway. At least then youíll know you did the right thing."

"How can I apologize?" Bill asked, looking up with tears in his eyes. "I canít even look him in the face!"

The man smiled in a knowing manner which made him look wise. "Thereís more than one way to apologize."

Bill shook his head, still unsure.

The piano player motioned to the bar. "I think my young friend here could use a drink."

The bartender nodded.

"A beer, please!" Bill tried hopefully.

"Um, better make that a cola," the piano player suggested.

"On the rocks!" Bill added, trying to sound adult, then added, "Oh, and do you have any of those little umbrellas?"

"Iíll see what I can do," the bartender smiled.

Bill stepped closer to the piano as the man picked out a few notes. "Does your friend like music?"

"Most definitely," Bill confirmed. "Weíre gonna start a band . . . at least, we were."

"Maybe you can tell him how you feel in a song, then."

Bill tilted his head, thinking about it. "Yeah . . . maybe so . . . . " The bartender approached with a tall glass of cola, a tiny paper umbrella adorning the edge of the glass. Bill reached into his pocket, realizing as he did so that he didnít have any money, but the bartender lifted his hand to stop him.

"This oneís on the house," he winked, then turned to walk back to the bar.

"Thanks," Bill said after him, then sipped the cola for a moment while thinking. "A song, huh?" He took an extra long sip, then gasped, clutching his head from the brain freeze that occurred. "Do you know any songs by Queen?"

"Queenís not as good on just the piano," the man sighed, then stood up slightly and reached behind him to open the bench he was sitting on. "You can pick out one of the songs in here. I can play most of them by heart."

Bill took out the sheets of music and began thumbing through them, smirking as he went. "Most of these are songs my parents would listen to."

"There must be something there that would be appropriate," the player piano said. "A lot of those classics say a lot."

Bill had stopped on one piece of music, eyeing it with interest. He read through the lyrics, then turned it over. Finally he handed it to the piano player. "This is really old, but itís kind of what I wanna say."

The man eyed the selection and smiled. "A most excellent choice, I would say," he nodded, and placed the music in front of him while Bill took the microphone from its holder.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ted was sitting at the top of the stairs, still too stunned to have moved. He wiped his eyes and slowly stretched his legs, moaning as he did so. He wanted to go after Bill, but then he wasnít sure Bill wanted to be with him any more. He wished more than anything he hadnít said what he did . . . he wasnít even mad that Bill had hit him. He probably deserved it . . . after all what heíd said had been pretty harsh.

Maybe if he found Bill and apologized everything would be okay again. He wasnít even sure where Bill had gone . . . heíd lost sight of him as heíd run toward the bar.

The piano in the lounge began playing, louder than it had before. The opening notes were immediately familiar, but he didnít think about it very long. He wasnít in the mood to listen to any music at that point.

As the music reached the end of the introduction he expected it to continue instrumentally, but he was startled when a voice cut in, overtaking the piano in volume and intensity. The voice was the exact opposite of what one might expect from a lounge singer . . . it was high and scratchy, stretching to reach the higher notes but sincere nonetheless. Ted sat, listening with surprise at the familiar voice as it sang in earnest.

"When you're weary, feeling small . . . when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all . . . . "

Slowly Ted got to his feet. He stood for a moment, listening. Finally he reached down to pick up his rucksack by the strap and slowly made his way down the stairs. As he approached the lounge he slowed even more, stopping before leaning to peer into the dark area.

"Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down . . . . "
Ted stepped into the lounge, walking over to the piano where Bill was standing, singing with all of his heart. Occasionally he would look down to check the next lyrics, but otherwise he watched as Ted approached, his voice becoming more intense, not to mention his voice cracking even more on the high notes.

Ted sat down in a chair near the piano and set his rucksack down, seemingly entranced by Billís performance. He was startled when the bartender suddenly approached and set down an ice cola with a tiny umbrella in it next to him. He smiled in thanks, then continued to watch Bill.

"When you're down and out, when you're on the street . . . when evening falls so hard, I will comfort you. I'll take your part . . . oh, when darkness comes . . . . and pain is all around. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down . . . ."

Ted nodded his head in time with the music, feeling it with all his heart. As Bill began the third voice he joined in . . . he knew the lyrics well. Together they sang, their voices full of nothing but the purest truth, although the bartender could be spotted sticking his fingers in his ears and cringing at their feeble attempts to stay in tune. The piano player remained nonplused, providing an unwavering, dramatic orchestration to this touching scene.

"Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine . . . . "

Bill stepped forward now, taking over the vocals. "If you need a friend . . . I'm sailing right behind. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind . . . Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your miiiiiiii-iii-iiiiiiind!"
The bartenderís cringing would most likely echo the opinions of most people if theyíd overheard this final attempt at a prolonged, high note. But to Ted it was the most melodious sound heíd ever heard.

Bill set the microphone back in its place and picked up his glass before stepping over to Tedís table. Ted smiled at him warmly as Bill raised his glass toward him.

"Friends?" he asked with a smile.

Ted lifted his glass and raised it to clink Billís. "Forever, dude."

The both took a long drink, then smiled at one another.

"Thatís one of my momís favorite songs," Ted pointed out.

"Yeah, well, Queen doesnít sound so good on just the piano," Bill explained. He set down his glass and motioned with his head. "Letís get some sleep."

"Good idea," Ted said, also setting down his drink to follow his friend. Thinking twice they each paused to retrieve the umbrellas from their glasses.

As they exited the bar, Bill turned back to the piano player and gave the man a thankful wave. The man waved back, smiling broadly.

They said nothing as they made their way to the roof, settling down to get some sleep. Ted stretched out on his side, using his rucksack as a lumpy pillow. "Bill," he said quietly.

"What Ted?"

Ted looked at him in earnest. "Letís not ever fight again. Okay?"

Bill nodded. "No way, dude. Never again." He sat up clumsily. "Weíll make a pact." Ted propped himself up on one elbow and watched as Bill held his hand in front of his own face and spit into his palm. "A spit pact . . . . "

Ted likewise lifted his right hand and spit into his open palm, then reached out and shook hands with Bill.

"We promise to never ever fight again, especially not over a girl!" Bill said solemnly.

