It’s All Fun and Games

by Patrick Mapp 

The dive was almost empty, save for the usual crowd of sports fans at the bar.  They huddled close to the tv, pickling their livers and arguing the minutia of whatever ritualized combat fascinated them this season.  At a table in the back, under a flickering Olympia Beer sign, two strange men had just begun to discuss matters of a different importance. 

The mad scientist picked up the bottled water in front of him and shook it.  Alan, the rather upscale drug dealer across the table from him watched, idly.  The sound of the sloshing made him want to pee. 

Dr. Zero had been looking forward to creating awe in Alan.  He’d planned his speech all afternoon.  The fluidity of matter, the mutability of bodies.  Environmental factors, genetic and cybernetic manipulation.  After five minutes, though, Alan seemed more interested in the dessert menu than in ‘playing God’, as he had so crudely put it.  Dr. Zero sighed and clasped his hands. 

“Alan? I don’t want to bore you, but I did want to, uh… give you some idea of what I was up to. I’m not in the business of doing things small, you understand?” 

“Look, doc,” Alan said with a shrug, “I like you. You gave me a robot snake when I got outta jail. Hell, you’re the only one who didn’t forget me. You don’t gotta explain this stuff to me. You need some help, I’m you’re man. Just name it.” 

Alan was a remarkable resource for him – skilled at finding esoteric and illegal materials.  He  realized, with discomfort, that their relationship had become more personal.  Dr. Zero suppressed a grimace. 

“Alan, I need a large quantity of a controlled substance. And I need it soon.” 

“Is that all?” Alan smiled, “Now we’re talkin’ about my area of expertise. Ok, cool. Whaddya need? When do ya need it?” 

Dr. Zero looked into his eyes as he spoke. “Heroin.  As pure and uncut as possible. Can you arrange that?”  Alan nodded, but bit his lip. 

“Yeah, yeah…” he raised a finger, “How much do you want?” 

“Enough to kill an elephant.” Dr. Zero said with quiet severity. 

“Wow… hm… Ok, I can think of two sources right off. Good quality, reliable…” Alan stammered, “I, uh, how much, exactly are we talkin’ about here?” 

“Approximately one-half kilogram.” Dr. Zero watched as Alan smacked his lips and nodded his head, as gears spun inside his mind.  Finally, Alan blinked, then squinted at Dr. Zero. 

“Doc, what the hell do you need this much smack for?” Alan asked, although he really didn’t want to know. 

“I already told you, I need to kill an elephant.” Dr. Zero’s eyes darkened and his jaw clenched in reflex. “A very, very bad elephant…” 

As if on cue, the regulars at the bar exploded in cheers.  The burst of roaring applause sounded just like thunder to Alan; a dark and cinematic omen of doom.  His need to pee increased tenfold.  

====

“There’s no time, doc,” Mr. X shouted, as he struggled to steer the van through traffic, “We need big guns and lots of explosives! A dart isn’t gonna do the trick!” 

Dr. Zero tried not to get thrown about by the van’s erratic maneuvers.  He braced his feet against the side of the van and kept working. 

“You are going to kill us both, if you don’t drive sensibly!” Dr. Zero yelled. “I’m almost finished anyway…” 

With surgical precision, he fastened the outflow hose to the containment tank, while Mr. X tried to make the utility vehicle perform like a sports car.  Using zip ties and super glue and duct tape, the job wouldn’t last long, but it would work.  He hoped. 

“A rocket launcher! A tow missile!” Mr. X cut a corner too tight, too fast, and nearly tipped the van over. He kept on ranting, “Hand grenades! Claymores! How about a god damn torpedo? Huh? Any of those would work better than a stupid dart gun!” 

Dr. Zero untangled himself from the debris that had been thrown around.  “Mister X, I am shocked at you! You are thinking like a common thug – you ought to be ashamed.”  He grabbed the custom hypodermic needles from their sheath.  Each one was ten inches of hollow stainless steel and sharp enough to pierce through a car. 

“Doc, while you’ve been back there, putting together your toy, I’ve been tracking this thing on the satellite feed.” Mr. X’s voice sounded strained, worried. “It’s heading right into town – making a bee-line.” 

“Excellent!” Dr. Zero primed the syringe pump and activated the power supply. “We just need to cut him off and that’s that. Right?” 

“Not so easy, I’m afraid,” Mr. X slowed and took another sharp turn. “If our GPS is accurate, it’s gonna hit the skating rink in about thirty seconds.”  He spun the wheel and slammed on the brakes. Dr. Zero nearly flew through the windshield. 

The flashing glow of a gaudy neon sign lit up his features.  The giant Skateville sign loomed above the sprawling parking lot and the garish building it surrounded.  Families and couples flowed in and out of the skating rink’s doors. 

“Ah, well, the good news,” Dr. Zero was happy to point out, “is that our weapon is ready!” 

“Damn it, doc,” Mr. X leaned right into Dr. Zero’s face, “I am freakin’ out here! This isn’t a test run! I’m not gonna die just to satisfy your curiosity – that thing is almost here! You gotta let me try to get some real firepower -” 

“Listen to you!” Dr. Zero snapped, “It’s like you’ve given up on Science – on everything we stand for. How many times have you asked me to trust you? You have got to trust me. This will work.” 

Seconds ticked by as the two colleagues regarded each other.  Finally, Mr. X simply nodded and jumped out of the van, followed by Dr. Zero.  In moments, Mr. X had strapped on an odd contraption, looking very much like the love-child of a vacuum cleaner and a harpoon gun.  It seemed simple enough to use.   

“With a little time to practice, I might be able to hit something…” Mr. X mused. 

====

Smoke, dust, screams and sparks filled the air.  The overwhelming stench of electrified, burning flesh mixed with the thumping disco beats.  This is truly Hell, Mr. X decided. 

