Chapter 5

Dani may have looked like an old rust bucket - and sure enough, she did have more than a few rust spots freckling her white body - but Dipper was so well acquainted with her that it was no trouble for him to drive the car the whole mile to the Mystery Shack in thirty seconds. And that was taking into account all the sharp turns and random passersby that kept entering the streets.

"Wow," said Sydney once they had arrived at the Mystery Shack, now with its "K" hanging down off the roof just like the "S." "No wonder you didn't let your sister eat her ice cream in the car."

Dipper smiled, but then it vanished from his face as he turned to the car, where Mabel was kicking up her feet against the back of the passenger seat. "Mabel, out," he said. "Just get inside and don't do anything. Okay?"

"Sure thing," said Mabel, emerging from the car and skipping up to the house, humming all the while. Just as she reached the door, she stopped and turned to Dipper, yelling, "Dipper! That stupid song of yours is stuck in my head again! Thanks a bunch!"

"You don't knock Miss Jackson, Miss Jackson knocks you!" Dipper called back.

Sydney perked up at the sound of the song's name. "You know the Miss Jackson song? That's my mom's favorite! Climbin' out the back door, didn't leave a mark..."

"...no one knows it's you, Miss Jackson!" Dipper completed the line. Mabel rolled her eyes dramatically, then re-entered the house. "Damn, that's gotta be the most addictive song ever made. Thanks very much for the free drug habit, Panic! At The Disco! All right then, here goes nothing," said Dipper, leading Sydney into the store and up to the vending machine. He pressed the combination into the keypad, opening the hidden door so he and Sydney could descend the stairs into the basement.

The basement, as it had been for quite a long time, was cluttered and dusty. On the wall, a number of small screens showed images of Gravity Falls itself, live feeds from a vast array of cameras positioned all over the town. In one corner, a small metal rod shot out little pink sparks of electricity at random intervals. Next to this rod was an old Mason jar full of what appeared to be black sand. Sydney picked it up to take a look.

"WHOA! NEVER TOUCH THAT!" Dipper yelled, stunning Sydney so much she nearly dropped the jar.

"Gosh," said Sydney. "I didn't know this sandy stuff was so important to you."

Dipper made an exasperated noise. "It's not sand," he groused. "It's the stuff that's been causing the power to go out."

"What?"

"I've got a bunch of jars just like this," said Dipper, opening the cabinet underneath the metal rod and revealing more jars full of black sand-y stuff. "If you open them, the stuff gets out and cuts off all the power. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it's some kind of nanite. You know, a mini-robot?" Sydney looked blankly back at Dipper. "It's basically a little metal thing that floats in the air, about the size of an atom, and it probably eats electricity or something."

"Probably?" Sydney asked.

Dipper held up the metal rod. "And this," he said, "is like a counter-agent to the nanites. It keeps some kind of anti-nanite field going all over the town, but it doesn't kill them all. More like 99%. Put it this way - in the old days, they had this stuff called Purell, you'd wash your hands with it to get rid of bacteria and stuff. But it only had a 99% success rate. So where do the other 1% go?"

"They reproduce and carry on the immunity to the Purell?" Sydney guessed.

"Which is exactly why we in Gravity Falls chose to ban it," Dipper said. "That, and it stinks to high hell. This rod is like the Purell for these nanites. It keeps killing most of them, but then every few hours enough nanites have survived and reproduced to overwhelm it and shut it down, for a couple of minutes, anyway."

Sydney scratched her head. "And you know when they've reproduced enough because...?"

Dipper pulled a pair of small foldable goggles out of his pocket and put them on. "I developed these to see the world as the nanites do," he said. "It's actually pretty amazing stuff, really. They even let you see things going on far away."

"So you've got some kind of psychic invention?" Sydney asked.

"Exactly," said Dipper. "You wanna try? I got a spare pair." He rifled through another drawer and pulled out an identical set of goggles, which he handed off to Sydney. "Now to turn 'em on, just squeeze the frame here, like so." He demonstrated with his own goggles and instantly saw a faintly green-tinted view of another room, somewhere else. A group of people were standing outside, with one man standing inside.

As Sydney's image appeared next to his, signaling that she too had entered the virtual view, Dipper tilted his head to see what the other people were doing. Then, out of nowhere, the one man inside the room pulled a gun and shot the button he'd just pressed.

"Wait, what?" Dipper asked, his voice muffled by the nanite buzz. He took a look at the nearby screen. "Oh no. Oh crap. That's not good."

"What is it?" asked Sydney.

"If I'm not mistaken, this guy" - Dipper pointed to the bald man - "just launched nukes at the East Coast."

Sydney froze. "I take it that's a bad thing?"

"Very bad," said Dipper. "Everything within five miles of the impact burns. Everything within a hundred miles, poisoned for a thousand years." He swallowed and turned back to the man, who was saying something, but Dipper could barely hear it. It sounded like "I'm a patriot." Then he turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger.

"Oh crap," Dipper said again. He looked at the people gathered outside - a young blonde woman, a middle-aged blonde who could have been her mother, a tall dark guy, and a heavy dude with glasses and a beard. "They better get in here fast. They don't have much time left!"