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Career Day

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“Doctor, the International Astronomical Union just messaged us, as well as the heads of NASA, Roscosmos, and the ESA.” Miss Li said, fingers dancing across the surface of her tablet.  “They’re willing to accede to your demands, as soon as you return…”

“My dear, please inform them that my offer was to return control of their satellites, after they did as I asked.”  Pluto would be a planet once again, if they ever wanted their toys back.  “In fact, this breach of protocol deserves retribution, does it not?”

Li nodded.  “I’ve already added changing the Moon’s name to ‘Gesicht-Stanzen Mountain’ to the list of demands.”

“Ah, Miss Li, what would I ever do without you?” Doctor Heinrich Gesicht-Stanzen, criminal genius extraordinaire, said with a grin.

“Be an unfathomably wealthy genius with army of henchmen loyal to the point of death, and your own private island nation, giving you diplomatic immunity.” She reminded him, swiping the tablet once again.

“That’s right, my dear.  Except then I’d have to handle negotiations myself.”  He appreciated his employees greatly, Li was no exception.  He was concentrated so much on the big picture, like how to ensure maximum output for the Cybersaurus Rex’s laser cannon, that he needed as much help as he could with the day-to-day things.  That time the Cybersaur ran out of quantonium fuel mid-rampage in Calgary had taught him that. 

Honestly, without people like Miss Li, the Doctor would still probably be performing unlicensed brain surgeries for money.  Unlicensed, unrequested brain surgeries.  Unlicensed, unrequested brain surgeries performed outdoors without anesthesia, and where the money he got was what he could pick out of the patient’s wallet while the nanospores caused them to enter fugue states.

Those were good times.  Sometimes he got nostalgic for it.  But that was more of a weekend hobby.  It was so much more rewarding sitting behind a desk.  Snapping back to reality, he turned to look at his assistant.  “What’s next on the itinerary itinerary?”

Li tapped at her tablet.  “A Misses Belladona Mandragora is here to see you… the guard up front says she appears agitated.”

“Belladonna Mandragora…” The Doctor said, faraway look in his eyes.. “…where have I heard that name before…”

“You’ve been sleeping with her for the past year.” Miss Li offered.

“Has it been that long?”  He remained confused. 

“And you used unleashed the chimpantulas on Sally, her rival for the president of her homeowner’s association.” Ms. Li said with a shudder.  She had watched the bodycam footage from the ape-spiders attack.

“Hm… what ever happened to the chimpantulas?”

“The Cybersaur ate them all.” Ms Li said, continuing to notice the faraway look on her boss’s face.  “Misses Mandragora is Gary's wife.”

“Oh, Gary's wife!  Yeah, I remember now.”  The doctor beamed, before adding. “Man, screw Gary.  Actually, I’m screwing his wife, but the sentiment’s the same.  Show her in, would you?”

“You bastard!” Immediately rang out once the doors slid open, revealing a well-preserved, statuesque woman with wild, ebony hair, in a slinky black dress.

“Ah, Belladonna, so wonderful to see you!”

Misses Belladonna Mandragora pushed past Miss Li and crossed the chrome-plated office, where the Doctor had stepped out from behind his desk to greet her with open arms.  She slapped him in the face, hard.  Immediately the two genetically modified sharkmen bodyguards raised their axes, before relaxing when the Doctor raised his hand.

“I know I haven’t called in a while…” That earned the Doctor another slap.

“This isn’t about that!  It’s about Cadey.”

“Cadey?” The doctor said, a familiar look in his eye.

“Gary's daughter. From his first marriage.” Miss Li interjected, eyes laser focused on her tablet. From what she gathered, Belladonna and Cadey got along fairly well, both having no end of exasperation with Gary Mandragora.

“Oh, Gary’s daughter!  I assure you, my dear, everything was consensual and she is above the legal age of the jurisdiction it took place in.”  There was a pause, and he looked to Miss Li who nodded, made an O.K. handgesture, and mouthed ‘twenty-one’.

That unsurprisingly earned him another slap.

“I asked you to pick her up from college, and she ends up calling me on some dirt road in Upstate New York!” Belladonna yelled.  “And you’re screwing her?”

“I will not apologize.  She got home safely, correct?”

“She hitchhiked!”

“She hitchhiked, with the octowolf.”  The doctor said.  “She got home safely.”

“She pulled up to our house in an eighteen-wheeler missing half the cab, and the other half was covered in blood!”

“Well, I mean, it’s likely the trucker tried something and the octowolf got protective.”

