Dabbing my forehead with a dual Q-Tip/Cotton Swab I’d cobbled together at the Springfield train depot, I sized up all the major players. It wouldn’t be easy fleecing these rubes, but I’ve faced tougher challenges before with the grace and quiet dignity of a beekeeper.
“Ah... this lemonade is delicious.
“I’m glad you approve. It’s made of 100% recycled materials.”
I popped another slice of cake into my mouth, and washed it down with a refreshing glass of the lemonade. Though some decry the combination as abominable, I find that the bitterness of the lemons complements the cake’s undertaste. The whole concept of a food item having an “undertaste” is revolutionary, yes, controversial, yes, but as a scientist I don’t have the luxury of ignoring that possibility. As a scientist (and as a friend of the food-eating community) the onus is upon me to find foods that produce compatible tastes when combined. Far as I can see it, the only reason this particular theory isn’t ensconced in academia already is because (and I myself found this to be true) it is almost impossible
to tell which taste is the undertaste and which is the overtaste. And the whole theory is blown to smithereens when there’s three or more foods.But I’ve tried lemonade and cake before,
I thought to myself. Maybe the secret is in the holy water. Those NASA flyboy layabouts must not have recycled it properly. Next time, no tip.
“Is dis a death ray?”
“Gambit, don’t touch that! You don’t know what it does!” I scolded, slapping his hand away from the control panel. He reeled in pain, for I had coated my hand with pain juice.
It was one of the better presents our glorious new benefactors had given me, along with a hoverboat and a week’s supply of pudding.
“I AM AMOK! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!”
Some of the councilors were startled by the brute force and inner strength of AMOK’s commanding baritone. Tomax dared to laugh when he saw a half-blue half-yellow plastic egg fall to the tray; his biometric readings were scanned and stored for future annihilation. Unfortunately, the mothership wouldn’t be able to distinguish between him and Xamot... how unfortunate for Xamot.
“Okay... AMOK says he’s started recording. We can now proceed with the demonstration.”
“Get on with it!” Cobra Commander shrieked. Finding his voice physically painful, Gambit winced. Piffle!
I never expected a laggard like him to understand why I’d chosen to align us with Cobra, but I expected him to maintain his composure.
“As I understand it, you’ve been engaged in a personal vendetta against the U.S. government for almost twenty years,” I stated, rubbing a moistened hand on Dr. Mindbender’s dry shoulder. In a way, he’d brought it upon himself; what kind of mind control expert would be unaware of the paper towel shortage in the Terrodome’s only restroom? He was either a fraud or flat-out didn’t care about his henchmen’s hygiene.
“Our vendetta against the Joe squad is irrelevant!” Baroness thundered. “Cobra is a terrorist organization bent on world domination!”
She slammed an angry fist against the table. Having acute robot senses, I noticed the rage in her eyes was but a distraction. Her real
goal was covertly shaking the table enough to knock Destro’s lemonade glass into his lap; it had a chance of succeeding, as the glass was very close to the edge. But though I agreed with the prank in principle, there were far more important matters to attend to.
“See, that’s the problem right there. Why
do you want to dominate the world?”
Gambit looked mighty impressed. It wasn’t every day that he got to see a room full of super villains forced to confront their own motives. Judging by the wary eyebrow lifts and dilating pupils (again, my robot acuity perceived these changes), my innocent question had rattled their cages like a canary in a kaleidoscope.
“I’ll tell you why.
” I drew in another breath. “You aren’t super villains,” I orated in a beautiful 18th
century religious awakening-style voice, “You’re agents of change.
You... you recognize
that our society has problems, and you want to
fix those problems, but you just... don’t... know... how. You can’t even fix your own
society, let alone the normal kind!”
Clicking the left button on my portable scroll mouse, I dimmed the ambient lighting in the Terrordome Conference Room to 25% of normal. On cue, the 40 inch display screen behind Cobra Commander roared to life. Slide one zoomed into focus, and the whole council bore witness to my mad Powerpoint skills.
“Here we have a simple town, Henchton, Oregon, inhabited by less than five thousand people.” I went to the next slide, a breakdown of the town’s employment demographics. “Over 40% of the adults in this town listed their profession as ‘henchperson’ in the 2004 census. The town also houses a higher education facility, Henchton University. It’s the most decorated higher henching college on the west coast. A henchman trained at Henchton U. is five times more likely to survive being knocked unconscious than a henchman who never attended college.”
General consensus among the councilors showed renewed optimism. That would change with the next slide.
“That was in 2004.” My finger gently pressed down on the mouse clicker, bringing up the 2006 census data. “Henchton is a pale shadow of its former glory. The constant
successes of ‘good guys’ like Joe put hundreds of super villains out of business. All those villains’ henchmen have saturated
the henching industry.”
Slide four was a little more brutal. “This is Henchton today. Gone are the minefields of yesteryear. Gone are the Orwellian computer screens on every street corner. Henchton University closed down last fall.”
I tapped the LCD with my courageous index finger like a hawk swooping down on a diseased field mouse. Next slide.
“COME ON! What does this
have to do with henchmen?!”
“It- oh. Heh. I forgot to take out the giant panda slide!”
“Enough of this nonsense,” Cobra Commander grunted. Dialing a numerical sequence into the command pad by his left hand (who knew he was a leftie?!) turned the slideshow off and raised the room’s lighting to nominal. “Your attempt to elicit sympathy for our underlings only shows how little you know of the lackey-master relationship. Henchmen are expendable.”
henchman is expendable. Five are expendable. But a hundred? A thousand?! Where does it end?” Although I wasn’t fully versed in super villainy I was sure that Gambit, as a former thief, would nudge me if I misspoke. “There have been more mass henchmen defections in the last ten years than in the hundred years that preceded it. And the henchmen are unionizing! That hasn’t happened since the late 19th
“Let them unionize; our death rays will maintain order.”
“How long will your death rays stay operational without trained henchmen to fix them?” Cutting a little close to the vest, I know, but he needed to see the big picture. “Henchmen have been devalued so much over the last hundred years that you’ve completely forgotten the essential functions they serve. You can’t take over the world until you recognize this.”
“Bah! What ‘functions?’”
I held my breath for the longest time. A metronome behind me cycled loudly.
“Move, move, move!”
At first the scientists were hesitant to go down four stories on an inflatable slide, but remaining in Cobra captivity was a considerably worse prospect.
“We’ve freed de hostages.” Playing with a walkie-talkie was one thing, but using one for official military business was something I’d always dreamed of doing. Too bad it was Gambit
and not me on the line with Duke.“Acknowledged. We’re transmitting the clue now.”
Hrmph! Always the worrier, Gambit was still pouring over the recon screen. Unsurprisingly, the psychotropic elements we’d laced the recycled lemonade with still hadn’t broken down in the councilors’ bloodstreams. “They still think we’re in there,” he laughed. It wouldn’t be so funny if his laughter attracted the unwanted attention of a nearby henchman platoon, and I told him that silently by hitting him hard in the face with a shoe.
We finally slid down to sea level, just in time to see a car full of nuclear scientists take off. Those wacky physicists!
In the minute and a half that Gambit and I were having an asinine aerial altercation, they’d retrofitted our SUV to be WARP capable! Ha!
“I’ll drive,” the Cajun from downunda stipulated. “You get in back.”
“AMOK’s child seat is for the front only.”
I stared jealously at AMOK in his fancy designer blazer and adult diaper. How I coveted the front seat.
Using his latent mutant powers to activate the engine, Gambit starting pressing a flashing series of candylike buttons as I smashed the rear door shut. “Setting coordinates... and... engage.”