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James & the Giant Hollowed Out Volcano

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Richard rolled over and stared at the ground, irritated. Yet another tremor, this time while he's trying to enjoy his off day at the beach. Mindy had hightailed it back to England along with Jeremy's girlfriend when the tremors started to get worse. He couldn't really blame her; she'd only agreed to tag along to keep him company while protecting the world when James would get his global domination delusions. She didn't sign up for the fear the hollowed out volcano would fall down on her. But as a result of his wife leaving, Richard was now lonely and horny and generally a very unhappy person. And almost getting bounced off the beach into the sea wasn't helping. Muttering obscenities under his breath, he swiped up his towel and matched back toward James' headquarters.

"Thought you were enjoying your off day?" Jeremy called after him from the TV room. A Formula 1 race was playing, and this was actually work; being busy working on his latest project, James asked Jeremy to watch and report the details, knowing Clarkson would embellish and keep him entertained.

"I was," Richard grumbled, "until that tremor almost caused a fucking tsunami. Didn't you feel that?"

"Oh, that," Jeremy nonchalantly replied. "May's making progress on his latest project. If you want a tan, Hammond, you should really try that tanning bed."

"The tanning bed?!" Richard nearly shouted. "Jeremy, let me remind you. I grew up in Solihull, a residential neighborhood. I spent most of my adult life in Wales, on a farm. I go hiking and camping in the Lake District. I understand the concept of spending time outside. A tanning bed is not outside. A tanning bed would make me as orange as that overgrown Oompa-Loompa running America. I don't do tanning beds."

Richard started to leave, but Jeremy grabbed him and pulled him in closer. "Hammond, we have to do better with playing along," he whispered. "Wilman managed to sneak away this morning. So that only leaves us to figure out what May's doing and stopping him if necessary. So that means, play it cool."

Richard merely stood there and shook his head in disapproval. "You've gone native," he replied and headed off.

Jeremy sighed. "Better to go native than to go batshit," he muttered to himself. Which he suspected James had gone. Again.

***

Meanwhile, James was busy in his lab, which he'd decorated to look like his garden shed. He missed that shed. Men had He Sheds and women had She Sheds. James May had an Evil Genius Shed. Here he could design and draw blueprints and diagrams to his heart's content. It had only been recently, however, that he'd gone beyond designs and had started procuring what he needed for his next idea. Gone were the days of building death days and guided bombs from lawnmowers and washing machine parts. He had the means at his disposal to get much better things. And he'd come up with a much better project.

Also gone were the days he let his mates in on exactly what he was doing. James had spilled the beans on a death day, and next thing he knew, an unfortunate encounter with a sledgehammer led to the destruction of his garden shed, his first Evil Genius workshop. God knows how they found out about the bomb he intended to drop on Number 10 (though they did come up with a suitable alternative). So while Clarkson and Hammond were technically partners of his and any awards, ransoms, etc. he'd split three ways, that sure didn't mean either Thunderbird Fat or Thunderbird Short needed to be in on all his plans and schemes. They might try to stop him.

He had been testing his newest creation, and the results meant He was out of the Beta stage. James was happy with that--it was starting to rattle his fillings. Time to go rattle someone else's fillings now. The idea had actually come from an American TV show, where the villain had this thing, which he intended to use on part of a city. The villain had it made (he possessed the money but not the skill). But James went one better: he learned how to build it himself, and it turned out to be easier for him than a death ray. And it worked. Well, to be honest, the last death ray did, too, at least until it met with a sledgehammer. And a couple of pillocks.

James decided to make an announcement of sorts over lunch where he invited Clarkson and Hammond, along with a selection of minions, a type of Minion of the Week perk he instituted to make his peons work harder. Between courses he stood and said, "As you all know, I have been working on a secret project. Well, I'm chuffed to tell you the project is successful, and while I'm not ready to disclose what it is, I can tell you the world will be quite shaken up by it." Everyone at the table applauded, but Jeremy caught a certain gleam in his eye and got the joke. The bastard's made an earthquake machine.

After lunch, he managed to catch Richard's attention and pulled him aside. "Did you catch that little joke James let slip?" he asked.

"Yeah," Richard nodded. "And did you see the wet spot in my pants where I had a wee over it?"

"Where the hell do you think he can deploy that, inflict the damage, and get whatever he wants?" Jeremy asked.