"Totally!" Ted shook Billís hand especially hard.

They let go and immediately each of them looked at their pact hand. Ted looked up at Bill and smirked. "And letís promise to never ever do a spit pact again."

"Agreed!" Bill said readily.

They wiped their hands off on their pants in disgust.

"Ďnight, Bill," Ted said, laying down on his back.

"Ďnight, dude." Bill lay down perpendicular to Ted, resting his head on his friendís stomach.

Unbeknownst to either of them, a pair of eyes had been watching them from a window above. The blonde gentleman recognized the two young boys from the Japanese restaurant. He stepped aside to a table where a cassette player was sitting. Pulling out the cassette tape from his pocket, he slipped it into the machine before picking up the player and setting it on the windowsill. Quietly he positioned the player on the sill. Looking down at the boys, who had settled down to sleep, he pressed the play button and adjusted the volume, then stepped away.

Bill was startled when a familiar song began playing from above. He looked up to see the open window and the cassette player, but no one was in sight. He sighed, leaning back against Ted, whose breathing had already become slow and steady as he slept. The strains of Pink Floyd wafted down surrealistically in the dark, and Bill found the lyrics to "Brain Damage" oddly appropriate.

"There's someone in my head but it's not me . . . . "

Bill closed his eyes, trying to block out the memory of how heíd acted toward Ted. Lately he found himself so frustrated and full of anger, he didnít feel like himself sometimes. One thing was certain, though, he didnít want to ever risk losing Tedís friendship again. Not for anything in the world.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Weíll get to the bottom of whatís going on, all right!" The head waiter hit the record button on the video camera he had set up on a tripod near the door of the dining room. "I got this camera on loan from my brother whoís in television production."

"Iíve heard ghosts donít show up on film or video!" the waiter pointed out.

"Yes, but plates and silverware donít move around all by themselves!" the head waiter said dramatically. "All we have to do is wait and see what happens! Now come on!"

"Why donít we just wait in here to see what happens?" the waiter asked, chasing after his boss as they headed for the kitchen.

"Every time itís happened no one has been in the room! Just think, if we can catch something on video, we can sell it for a fortune!"

"Whatever you say . . . I donít know, though . . . I donít think the ghosts will like it . . . . "

The two men stepped into the kitchen to help the chef prepare the morning buffet. Moments after they left Bill and Ted showed up looking for their morning meal. Since they had been through this routine twice before they didnít speak to each other, they simply headed for the buffet table to get the plates and silverware.

As Ted entered behind Bill he tripped over something, but didnít stop to pay attention to what it was. They worked silently until all the places were set, then helped themselves to the usual muffin and pancakes and turned to leave.

When Ted passed by the video camera he happened to look down and saw the electrical cord was laying awkwardly across the floor. With some embarrassment he realized this was what he tripped on earlier and it had come unplugged. He quickly bent down and plugged the camera back into the wall then exited the dining room behind Bill.

They sat together on the bottom steps of the stairs near the lounge, eating their food contentedly, when the elevator doors opened and a portly, middle-aged woman appeared. She looked quite agitated and stood looking about in confusion for a moment before rushing to the front desk. From their vantage point they could see something was going on but they couldnít quite hear what anyone was saying, so they only gave the scene their vaguest attention.

"Oh itís terrible! Itís just horrible! Itís gone, I tell you! Gone!!!"

The female desk clerk stood staring at this woman with a blank look on her face. "Iím sorry, maíam, but whatís gone??"

"My ring, my beautiful ring! Itís gone from my room! Someoneís stolen it!"

The manager came running out of his office at the sound of the womanís cries. "Please, calm down, maíam. Explain to me whatís happened."

"I will not calm down!" the woman cried. "My priceless diamond ring is gone! Iíve searched my entire room and I canít find it anywhere! Iím afraid someone may have stolen it!"

"I assure you, maíam, our staff are all very honest. Iím sure no one has stolen your ring."

"Well, then where could it have gone? Iíll hold this hotel responsible if itís not found!"

"Weíll find it, I promise you!" the manager insisted. "Please, have a seat and Iíll send the maid upstairs with you to search."

"Of all the things . . . never have I encountered such a thing! It would have to be my ring . . . itís been in my family for generations." The woman muttered to herself, fanning her face with a handkerchief as she took a seat in the lobby.

"Call the housemaid who handles her room," the manager said sternly to the desk clerk.

"Right away, sir," the clerk answered, picking up the house phone to speak to the maidís office.

"May I offer you some coffee while you wait?" the manager offered the woman.

"Oh no, Iím far too upset!" the woman cried.

After a short time the maid entered the lobby. Bill and Ted recognized her as the same maid who had locked her passkey inside a guest room. They looked at each other worriedly as the manager approached her and spoke to her sharply.

"Did you clean this womanís room?" the manager asked under his voice so the woman could not hear them. "Room 409?"

The maid looked to the woman. "Yes, I clean the room, the past two days she been here."

"Sheís lost a diamond ring! Have you seen it?"

The maid immediately picked up on the implication and her mouth dropped open. "No, I clean the room but I no see any ring!"

"Weíre going to search that room from top to bottom and that ring had better show up!" the manager growled, then turned to his office.

"I need to get my passkey!" the maid cried, frightened by the tone in the managerís voice.

"Weíll use mine," the manager said. "Iíll get it from my office! Wait here!"

The manager stormed into his office as Bill and Ted walked by, heading for the front doors.

"Donít cry, maíam!" the maid said to the woman, trying to comfort her. "We will find your ring, I am sure!"

"Ring?" Bill asked, coming to a stop. He stepped forward with Ted right behind. "Excuse me, rich-looking lady, but did you lose a ring?"

"Yes, I did!" the woman sobbed.

"A gold ring with a gaudy big fake-looking rhinestone?" Ted asked further.

"Youíve seen it!" the woman cried, jumping up from her seat. "Where did you see it?"

"We found it the day before yesterday," Bill explained. "We gave it to the front desk lady to give to you."

"Oh yes, I remember," the desk clerk said. "What room was it again?"

"Room 409," the woman said hopefully. "Oh, is it there?"