“Then who drove her home?!”

“The octowolf is a very smart cephalopod-dog hybrid, and he’s a very safe driver.” At this point, Belladonna Mandragora covered her face and let out a scream.

When she calmed down, she added. “Mister Noodles.”

“What?”

“Cadey calls him ‘Mister Noodles’.”

“See, she’s bonding with him!  It’s wonderful.” The doctor gave a smile, after wincing at the name. He knew it was a faux pas to give a pet as a gift, but the octowolf could take care of itself. Besides, it had a habit of riling up the Cybersaur so they needed to get rid of it. And trying to get rid of it like Old Yeller led to an entire strike team being destroyed and it wielding eight machineguns at once. It was good it was adjusting to suburban life.

“It’s an abomination, and I think it ate Sally’s dog.”

“You’re welcome for that, by the way.”

Belladonna took a deep breath.  “Okay, that was a solid on your part.  But still… seriously?  Seriously?  New York isn’t even between her college and home!  You’re insufferable.”

 “And yet, you’re here…”

“Like I said, you’re a real bastard, Heinrich… but”

Miss Li turned her attention away from the tablet, trying to parse out the tone that Misses Mandragora ended that exchange on.  Then she quickly turned her attention back to her tablet when she saw that black dress hit the floor.

“Oh, Miss Li.” The Doctor said, leaning to the side as he addressed her.  His assistant was back to staring at her tablet like taking her eyes off it would cause her to explode.  “I will not be needing your services for about… an hour.  Cancel and move any appointments I have until then, alright?”

“Glub-glub-glub.” One of the Sharkmen said.  No one, not even Doctor Gesicht-Stanzen himself, had quite figured out how, while fully capable of breathing air and having vocal chords grafted in, the Sharkmen only said ‘glub glub’. 

“Yes, yes, you can go, too.”


One hour later, Miss Li and the Sharkman that had been standing to the right of the Doctor approached the sliding doors.  The left Sharkman had wandered off and likely was eaten by the Cybersaur.  One day they’d have to put a railing over those catwalks.

The doors slid open and Belladonna Mandragora, hair and dress much more disshelved than when she walked in, brushed past them.  From the office, they heard the Doctor yell something about next semester, the two of them could pick up Cadey together, to which Misses Mandragora simply through her hand up and gave the middle finger to the Doctor, without breaking stride or looking back.

"I meant that you could make sure we got her home safe and sound! I wasn't trying to hook up a threesome!"

Miss Li was pretty sure he was trying to hook up a threesome.

“Well, that was time well-spent.” The boss said, adjusting his collar.   The side of his face was red, almost as if he’d been struck there by an open hand repeatedly for the past hour.  All the papers and pens on his desk were all over the floor, leaving an empty surface that the janitors probably would have to Windex.  “She has something of a temper problem, but I think we can make it work… where’s Jerry?”

“Jerry?”

“My other bodyguard?  You don’t remember Jerry, Miss Li?” He sounded legitimately hurt.  A moment’s pause, and the Doctor snapped his fingers.  “Cybersaur?”

She nodded.  “Cybersaur.”

“We really should put up a railing.  Only problem is there’s no alloy known to man that could impede the Cybersaur when she’s hungry.”  The Doctor said, shuffling papers.  “What’s next for the day?”

“Uh… Hanzo was supposed to be here with the items you requested, but he’s running late.”  Miss Li said.  Reception said nothing about the freelance acquisition specialist’s arrival.

“No, he appears to be on time.” The Doctor said nonchalantly, gesturing to her side.

Miss Li noticed something fire engine red in her peripheral vision and jumped.  Hanzo stood there, head-to-toe in red; pure crimson except for the lacquered scabbard on his back and the thin line where his mask did not cover his eyes.  He bowed silently.

“Ah yes, greetings, old friend.  I take it you expeditions were successful?”

The only response was an almost imperceptible nod.

Miss Li looked at Hanzo, hands empty; he certainly wasn't carrying a bag or anything that could hold the treasures, either. “It says here you were supposed to get the Ruby Scarab of Amenhotep.  Where is it?”

“Right here.” The Doctor interjected, calling her attention to the golden beetle perched atop dazzling red globe, the only object on his previously bare desk.  “Stolen from the British Museum, who got it after it had been looted from Egypt over a century ago.  Quite the find, Hanzo.”

Miss Li looked at the priceless artifact, then to the ninja, then back to the artifact.  “That’s one-third of the contract.  You also needed to get… a horseshoe?”