"It would have to be somewhere not known for earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions," Richard mused. "So, not around here, not the West Coast of America, not Japan. Otherwise he'll have a hard time convincing people a real earthquake didn't just happen."
"It would have to be somewhere he can easily reach," Jeremy added. "It's not like he can get it through airport security."

"So, a boat then," Richard answered. "But where?"

"We could try Sydney," came a voice. Richard and Jeremy turned and faced James, smiling at them. He was leaning in a doorway, legs crossed at the ca!ves, looking relaxed. "You know, I did consider Melbourne, but it's ignored a lot by the rest of the world, and I do like Melbourne. Why don't you come with me and we three can discuss it?"

Suddenly both Clarkson and Hammond looked a bit sheepish. "I would," Richard began, "but I suddenly remembered I have to whiten my teeth today."

"And I have to do laundry," Jeremy answered. "You know how it is as a single man. You work in a secret lair and just put things off until you just have to do them." Both turned to leave, but two minions stepped up to them, holding up aerosol cans.

James chuckled. "You seem to be under the impression that was a suggestion," he replied. "You remember my knockout gas, don't you? I've perfected it. I don't need to wear a gas mask anymore. So if you just come quietly... " James turned to leave, then turned back. "Now that I've thought about it..." He walked over to one of the minions, grabbed the can, and sprayed.

***

Richard and Jeremy woke up to find themselves in James' laboratory, tied up again. "Bloody hell, the arse sprayed us anyway, " Jeremy grumbled. "You okay, Hammo?"

"Yeah," Hammond answered . "But I think he may have learned from the last time he tied us up. I definitely can't get out of these ropes."

"And this time he's ou put any potential weapons out of reach," Jeremy stated. " So, no gun or sledgehammer. Where's the Cockmobile when you need it?! "

"Back home," Richard answered. "Which is where I really want to be right now."

"Sorry to disappoint you, Hammond," James replied, approaching them. "You're not going home, at least not yet. We have a proposition to discuss." James pulled up a chair and say across from Richard and Jeremy. He smiled kindly. "Do you remember the time I offered you Wales to rule for me?" he asked. Richard nodded, unsure where his colleague was going with this. "What if I were to say the offer is still on the table?"

"How is that possible?" Richard wondered. "To give me Wales would indicate you actually owned Wales, wouldn't it? And as much money as you have, I seriously doubt you have even that kind of money."

"Well, no, I don't actually own Wales yet. But pretty soon I will. And then I'll need to have someone run it while I'm off conquering the world. Who better than you? You love living there. It can be one giant farm to you. All the farm animals you could possibly want."

"Of course that would appeal to a rural simpleton," Jeremy replied, rolling his eyes. "Exactly how are you going to obtain Wales?"

"That's quite simple, Clarkson." James walked over to the far end of the lab. He lifted off the tarpaulin (Evil Geniuses seem to have unending supplies of tarpaulins) to reveal what looked like a high-tech, giant Fry Daddy with a few Art Deco touches to it. "Those tremors you've been feeling lately have been my doing."

Richard stared at the thing intently. "You built an earthquake generator?" he asked. "Why the arseing hell would you do that?"

"Because, Hammond, I'm bored with building death rays," James explained. "And so is every other world leader I try to blackmail. The death rays are easy to make, sure, but I'm getting too well-known for them. It's to the point I issue a threat, I show them the death ray, and they just put me on Ignore. So I needed something new to get everyone's attention.You'd be shocked at how easy this thing was to make. You don't even need to be an Evil Genius to do it."

"But what about the bomb you wanted to drop on Number 10?" Richard wondered. "That wasn't a death ray."

"Too easy to disarm," James replied. "You proved that yourself, Hammond."

"Maybe," Richard argued. "But isn't an earthquake generator messing with forces bigger than you?"

"If I really wanted that, I'd go back to trying to split atoms," James stated. "This machine does exactly what it says it does, and everyone knows it. Which means any demand I make will be granted."

"And your demands this time are...?" Jeremy asked tiredly.

"I want control, complete and total," James demanded. "Everyone gives in. And with this machine I'll get it. Have you two ever felt an earthquake? I have. It lets you know quickly you are not in charge. All those things falling down around you, the ground trying to decide if it wants to remain solid. Nobody wants that. With this machine I could demand all bow down before me." James laughed delightedly, and to Jeremy it sounded like his friend had actually pulled off the Evil Genius laugh. That's when he knew for sure James had actually punched his ticket on the crazy train.