The woman looked into the cubby hole for Room 409. "Itís not here! But I know I put it up here that night!"

"No one told me I had anything waiting for me at the front desk!" the woman said, looking as if she would burst into tears again.

"There is something in hole 405!" the maid pointed out. "Could that be it?"

The desk clerk turned to see the corner of an envelope sticking out of the cubby hole for Room 405. She pulled it out and saw it had the number 409 written on the front of it.

"Thatís it!" Bill confirmed.

"Iím so sorry!" the desk clerk gasped, handing the envelope to the woman who proceeded to rip it open. "I must have put it into the wrong slot!"

"My ring!" the woman gasped with relief. "Oh, itís my ring! Oh, thank heavens!"

"Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?" the desk clerk asked sincerely.

"Oh no, everythingís fine as long as I have my ring back! Oh thank you!" She turned to the maid. "And Iím so sorry, I didnít mean to get you into any trouble."

"I am so glad you find it!" the maid smiled.

"And as for you two young men . . . " the woman said, turning on Bill and Ted. " . . . I think you deserve some kind of reward."

"Thatís okay!" Bill said, holding up his hands. He was worried the hotel manager would come out and he didnít really want to have to face the man after what had happened in the Japanese restaurant the night before.

"No, no! You turned my ring in and that deserves a reward." She dug into her purse for her billfold and pulled out some money. "Here is fifty dollars for each of you!"

"Whoa!" Bill gasped, taking the money from her. He stared at it in disbelief. "Fifty dollars each??"

"No way!" Ted gasped in awe.

"We canít accept this!" Bill said, trying to hand the money back.

"I insist!" the woman said, snapping shut her billfold and putting it back into her purse. "Honesty deserves to be rewarded."

"Whoa, thanks lady!" Bill said, spotting the manager getting ready to leave his office. "Címon, Ted."

"Weíre glad we could help you get your gaudy ring back!" Ted added as Bill grabbed his arm and pulled him out the front door.

"Now that everythingís settled, I am hungry!" the woman decided aloud. "I think I will partake of the buffet!"

The manager rushed out of his office and headed toward the elevator. "All right, letís go look for the . . . for the . . . . " He stopped when he realized everyone was strangely calm all of a sudden.

"Oh, everythingís settled . . . Iíve got my ring and Iím going to have breakfast. Excuse me!" The woman walked past him.

The manager stood, stunned. The maid and desk clerk waited for him to say something, but for once he was struck dumb. Before he could gather his thoughts enough to speak the dining room door flew open and the waiter and head waiter came racing into the lobby, nearly knocking over the middle-aged woman in their hurry.

"Itís unbelievable!" the waiter cried excitedly as the head waiter rushed to the desk clerk.

"Give me the phone! I need an outside line!" the head waiter insisted.

The desk clerk handed over the phone and turned to the switchboard to make the connection.

"It is unbelievable!" the waiter gasped, grabbing the startled maid by her shoulders. "The dishes are not there and then . . . poof! They are there!" His eyes grew as large as saucers. "Itís a great mystery!"

The manager finally found his tongue and stepped forward. "What are you babbling about? And why arenít the two of you in there getting the buffet going?"

"This canít wait!" the head waiter said, then turned his attention to the phone. "Hello? Yes, get me Hollywood!"

"It is unbelievable!" the waiter cried, falling to his knees. "Unbelievable!"

"What is it?" the maid asked, getting nervous.

"The hotel . . . is haunted!" the waiter said in a voice of awe.

The maidís eyes grew wide. "Haunted? Oh no, no, I no work with ghosts!!"

"Keep your voice down!" the manager growled, walking over to the waiter and pulling him up to his feet. He then turned to the maid, who stood trembling. "The hotel is not haunted! The only spirits around here are the ones these two have obviously been drinking!"

"We have proof!" the waiter insisted. "On videotape! We will make the hotel famous!"

"I donít know the number!" the head waiter was shouting, as if to cover the distance between Hollywood and himself by volume alone. "The last name is Nimoy . . . N - I - M - O . . . yeah like in Spock!"

"Maybe call Captain Kirk?" the waiter chimed in hopefully, trying to be helpful.

"Keep quiet, you twit!" the head waiter snapped, covering the mouthpiece with his hand. "Iím trying to get in touch with that show, ĎIn Search Of . . . Ď Theyíll pay us a fortune for a story like this!!!"

"Oh, oh! Good good!"

"Enough of this!" the manager huffed, stepping forward and grabbing the phone away from the head waiter before slamming it down on the hook. "You two, get back to the dining room now, or Iíll make ghosts out of both of you!" He turned to the maid. "You get back to cleaning rooms." He then turned to the desk clerk. "And you . . . well, you just stay where you are but get back to work!"

Everyone slunk back to their jobs. Feeling satisfied that he had brought order back to his hotel the manager straightened his jacket, stood up tall and marched back into his office.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Are you sure you boys can afford this?" the elderly woman asked, looking at the delicate porcelain cat they had brought to the counter.

Bill pulled the money out of his pocket and laid it on the counter. "Yes, maíam."

The elderly woman eyed the money with some concern, then looked up into the faces of the two hopeful young boys and softened. "This must be for someone very special!"

"It is," both Bill and Ted remarked simultaneously.

"Are you sure you want to spend so much money?" the woman asked, just to be sure.

"Most definitely!" Bill said without hesitation.

The woman shook her head, but took the money and began to make change. "Very well, then." She handed the fifteen dollars change back to Bill and then took the cat and began to wrap it into tissue paper. "Youíre lucky this was still here," the woman said as she worked. "A young woman was looking at it just the other day."

"We know . . . " Ted started to say, but Bill elbowed him gently. "Oh, really?"

"These are pretty rare," the woman explained. "At least in this particular size and color." She taped the tissue paper and then wrapped it again in brown paper. "Would you like a bag?"

"Yes, please!" Bill and Ted stated.

The woman smiled at the way these two boys spoke with one mind. She placed the wrapped cat into a bag and handed it over the counter to them. "Be careful with it! And I hope whoever receives it will truly appreciate it!"

"Thank you!" Bill said.

"Weíre sure she will!" Ted added.

The two walked out of the antique mall and headed back to the hotel.