“And he did.” The doctor said, holding up a shining metal curve.  “It was worn by Sir Barton, first winner of the American triple crown.  Then it was covered in silver and inlaid with sapphires.  Very pretty, and would’ve cost a fortune.”

“Yeahbuhhow…” Miss Li asked incredulously.  Hanzo hadn’t moved.  How did… it didn’t matter.  “There’s still the matter of…”

She trailed off and looked at her boss, looking at her expectantly.  Nothing new was on his desk, just the Scarab and the Horseshoe.  She looked back to Hanzo, who might’ve narrowed his eyes by a fraction of a millimeter.  “…the emerald horned lizard of…”

“El Dorado!” The doctor said, and Miss Li turned to look, to see the squat, intricately carved reptile sharing the desk with the other priceless treasures.  “Legend has it that to reach the temple where it was hidden from conquistadors, one would have to best Xolotol himself.  I knew you could do it, Hanzo.”

The ninja tilted his head. 

“Your payment?  Of course, of course, my friend.” The Doctor said, smiling appreciatively.  “The information you requested shall be given to you in the manner you requested.  Thank you very much.”

Miss Li turned back to her side, only mildly surprised that Hanzo had disappeared.  “What are we paying him anyways?”

“Oh, he wanted to know the name of the man who killed his master, so that he could avenge him… or the name of the man who wanted avenge the master that Hanzo killed… one of the two.  We actually had to compile a list for him.  He’s got a lot of enemies.”

Being told that the Blood Ninja of the Hellish Death Dojo had a lot of enemies was not surprising. “How did you meet him anyways?”

“College roommates.  He’s so much chattier than he used to be.”  The Doctor nodded, then he turned to Miss Li.  “What’s next on the agenda?”

It was getting late in the day, and they only had one more thing left.  Unfortunately, it was a bunch of paranoid ramblings.  “Uh… something about sheep?”

“Sheep?” the Doctor asked.

“Sheep.” Miss Li confirmed. 

“That doesn’t sound right.” The Doctor said, standing up and walking over to her.  “Lemme see that.”

An hour later, Doctor Gesicht-Stanzen and Miss Li had figured out that the references to sheep, masks, and sleep, alongside the stick figure drawing of the two of them holding the letter 'Z' above their heads and away from the helpfully-labelled 'foolish masses', was all a plot involving the Insomno-Ray.  Obviously, the machine would alter the biological clock to prevent sleep, however it would not eliminate the need for it.  Such a change would render its victims unable to sleep, even if they wore a sleep mask.  Neither Miss Li nor the Doctor could say they knew anyone who wore a sleep mask, so why they included that in the description eluded them… perhaps it was a reference to a CPAP machine?  Sheep was obviously counting sheep.

“So obviously the plan would be to use the Insomno-Ray to render the world unable to sleep, then demand a hefty ransom to reverse it?” Miss Li asked to confirm.  Piecing the plot together from her shorthand and the Doctor’s cursive ramblings was difficult, but if they were both on the same page  on this, that meant that was the plan.  Probably.

“We would ransom the world, but alas, the Insomno-Ray’s effects are irreversible.  They’d pay us, and then they’d be too exhausted to notice we aren’t living up to our end of the bargain!” The Doctor said, throwing his head back and laughing.  Miss Li joined in, with a more reserved fit.  The right Shark proceeded to glub-glub approvingly as well.

After that, Doctor Gesicht-Stanzen looked at his watch and gasped.  “Oh dear.  It seems we took too long.  It’s five o’Clock, and I’m not paying the Insomno-Ray crew overtime for that.  Miss Li, when can we squeeze in the Insomno-Ray into the schedule.”

“We’re booked until…” she scrolled through her tablet.  “…huh, we’re pretty solidly booked.  Cybersaur vet visit… ‘screw Gary's' then in parenthesis ‘’s wife and/or daughter’, fend off alien invasion so I can conquer world.  Looks like we won’t get to it in at least six months.”

“Well, that sucks.  Ah well, today was still pretty productive.” The Doctor said, before checking his watch.  “C’mon you two, it’s five on a Friday, you’ve got to have someplace better to be than the office.”

As Miss Li and right Sharkman… she noticed his nametag read ‘Jerry’, and she wondered if the Doctor named all the sharkmen that or if he was mistaken over which one had been Jerry, borded the elevator, she smiled.  The hours were good, pay was good, and she got to work with such interesting people.  And, as the roars of the Cybersaur echoed, even in the parking garage, she reflected that it was nice to be working for a company that could truly change the world.