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5 Moments from an Unfortunate Mission

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Kristoff had specifically requested, considering the parameters of the task and the desire to avoid complications, 'only surface-world clothing.'

As he clutched the bridge of his nose, he had to admit that his request had been followed to the letter.

Namor strutted to the passenger door in what Americans insisted on calling a 'Utilikilt,' a pair of Birkenstocks, and absolutely nothing else. "Let us begin."

***

Kristoff didn't know his own IQ. The Master of Latveria had never subjected his heir to anything so bourgeois as standardized testing.

Kristoff had certainly impressed his tutors as a prodigy even before the neurological encoding, when he was 8, of 25 years of genius. At least, he assumed he had impressed them, though it was a point of argument as to whether anyone was really going to tell Doom he hadn't gotten the best orphan.

At any rate, Kristoff's probably-prodigious mind and decades of encoded brilliance were currently at work using something he had bought at a convenience store in Denton, Montana, to undo a minor difficulty within a 1992 Chevrolet 1500.

"Was there no other option," his passenger said between awkward sips of water and associated grimacing, "for a vehicle which would not trip the wards?" 

"There was," Kristoff replied. "A Buick."

"Remind me again why I agreed to any of this?" The convenience store's supply of 'water' was solely, at present, available in one-pound plastic bags of ice, half-melted, which the Avenging Son was attempting to scoop into his hands.

Kristoff's beloved Cassandra would probably still have thought he looked 'fabulous.'

"Because Morgana le Fay is a mortal enemy of Atlantis; because Mrs. Richards asked you to do so." Kristoff sighed. "And because Grimm, Storm, and Dr. Richards are not here."

"Did it occur to you that I might have been being rhetorical?"

"Highness, I am only obliged to listen to monologuing from my father."

***

 

They were distinctly behind schedule as they neared what would surely be the bustling metropolis of Wall, South Dakota, but a stop was more than warranted. Various of the numerous signs, many festooned with fanciful interpretations of a desert hare afflicted with severe Shone papilloma virus, had declared "Free Ice Water!"

A great deal of ice water was very necessary. Everyone knew that His Highness Namor Mackenzie became insufferable when dehydrated.

Well, those in the circles in which they normally traveled knew. None of the admittedly few human beings they had encountered had seemed to recognize the Atlantean, even though he had repeatedly refused the stop's plentiful supply of hats.

"We should stop for the night soon," Namor said as Kristoff stared in silence at the five-cent coffee. "If we can find any place with a bath large enough for recuperation -- what /are/ those creatures?" he asked, gesturing to the products of the taxidermist's art.

"They call them jackalopes," Kristoff said. "They were mentioned in the American novel Moby-Dick before my father directed me to stop reading it."

"Why didn't he want you reading it?"

"At my age, the ending apparently could have hampered my development of a healthy attitude about the proper follow-through of a vendetta."

"Gods forbid." Namor elected to finish his water and head for the car.

***

"At least all of this has allowed us to avoid tripping any of the wards set by your stepmother."

"She Is Not My Stepmother. Their...liason... was strictly for professional reasons."

"So he left the mask on?"

"Of course he must have left the ma -- why are we talking about this?"

Namor looked again at the map. "We should be at the marked location within the day. What are you expecting?"

"Difficult to say, with such a ruthless foe. To achieve her ends, she has previously been willing to watch thousands suffocate, to begin wars between actual worlds--"

"To sleep with your father."

"...Highness, might I say how much I admire all you do to support Mrs. Richards's impeccable integrity?"

"...What?"

"It is a truth commonly acknowledged that being married to Dr. Richards must at times be difficult."

"Yes, this is known."

"And added to this difficulty is that Mrs. Richards is the object of pursuit from of a man of honor and title with enough positive qualities to be labelled, as it was put, 'dreamy' by the most radiant of young ladies and her cohort in homeroom. Thus, I must applaud your constant support of Mrs. Richards's resolve to maintain her vows via your frequently exposing her to half an hour's actual conversation with you."

***

"Turn right here; the 1st Street exit," Namor said before refolding the map. "So, these magic cords. What do they look like?"

"As Mrs. Richards said in the briefing, they would resemble strands of narrow sisal fiber. But please recall that we have no way of knowing how she has hidden or guarded them. While we at least have the assurance that she will not be there herself, she could have made use of abandoned buildings, underground tunnels--"

"Tourists."

"What?" Kristoff took in the road... and the sidewalks...and the park grass.

There were, admittedly, a lot of people.  People crowded around a glass-enclosed gazebo. People holding signs celebrating the town's annual festival...next to a more permanent sign declaring the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.

"I hate this mission."