"Here, Ted . . . put this in your backpack . . . only be careful not to break it!"

"No way, Bill!" Ted said, placing it into his bag gently. "What a stroke of luck we got that money!"

"It was most fortunate, Ted!" Bill agreed as they entered the lobby. "Now weíll have something nice to give her for her birthday, even though we are late."

"So . . . which of us will give it to her then?" Ted asked, nervously broaching the subject they had fought over the night before.

Bill stopped and faced Ted. "Itís gotta be her choice, right?"

Ted nodded, lowering his head slightly.

"So weíre agreed then . . . weíll let Melanie choose which of us she wants and whichever of us she doesnít want will just have to be okay with it, right?"

"Right," Ted agreed with a sharp nod of the head.

"And may the best dude win!" Bill added, holding out his hand.

They shook hands firmly.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The sky had darkened earlier than usual as storm clouds settled over the mountains. By early evening a heavy rain was falling. Bill and Ted sat patiently on the stairs near the lobby watching for Melanie, as they had for most of the day. The only time they had left their post was when the manager appeared. Then they would scurry to the second floor and hide until the coast was clear.

"Maybe she left, Bill," Ted said worriedly. "Maybe sheís not staying at this hotel any more."

"Naw, she woulda said something about it the night we had dinner together," Bill insisted.

"But we left so quickly . . . maybe she didnít have time to tell us," Ted said sadly.

Bill nodded. He hadnít thought about this before. "Maybe youíre right, Ted. That would be most heinous indeed."

They sat quietly as the pattering of rain on the glass ceiling above the pool slowed and finally stopped. The sky was dark now but the storm outside was still evident by the sound of a strong wind whipping around the building, causing the roof above the lobby to creak slightly.

"Iím hungry, Bill," Ted complained. "Maybe we should go try to find some leftover food in the corridors?"

"But what if we miss Melanie?" Bill asked.

Ted nodded, and so they continued to wait. But within moments the manager appeared below them, heading in their direction.

"Heads up, Ted! Here comes the manager dude again!" Bill said urgently as they got to their feet.

This time the manager saw them and started hurrying their way. "Wait! You two boys! I want to talk to you!"

"Címon, Ted!" Bill led the way as they hurried to the second floor then turned to run up the stairs to the roof. They ducked outside as the manager continued past the staircase and down the corridor, looking in a room several doors down where the soda and ice machine were located.

Bill and Ted stood miserably on the roof which had been their sanctuary the past several days, only it was fairly obvious it wouldnít be suitable for them this night. They crossed their arms tightly across their chests and stood close together, trying to stay warm against the cold wind that whipped all around them. Their was a definite dampness in the air and puddles of water spotted the roof from the earlier rainfall.

"D-d-dude!" Ted stammered through chattering teeth. "Whatíre we gonna do? We canít spend the night up here in the cold! And that manager dude is definitely after us now!"

"I know," Bill said worriedly, shivering all over. "This is a most egregious turn of events!"

"Maybe if we give him the cat it will pay for all the time weíve stayed here," Ted suggested.

Bill shook his head. "A noble gesture, Ted my friend, but somehow I donít think even that cat would cover as many nights as weíve been here."

Tedís eyes grew wide. "Whoa! How much does it cost to stay in a place like this?"

"More money than there is in the world!" Bill guessed.

Ted pressed closer to Bill as an especially strong wind came up. "We canít stay out here! Weíll freeze!"

"If only there were some way we could keep warm!" Bill sighed.

The moment Bill finished his sentence there was a bright flash which bathed everything around them in a blinding whitish-blue light as a streak shot down from the sky and struck one of the tall pine trees which towered on the hillside behind the hotel. This was all accompanied by an ear-splitting peal of thunder. Seconds later a huge section of the tree split off as they watched in shock.

"Ted, watch out!" Bill cried as they pressed themselves further into the doorframe where they were cowering.

The massive branch landed on top of the roof with a huge crash not far from where they were standing. They could feel the building shake beneath their feet, but soon all was quiet and they were left staring in disbelief as the long, twisted branch lay burning in front of them, the flames and smoke turning strangely in the wind.

Bill stepped forward cautiously, examining the burning branch with confusion, then he stared up into the sky. "I guess this is supposed to keep us warm?"

Ted stayed back, shaking his head vigorously. "No . . . no Bill! Itís on fire, thatís not good! It could burn the entire hotel down!"

The tone of Tedís voice made Bill nervous enough to step back. "We gotta do something then!"

For one moment they stared at each other in complete panic. Then they both shouted "FIRE!!!!" at the top of their lungs before pulling open the door and rushing down the stairs.

The manager had made his way to the far end of the corridor, still looking for the mysterious boys heíd seen hanging around his hotel the past few days, when a door slammed open somewhere and voices began shouting the one word no hotel manager ever wants to hear. He spotted the two boys coming down from the roof and headed toward them, but in the next instant doors along the corridor began to open as guests poked their heads out then ventured forth, curious as to what all the commotion was about.

"Let me through!" the manager insisted, pushing past the bustling crowd now filling the corridor.

"Fire! Fire!" Bill and Ted were shouting to no one in particular, running around pretty much in circles as they tried to decide what to do. The people coming out of their rooms were too stunned by such a display to know what to think.

"Ted!" Bill suddenly cried, having spotted a fire hose housed in glass on the wall. "Quick, we can use this!"

Bill took the hammer from its holder and smashed the glass. The hose came tumbling out and Bill grabbed up the end of it. "Turn the water on, dude!" he yelled to Ted over the din of confused voices and bodies now bustling in the hallway.

Ted grabbed the large red valve wheel and began turning it in earnest. It was at this moment the hotel manager broke through the crowd and lunged at them angrily. "What are you doing???"

Bill had braced himself somewhat but not nearly enough as the water came shooting out of the end of the hose. The pressure was so great that Bill couldnít begin to handle it. Water sprayed out every which way, whipping Bill around uncontrollably. He slammed against the wall and the blast of water shot straight into the manager, knocking him back into the amassing guests and sending them falling and scrambling, soaking wet, over one another.