Rising from the debris of the collapsed wall, the beast reared.  Tendrils of flame coiled out of the metal plated trunk, which reflected eerily off the chromed, ten inch tusks.  Rotating buzz-saw blades spun from its front feet, slashing the air before it.  Not quite an elephant anymore, Project Forget-Me-Not was clearly true to its name. 

“Brilliant!” Dr. Zero shouted, as screaming people rolled and crawled around him, “Near perfect maladaptation – I’m almost jealous of our opponent’s work.” 

“Looks like the head is the least armored,” Mr. X yelled through the crowd, “Whaddya think?”  He struggled past bloodied and horrified skaters, until he was at Dr. Zero’s side.  His heart pounded in fear.  

“Yes, the ears would be best,” Dr. Zero absently replied, “You want to avoid deep muscle mass – that would delay the delivery by minutes, to be sure.” 

Mr. X aimed towards the beast and waited, while Dr. Zero gaped in awe.  Forget-Me-Not charged into the DJ booth.  The shiny, segmented trunk contracted, then telescoped and erupted a geyser of white hot fire.  Saw blades ripped through plywood and power cables, as flames spread outwards and licked up at the ceiling.  The rhythmic pulse of the music ground to a halt, making the screams seem louder.  The disco lights kept flashing, strobing light off the beast’s mechanical augmentations. 

Forget-Me-Not turned towards the only two people still standing in the skating rink and Mr. X pulled the trigger.  With a hiss the needle flew towards its mark, the hose uncoiled in the air.  The needle sank into its right eye, chipping off bits of the occipital lobe and pushing through the brain.  With an audible ‘clack’, the needle stopped at the back of the beast’s skull.  The compression tank automatically began pushing the heroin-solution through the small hose, at an incredible rate. 

“Hey hey!” Mr. X exclaimed, patting his partner on the shoulder, “Check out that shot!” 

The mutated cyborg-elephant thrashed and spasmed for a moment, then collapsed to the floor.  As the pressure built inside the skull cavity, heroin-solution began squirting from the ruptured eye socket.  Dr. Zero slapped buttons and switches on the side of the contraption Mr. X wore. 

“Damn it!” Dr. Zero growled, “Damn it all to hell…”  The machine stuttered and powered down, but liquid continued to flow from the beast’s skull, along with globs of brain matter. 

“What? Doc?” Mr. X pointed, excitedly, “It worked – just like you said – we got that bastard! Ka-BAM!”  He mimed a gunshot.  “One shot. One freakin’ shot! Hoo!” 

“Yes, I suppose you’re right – technically…” Dr. Zero frowned, crossing his arms, “But now I’ll never know if my theory was right. Opiates versus synthetic adrenaline, body-mass and circulatory research… All we did was flush its brain with drugs.” 

“Ha, ha!” Mr. X fished out a cigarette, “That’s one expensive brain-enema! Ha!” 

Dr. Zero rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes… very droll.”  He noted that the burning building around them was beginning to deteriorate.  “Let’s go. I think we’re done here…”  He turned and strode towards the parking lot. 

“Doc, hang on!” Mr. X caught up as they walked out the door.  “What about a trophy? It’s not like you to pass up on a beauty like that.” 

The crowd of panicked survivors had scattered, but a few edged back, curious.  The mad scientist and his colleague ignored them.  In the distance, sirens blared, getting closer and louder.  Helicopters – both police and news – would be following close behind.  The cries and shouts of the traumatized people faded out as they loaded up their equipment in the van. 

“I can’t explain how disappointed I am,” Dr. Zero said, with a sigh, “How many opportunities like this could I get? Yes, yes, we defeated the mutant cyborg-elephant. I know.” 

“Look, I get it doc,” Mr. X started the van and smiled, “I know you were looking forward to finding out how well your doohickey worked. Me? I’m happy to be alive.” 

“What’s life without scientific rigor? Without integrity? I’m a failure…” 

“C’mon doc,” Mr. X encouraged, “We’ll get another shot. There’s always next year’s competition. Maybe it won’t be on-the-fly, like tonight, but that’s ok. You can whip up some really ingenious synthetic. A snazzy delivery mechanism. I bet, next year, you’ll be itching for another chance.” 

Dr. Zero sighed and smiled weakly. “I suppose you’re right. With a little foresight, I could have made it much better. Yes… next year.” 

“That’s the spirit,” Mr. X genuinely smiled.  “Of course, Professor Nemesis likely won’t do the same kinda of mutant next year.” 

“Hm, that’s true. Still, no reason not to plan ahead.”  Already, Dr. Zero’s head was filling up with design sketches and chemical formulas.  “I used to think this kind of event was a waste of time.  You know, Mr. X, I think I might be enjoying myself.” 

“Well, that calls for a drink, my friend!”  Mr. X gunned the engine and the van lurched from the parking lot, just cutting off a fire engine.  Dr. Zero scribbled in his notepad and Mr. X mentally planned a route to his favorite bar.  “Hell, I think that calls for a party, Doc.” 

Behind them, Skateville burned and people died, despite the efforts of rescue workers.  Ahead of them, the road was choked with more sirens and cars.  Mr. X spotted an open, empty side road and jockeyed to it.  Spinning the wheel, he stomped the accelerator and the van shot up the highway, into the night.

—–

Patrick Mapp was born in Panama, where he learned to catch snakes with his bare hands and swam in lagoons of crystal blue water. He sometimes wishes his parents had left him there, to live as a naked jungle boy. At the very least they could have made his middle name ‘Danger’. A former poet, failed philosopher and recovering cartoonist, Patrick still has yet to admit that he has a writing ‘problem’. He lives in Olympia, WA, with his wife and wicked-smart daughter.

Published on December 31, 2007 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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