Meanwhile, as James was engaged in his Evil Genius monologue, Jeremy had managed to loosen the knots tying him to Richard. Any moment he would have his hands free. And then he'd find a hammer and bash that machine out of existence.

Richard could feel the ropes slacken and knew what he had to do. The first rule of dealing with an Evil Genius is to lure them into a monologue--it distracts them as they're laying out their plans. And if you needed extra time to allow your partner to do something else, simply get the Evil Genius to extend the monologue. Which is what Richard did. "So why Sydney?"

"For all the reasons you mentioned, Hammond," James explained. "It's not known for earthquakes, it's fairly close, and it gets lots of attention. Everyone will be sorry to see it go, therefore I will get what I want." He smiled . "And as for what you want, Richard, that's Wales. Admit it, you do."

"What about Jeremy?"

"Clarkson will be dealt with fairly. I will personally see to it he gets exactly what he wants and deserves. What do you say? How about ruling by my side? Milton once wrote it's better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. And we've been sharing power anyway."

"We have," Hammond agreed. "And it's been great, and we've made a shitload of money together. But sooner or later you know three simply becomes a crowd for an Evil Genius. And equal partners don't work, either. An Evil Genius wants to have things all to himself. But then his partners have gotten a taste of all that power, so they start thinking they don't want to give all that up. And you really shouldn't have let me distract you all this time because one of your partners has grabbed a hammer..."

James spun around. Sure enough, Jeremy had indeed freed himself from the ropes, found a spare hammer, and was currently bashing on the earthquake generator. "Minions! Stop him!" James roared. Minions descended upon Jeremy like a price of lions on a zebra at feeding time. Jeremy struggled mightily, continuing to swing his hammer down onto the machine as the assorted Minions worked hard to wrestle the hammer out of his hand. Jeremy was much stronger than he looked.

And Richard was much smarter than he appeared. While Jeremy was wrestling with the Minions, and James was absorbed in the wrestling match, Richard simply walked around the back...

The machine suddenly went dark. There was a pause in all the action as everyone looked around them. Richard calmly emerged from the back of the machine, the power cord in hand. As he let it fall to the ground everyone noticed the cord had been cut; there was a flash of reflected light as a pair of scissors was placed back into his coveralls.

"Hammond!!" Jeremy shouted in delighted surprise.

"Hammond!!" James shouted in surprised exasperation.

"Let me find a place to rest my big balls!" Richard shouted triumphantly, not paying attention to what was around him. He should have been, though, because just then one of James' minions walked up and kicked him. Right there. In his big balls. Richard instantly collapsed to the floor, gasping in pain. Jeremy winced.

James arched a wry eyebrow. "So much for that," he commented. He turned his attention back to Jeremy. "Of course this means I have to kill you now," he announced. "Pity. You and Hammond have been great mates, but the time does come when every Evil Genius has to separate the leaders from the minions, and you two minions are interfering with my ability to be an Evil Genius." He pointed a hidden gun at Jeremy and suddenly Jeremy's life passed before his eyes.

There was a great rumbling that knocked everyone to the floor, stronger than any tremor felt before. "What the holy fuck was that?!" Jeremy squawked. James appeared just as clueless. And surprised.

Richard, beginning to recover from the kick to the worst place for any man, sat up. "James, do you have a map of the area we're in?" he asked.

"Of course, Hammond. What kind of Evil Genius would I be if I didn't?" James got to his feet, walked over to a console, and punched a few buttons. On the far wall a giant map appeared. Both Jeremy and Richard were quietly impressed with James' improved computer skills. One of the weaknesses he had as an Evil Genius has been, while being able to use a computer, he wasn't well-versed in how things in this area actually worked; this was a man who had his personal computer passwords written on a post-it note and actually put his computer porn into a folder named PORNOGRAPHY. So for James to be able to pull up a map via computer, then put it on a giant screen, well, that was an accomplishment.

And this from a man who built death days and guided bombs and earthquake machines.

But back to the map...