"Hang on, dude!" Ted cried, trying to help Bill with the hose. Between the two of them they could somewhat handle the writhing instrument and together they struggled to pull it up the narrow staircase to the roof.

"Iíll kill them!" the manager screamed, trying to gather himself and get to his feet.

Two men who hadnít been knocked down by the water pushed themselves past the manager and followed the hose up the stairway where they found Bill and Ted trying to get it out the door at the top.

"Whatís happening?" one shouted.

"Thereís a fire on the roof!" Ted cried.

The men quickly took charge of the situation, one pushing past them to hold the door open as Bill, Ted and the other man pulled the hose out onto the roof. A bellboy and another man appeared, taking the hose from Bill and Ted and the four men worked together to quickly extinguish the fire. Bill and Ted stood back, exhausted from their battle with the hose.

As the fire disappeared completely into plumes of smoke, the manager raced onto the roof. "What is going on here?" he screamed.

Bill and Ted looked at each other nervously and then slipped behind the manager while his attention was diverted and ran down the stairs. They pushed their way past the growing crowd and hurried away as quickly as possible.

After running down the corridor and up several stairways to the fourth floor they managed to take cover in a supply closet and sat cowering in the dark, wet and panting with exhaustion.

Eventually their breathing relaxed. Bill could hear Ted rustling in his knapsack and a moment later he heard the sound of paper being crinkled.

"I think the catís okay," Ted reported in the dark. "At least it doesnít feel broken."

Bill didnít answer, he just leaned back against what felt like a mop and sighed deeply. They sat in silence a while more, each exhausted and worn.

Finally after a long time, Tedís small voice broke the silence. "Are we in big trouble?"

Bill felt sorry for getting Ted into this mess. He was determined not to let his friend know how worried he was, so he took a defensive attitude. "I donít see why we should be in trouble. We didnít do anything wrong!" Somehow he couldnít quite convince himself this was true.

There was another stretch of silence. Finally Ted asked the question Bill had been asking himself since theyíd taken cover in the storage closet.

"What are we going to do now?"

Bill sighed deeply to collect himself. "We should go back to the wilderness survival camp, Ted. Theyíll be sending us home day after tomorrow anyway."

"Youíre right, dude," Ted sighed.

Bill could hear Ted scuffling around, trying to get comfortable. "Weíll leave tomorrow then?"

"Yah," Bill confirmed quietly.

"Goodnight, Bill."

"ĎNight, Ted," Bill answered, settling himself down as well.

Bill already knew he wasnít going to get much sleep. It was even more improbable when Ted spoke up again after Bill was sure his friend had fallen fast asleep.

"How are we going to find our way back to the camp, anyway?"

This was the one thing Bill was trying his hardest not to think about. "Weíll figure it out tomorrow," he finally said, not knowing how else to answer.

* * * * * * * * * * *

They were falling . . . falling down a black hole . . . there seemed to be no end to it. Tumbling down and down, he could sense Ted was nearby but couldnít see him. Where were they and why was everything so dark?

For a moment Bill wasnít sure he was awake or that heíd opened his eyes. With a start he pushed himself up, and in the next moment something fell on top of him. Tedís voice rose in protest somewhere nearby but everything was black and for the next few moments it was also utter confusion and chaos.

Now completely awake Bill remembered where they were. "Whoa, hold up, dude!" he urged, reaching out to where he thought Ted was and finding his lower leg. "Itís okay. Weíre hiding out at the hotel, remember?"

"I know!" Ted said groggily. "Itís just that I was asleep until all of these mops and things fell on me!"

Bill rubbed his face, still trying to erase the memory of the strange dream heíd had. "Sorry about that, dude. Letís get out of here."

They somehow managed to get to their feet and Bill opened the door a crack, then ventured out further. "All clear, dude," he reported, and they exited the storage room, taking a moment to straighten themselves somewhat.

"Are we gonna head back to the camp now?" Ted asked.

"I guess so," Bill answered, then noticed the unhappy look on Tedís face. "Why, whatís the matter, dude?"

"Iím just hungry is all," Ted answered.

"We can get something to eat before we go!" Bill assured him. "Come on, weíll get a muffin or two to go."

They made their way down the stairs and to the lobby. They poked their heads around the corner to make sure the manager wasnít in sight, but what they saw surprised them. A full camera crew was set up in the lobby. Two men dressed as waiters were standing at the center of all the lights and attention as a man outside the camera range asked them questions.

"So is this the first time a ghost has been reported in this hotel, or is this just one of many unexplained incidents?"

The head waiter fidgeted slightly, unsure of how to answer. "Well, Iím not sure . . . I donít know if thereís been any ghost activity here before, do you?" He directed this last question to the waiter, who shrugged feebly.

"I can assure you there has never been any unexplained or supernatural happenings in this hotel at any time in itís history!" the manager barked from somewhere behind the camera crew.

The interview looked frustrated. "Do you mind? Weíll interview you later!"

Bill and Ted looked at each other and shrugged. They walked past the crew and into the dining room without anyone noticing them.

In no time at all they had the places set and had taken a couple of muffins each. As they exited the room they stood at the foot of the staircase, eating quickly so they could be on their way before the manager noticed them.

"Well, good morning!" a cheerful voice said from somewhere above.

They looked up to see Melanie walking down the stairs. Immediately they tried to wipe the muffin crumbs off their mouths and clothes.

"Good morning!" they chimed together.

"We didnít see you all day yesterday!" Ted said.

"I know, I went on a sightseeing tour yesterday," Melanie explained. "Itís a shame you couldnít come along, as it was quite interesting. This area has a lot of history."

"We donít know a lot about history," Bill admitted.

Melanie motioned to the dining room as the waiter passed by them and entered, then rushed out again in an excited fashion. "Are you going to have some breakfast?"

"Oh no," Bill said. "We already got something."

"Yeah, we set the tables, too, just to be helpful," Ted further explained.

Melanie began to laugh, which made Bill and Ted look at each other questioningly.

"Whatís so funny?" Bill finally asked.

Melanie covered her mouth, not wanting to make them feel bad. "Iím sorry," she said sincerely. "Itís just that you donít set the tables at a buffet."

"You donít?" Ted asked in a mortified fashion.

"No!" Melanie giggled, unable to help herself. "People take their plates and silverware as they come in."

Bill looked at Ted worriedly, then motioned for him to follow him into the dining room. "Come on, dude!"

Melanie watched as they hurried into the room and allowed herself to laugh more freely when they were out of earshot. She didnít mean it malevolently, it was just so innocent and sweet of them to do something so nice but misguided.

The waiter was desperately trying to get the producerís attention, but the man was busy trying to set up the close up interview he planned to do with the head waiter.

"Sir! Sir! Sir!" the waiter repeatedly chanted.

"Yes, well I think the camera should be a bit lower and . . . oh will you stop bothering me? Weíll get to your one on one interview in a moment!"

The waiter stood, biting his knuckles as he waited for the producer to finish what he was doing.

Melanie watched as Bill and Ted exited the dining room and stopped in front of her. "Itís all put back right!" Bill exclaimed happily.

"Well, why didnít you say something before???" a voice boomed from the lobby. Moments later the producer was following the waiter and head waiter into the dining room. Melanie, Bill and Ted stood by, utterly perplexed. The next thing they heard was the producer yelling "Is this some kind of joke?" as the producer exited the room with the waiter and head waiter following them.

"Honestly, it happened again! I swear it!" the waiter insisted.

"I donít know what to make of all this!" the producer moaned, rubbing his head. "If you guys are pulling some kind of hoax . . . . "

"No, no!" the head waiter insisted. "What about the video we gave you??"

"Yeah, about that video," a production crew member said as he entered the lobby, having just exited the production van outside. "I just took a look at it. Someone started and stopped the tape to make it look like the stuff appeared and disappeared." He shot an accusing look at the waiters. "A cheap trick."

"What??" the producer yelled. He turned on the now cowering waiters. "Oh Leonard Nimoy is not going to like this!"

"But . . . but . . . . " the head waiter stammered.

"Okay, pack everything up! Weíre out of here!" the producer yelled.

"Thank goodness!" the manager sighed, turning to go to his office.

"But we saw it! It really happened!" the waiter cried.

Bill, Ted and Melanie had all watched this scene, then turned to each other.

"What was that all about?" she asked.

"No idea," Bill said, then looked at Ted. He figured now was the time that he and Ted broach the subject of Melanie choosing which of them she was interested in. After this morning there would be no other chance. "Um, Melanie . . . thereís something we want to talk to you about."

"Yes?" Melanie asked with a smile. "What is it?"

"Well, um . . . . " Bill looked to Ted for support and Ted motioned for him to continue, but he couldnít think how to.

"What my friend Bill is trying to say," Ted stepped in. "Is, uh . . . well see . . . we both really like you a lot!"

"Thatís so sweet!" Melanie said. "I really like the both of you a lot, too!"

Ted looked down at his shoes and shifted his weight, feeling more awkward by the minute. "Yeah, well see . . . thatís what we have to talk about . . . . "

He was going to continue but when he looked up he saw Melanie had turned to the stairway and was greeting a man who had reached the bottom of the stairs. Much to their shock he grabbed her into a big hug and they kissed passionately.

"Whoa!" Bill and Ted gasped.

Melanie turned and saw them looking at her and smiled. "Oh, I almost forgot. I want you to meet the two young men I told you about," she said to the tall, handsome man, leading him over to them. "Bill and Ted, I want you to meet my husband, Mike."

"So youíre the two young men who are trying to steal my wife away from me?" Mike said in a deep, ominous voice.

Bill and Ted stepped back slightly, completely taken aback. A million thoughts ran through Billís mind. He wanted to smack himself in the head for not even thinking of checking to see if Melanie was wearing a wedding ring, which obviously now he could see she was. And now here was her husband, obviously aware of everything that had happened and probably ready to kick their butts for even thinking about hooking up with his wife.

"Look, we can explain!" Bill sputtered quickly.

"No need, boys!" Mike said, stepping forward to where he towered over them. They closed their eyes and cringed as he raised his arms, but much to their surprise he slapped his hands down on their shoulders. "Melanie has told me how you kept her company while I was working on a business deal. I want to thank you for looking out for her while I was busy."

"Oh, um . . . no problem, dude!" Bill assured him, his voice cracking slightly. "It was out pleasure!" He hoped he wasnít turning too red, as he felt he could have choked on his embarrassment at that moment. Ted looked similarly mortified.

Melanie watched as a very meek waiter and head waiter walked into the dining room, the head waiter taking a swipe at the waiter with his hat. "I think theyíre ready to start breakfast now," she said.

"Would you boys care to join us?" Mike asked.

"Uh, no thatís okay!" Bill assured him. "Weíve already eaten!"

"Suit yourselves," Mike said, stepping back to Melanie and kissing her again. "I sure missed you, honey."

"I missed you, too," Melanie smiled, hugging him tighter. "I wish you could have been here for my birthday!"

A panic-stricken look crossed Mikeís face which Bill and Ted could see but which Melanie couldnít. He looked at them worriedly and they nodded at him. It was clear he had completely forgotten his wifeís birthday.

"Oh but youíre here now!" Melanie said happily, pulling back and then kissing him again. "Letís get breakfast!"

They moved to walk into the dining room.

"Dude, hold up!" Bill called softly after Melanie had walked through the door ahead of Mike.

Mike stopped and then stepped back to Bill. "What?"

Bill motioned for Ted to turn around and opened the backpack, taking out the paper package and handing it to Mike. "Here . . . you can give this to Melanie for her birthday."

"Huh?" Mike took the package and looked at it with guilt. "I canít believe I completely forgot her birthday. Itís this job . . . itís taking up so much of my time, yet she never complains."

"Sheís a very special person," Ted said seriously. "She deserves to be treated like a princess."

Mike nodded, then held up the package. "You sure?"

They nodded. "Totally," Bill added.

"Thanks, boys," Mike said, shaking their hands, " . . . for everything."

He turned to walk back into the dining room. Bill and Ted watched until he disappeared, then turned to leave.

"I hope Melanie likes it," Ted said sadly.

"She will, dude," Bill smiled. "And I think they will be very happy for a long time."

Ted smiled at his friend. "Excellent!"

They both shared an enthusiastic air guitar riff before walking toward the front doors.

"Now I just hope we can find out way back to the camp!" Bill said anxiously.

Before they could reach the door each of them felt a firm hand clamp on their shoulders and pull them backwards. "Ah ha!" the managed shouted triumphantly, yanking them hard.

"Whoa, whatís up, surly manager dude?" Bill protested, twisting to wrench his shoulder free from the manís grasp.

"Donít dude me!" the man said, pointing a finger at Bill in the most accusing manner he could muster. "I want to know who you boys are! What are you doing here? Who are you with?"

"Well, see . . . . " Bill threw a desperate look at Ted.

"We were just, um . . . . " Ted attempted just as feebly.

"Thatís it!" the manager stated boldly. "I want the names of your parents right now!"

"Is there a problem here?"

The cool, British voice took them all by surprise. They all turned to see Mr. Jones standing beside the front desk, his eyes obscured behind dark glasses.

"Iíve caught these boys freeloading off this hotel!" the manager proclaimed proudly.

"Oh really?" Mr. Jones said cooly. "From what I can see you owe these boys a great deal of thanks."

"I owe them thanks?" the manager laughed. "What for? For loitering in my hotel? For stealing food and causing a commotion at every turn? For turning on a fire hose in my hallway and causing expensive water damage?"

"All I know is if these boys hadnít been on the roof last night that burning branch might have set the hotel on fire. Also they acted pretty quickly in getting that fire hose up there to put the fire out. I saw the entire thing from my window."

The manager was taken aback, then stood resolutely. "Still, they are without guardians and must be turned over to the authorities!" the manager insisted.

"I guess I didnít make myself clear," Mr. Jones said, remaining as calm as ever. "Theyíre with me."

Bill and Ted looked at each other in shock, then looked up at Mr. Jones. The looks on their faces didnít fool the manager, but he obviously didnít want to argue with the man. "Youíre taking responsibility for them?"

"Any damage you feel they caused I am willing to pay for," Mr. Jones assured him.

"Oh no, that wonít be necessary Mr. Jones. I had no idea you would vouch for the boys."

"Neither did we!" Ted gasped.

"Shut up, Ted!" Bill hissed through his teeth.

"I leave them with you then!" the manager bowed, heading into his office and muttering in frustration under his breath.

Mr. Jones watched the manager as he walked away. "That man is going to give himself an ulcer worrying so much."

Bill and Ted smiled and followed Mr. Jones as he walked to the front door. "Whoa, how can we ever thank you, Mr. Jones, dude?" Bill asked excitedly.

"Why donít you start by telling me where you came from?" Mr. Jones asked, turning to talk to them as if they were adults.

"San Dimas!" Ted answered.

"No, I think he means where we came from around here," Bill explained to Ted. "We were at the nearby wilderness survival camp."

"Yeah, but it was bogus so we bailed," Ted admitted with some shame.

"Ah, I see!" Mr. Jones said thoughtfully. "Well, I canít say I blame you boys. Camping is indeed, as you say it, bogus."

"Definitely!" Bill agreed, happy to find an adult who finally seemed to understand. "Only we gotta go back today or theyíll wonder where we are."

"And we gotta catch the bus back home, too," Ted added.

"I see . . . well, I think I can help you boys." Mr. Jones whistled and motioned to a long, black limousine which was parked a short distance away. "My limo driver will take you. He seems to know where everything is."

"No way!" Bill and Ted gasped as the limousine pulled up in front of them.

Mr. Jones stepped forward and opened the door for them. "Itís no trouble," he said.

"Wait! Oh please, wait!" a womanís voice called from behind them.

Bill and Ted stopped in time to see the maid they had helped early come running outside. She was carrying two plastic covered bundles, which she handed to them. "Please, take these. Complimentary robes. Only you help me so very much . . . is least I can do!"

"Whoa, thank you!" Bill said, looking at the robe which had decorative gold embroidery with the hotelís name, Cool Breeze Mountain Hotel, on the front.

"This is most excellent of you!" Ted agreed.

"Is no problem," the maid assured them, hurrying back into the hotel. "Adios!"

"Adios, maid babe!" Bill and Ted called after her.

"Gentlemen?" Mr. Jones asked, motioning to the limousine.

Bill and Ted hopped into the spacious back seat of the vehicle and stretched out, taking in their surroundings. Mr. Jones leaned into the limo and addressed the driver. "Take these boys back to the local wilderness survival camp, will you?"

"Certainly, Mr. Jones," the man said, turning to look at the occupants of the back seat.

Bill started, pointing at the man. "Hey, youíre the piano player dude! Whatíre you doiní driving a limo?"

"Itís a part time gig," the driver smiled.

"Thanks ever so much, Mr. Jones!" Ted said. "You are one most excellent wealthy dude!"

"No problem," Mr. Jones said, stepping back and shutting the door. As the car started up he motioned for Ted to roll down the window, which Ted did. "By the way," he said, leaning slightly into the car and lowering his sunglasses to look at them as he pulled something from his pocket. "Thank you for having ĎA Space Oddityí on your audio cassette." He handed the tape to Ted with a wink and pulled back as the limousine pulled away from the curb.

Bill sat with his mouth hanging open as Ted sat smiling vacantly. "That Mr. Jones is a really outstanding dude!" Ted smiled.

"Dude . . . do you know who that Mr. Jones is?" Bill asked in awe.

"No, who?" Ted asked.

Bill slapped Tedís knee. "Dude . . . that was David Bowie!"

Ted looked at Bill skeptically. "No way!"

"Yes way, Ted! Yes way!"

"No . . . way!!!!" Ted repeated.

"Yes way," the driver confirmed from the front seat.

"It all makes sense, dude!" Bill said excitedly. "His name is actually David Jones!"

"Whoa, you mean he was with the Monkees once?" Ted asked in disbelief.

"No, David Jones of the Monkees had the name first . . . well, after that David Jones with the locker."

"Thereís a kid named David Jones with a locker in our school?" Ted asked, confused.

"No, listen dude . . . David Jones of the Monkees was named David Jones first, so David Jones who would become David Bowie had to change his name from Jones to Bowie so people wouldnít think he was a Monkee. Get it?"

Ted smiled. "And you said you donít know anything about history!"

"You two seem to know your rock and roll," the limo driver said.

"Weíre gonna start a band!" Ted informed him.

"Yeah, why couldnít our parents send us to band camp?" Bill asked rhetorically.

"That sounds most excellent!" the limo driver said. "Iím sure youíll be a big success one day!"

Bill and Ted enjoyed the limousine drive, taking in all the special gadgets and amazed at the fully stocked bar and television set. They recounted for the limo driver all of their adventures at the hotel and talked about all of the great people they had met.

"Iím certainly glad the two of you became friends again," the driver said.

"Ted and I could never not be friends," Bill said firmly.

"No way, weíre best friends for life!" Ted agreed.

"Excellent! And now I believe weíre at your camp."

Sure enough they could see the big sign pointing up a dirt driveway which clearly said Camp Cordillera.

"Whoa, what do you think the other kids will say when they see us drive up in a limo?" Ted asked.

"I think it might be best if I drop you off out here and you walk to the camp, donít you think?" the driver asked.

"The dudeís right," Bill agreed. "We donít want anyone asking us where weíve been!"

The limousine pulled to the side of the road and Bill and Ted got out, walking around to the passenger side window which the driver rolled down.

Bill leaned down to talk through the window. "How can we ever thank you, Mr. . . . um . . . ."

The driver took of his sunglasses and smiled at them. "Call me Rufus. And no need for thanks. Who knows? One day I may be thanking you!"

Bill and Ted looked at each other and shrugged, not understanding what Rufus meant. "Okay, dude, take it easy!"

"Yeah, party on!" Ted smiled, giving Rufus a hang loose sign.

Rufus returned the sunglasses to his face and waved at the boys before driving off down the road.

"Bill," Ted said happily, "camping has turned out to be a most excellent adventure!"

"Indeed it has, Ted," Bill agreed as they headed for the camp. "Indeed it has."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"WHAT?? How could they be missing???"

The young counselor who had broke the news to the camp director stood shaking in his shorts. "I . . . I donít know. When the groups came back this morning we did a total head count and they turned up . . . missing."

The camp director paced, beside himself with worry. "I donít understand . . . how did this happen . . . how could this happen? We have safeguards against this kind of thing, donít we?"

The counselor shook his head as if he were completely lost. "I donít know! All I know is none of the groups wanted them with them, so they kept shuffling them off to the other groups! Somewhere in the shuffling . . . they disappeared."

The camp director threw a worried look at the lines of weary and worn boys that had returned from their wilderness survival experience looking exhausted and hungry after what was supposed to be a life-affirming, enriching experience. "This is a disaster," he moaned. "A complete disaster! Those boys could never survive out in the woods alone!" He began pacing again. "Weíve never lost any boys before . . . never!"

The counselor was nervously biting his nails now as he waited for the camp director to stop pacing. At last he did, looking as if heíd made his decision. "We need to send out a search party, immediately! Those boys must be found, now!"

"Yes, sir!" the counselor saluted, and ran to the nearest cabin to make the call for help.

"Weíll comb every inch of this wilderness to find them! Weíll call in the Rescue Patrol and have them search day and night! By God weíll . . . weíll . . . . "

The manís voice trailed off as a strange sound reached his ears. The boys also all looked around curiously, trying to figure out where it was coming from. Even the counselor on the phone paused in his dialing with a bewildered look on his face.

" . . . . it's been no bed of roses, no pleasant cruise; I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain't gonna lose . . . And I need to go on and on and on and on . . . . "

Every mouth in Camp Corillera dropped wide open as Bill and Ted appeared, walking casually down the dirt driveway which led into camp, singing at the top of their lungs.
"We are the champions - my friend, and we'll keep on fighting till the end . . . we are the champions, we are the champions; No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions . . . . "

Bill and Ted reached the camp director and stopped in front of him, standing at attention.

"Greetings, camp director, dude!" Bill proclaimed happily.

"And greetings fellow wilderness survival campers!" Ted added, addressing the stunned boys who stood staring at them in disbelief.

"I expect everyone is feeling refreshed and invigorated from their most outstanding wilderness survival experiences?" Bill surmised.

The camp director walked over to the counselor, who had hung up the phone and stood in complete bewilderment. They looked at one another, perplexed.

"I wonít tell anyone if you wonít," the counselor suggested.

"My lips are sealed," the camp director assured him.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ted carried the suitcases into Billís bedroom and set them down on the bed as Bill entered behind him.

"Thanks, dude!" Bill said sincerely.

"Iím just glad to be back home again, even if itís your home," Ted said, pulling the backpack from his shoulders with a sigh of relief. "It was nice of your dad to pick us up from the bus stop."

"Your dad should be very pleased you completed wilderness survival camp!" Bill said hopefully, opening his suitcase to unpack his best suit and lay it out on the bed. "Maybe next summer heíll let you stay home!"

"Then we can practice our guitars, when we get them!" Ted dreamed.

"Letís go down to the garage and figure out where weíll set up the bandstand when we do get guitars!" Bill suggested.

"Excellent!" Ted yelled happily, and the boys raced from the room, bumping into Billís mother in the doorway.

"Your dad says you had a fun time at camp, Bill."

"Yeah, it was totally non-heinous mom. See ya later!"

Mrs. Preston watched as Bill and Ted ran down the stairs, almost running into Mr. Preston who was on his way up.

"Well what do you make of that?" Mr. Preston asked, stepping into Billís room with his wife as she walked to Billís bed and picked up his suit.

"What makes a boy take a good suit to camp?" she wondered aloud, sneering at the wrinkled outfit. "Iíll have to take it to the dry cleaners now."

"I think the experience will build character in him," Mr. Preston surmised. "Yep, I think it was probably good for him to get out there and rough it in the wild. It certainly didnít seem to do him any harm!"

"If you say so," Mrs. Preston said with some disinterest.

Mr. Preston turned to leave the room when his wife stopped him, turning to hold up a luxurious bathrobe with a confused look on her face.

"Eugene . . . do you remember . . . did we ever stay at the Cool Breeze Mountain Hotel?"

THE END