Richard and Jeremy stared intently at the location of the lair and the metropolitan Evil Genius community. Oh yes, they had Evil Genius neighbors. Everybody pretty much kept to themselves, lest a neighbor were to steal their plans for world domination. And James in some circles was ignored and dismissed as New Evil, and New Evil just wasn't as socially acceptable as Old Evil. They looked, then they looked again. "Hammond...are we where I think we are?" he asked

"Do you know, Clarkson, I think we are," Richard answered calmly, though all the colour had drained from his face. He turned to James. "James...when you found this place, did you happen to do any research on this location?"

"Some," James told him. "I knew of my neighbors, and this was an incredibly good deal, as far as hollowed out volcanoes go."

"And did you ever bother to find out why you got such a great deal?"

James thought. "No, I can't say I did," he answered.

Richard shook his head. "I didn't think so. Have you noticed how the tremors from your earthquake machine have been getting stronger? Well--"

Before Richard could explain there came another jolt, this time much worse than the last one. They hit the floor hard and this time it actually felt like the whole thing tilted. "Shit! Shit, shit, shit!" Jeremy bellowed. "MAY!! How could you do something so amazingly stupid?!"

"Why?" James asked. "What have I done?"

"James, this lair was built on the top of another volcano, a pretty goddamned legendary one, " Richard answered. "Krakatoa!"

"Krakatoa???"

"Yes, James--KRAKATOA! " Jeremy told him. "You remember what Krakatoa did, don't you? You were around for it! It blew up the South Pacific, created a monster tsunami, and caused the planet to have red sunsets for a year! And you had to invent and use an earthquake machine on it--YOU WOKE UP KRAKATOA!!!"

As if in response, yet another tremor hit, and this time it actually started to feel hot. James got up and hit a big red button. Alarms began to sound, warning his minions to evacuate.

"But, how are they going to get away?" Richard asked. "If this thing blows up, they're not going to be able to get away in time."

"Oh yes they will," James argued, and he actually dared to look smug. "Do you remember those Jet Cats that used to cross the English Channel and stopped? Let's just say other countries still use them and every time somebody runs them, I make money."

Richard blinked. "Are you saying you bought every working Jet Cat?" he asked.

"Absolutely," James replied. "How in the Cocking Nora do you think I'm paying for all this? My charm and good looks?"

Richard snorted. "As if."

"Oi, shut it you short arse! " Jeremy growled at him. "He knows how we can get off this time bomb!"

"That's right," James agreed. "I do. And you're not."

"WHAT????"

James gave an evil chuckle. "We're on an island," he responded. "And I am imposing Maritime Law. And Maritime Law says a captain sees to the safety of all hands, and goes down with the ship. I made you captains, right? Now that all my minions are safely away I'll make my own escape and lay low until I can buy a new hollowed out volcano and start over. Meanwhile, you two will become a couple of lava bombs. Cheers."

As another tremor hit with a tremendous rumble, debris began to fall, forcing Jeremy and Richard to cover their heads. When they looked up James was gone. "Get back here, you bastard!" Jeremy roared. "You're a captain, too!" He looked around and saw small fires breaking out all over the place. "Hamster, I think we're in serious trouble."

"You think?!" Richard replied. "We ARE in serious trouble, you orangutan! We're about to take a lava bath!"

"The first thing we have to do is get the fuck out of here," Jeremy said, trying to keep calm. "Then we'll figure out how to get away."

"Good idea," Hammond responded. "Jezza?"

"Yeah?"

"Better hurry."

They ran out of the lab into a complete mess. There was fire, falling debris, flaming debris, falling flaming debris, and every half a minute there came ominously stronger earthquakes that only seemed to make the rubble bounce. It actually felt to them like the world was trying to turn itself inside out. The floor was trying to flip over and the heat was rapidly becoming unbearable.

Clarkson and Hammond finally made it outside, but things somehow were worse. Now they had to deal with trees and rocks, too. All they knew was they needed to get as far away from that volcano as they could. Even if it wasn't far.

Eventually, avoiding falling trees, flying rocks, constantly being bounced around by earthquakes and watching ash clouds and steam start to rise from the summit, they made it to the beach. And realized they could go no further. All the boats were long gone and there was no way to escape. "One thing's for certain," Richard announced, "if I am fated to be a lava bomb, I fucking hope I land on James!"

Jeremy couldn't help but burst into laughter. "That would be appropriate, wouldn't it? Both of us landing on his slow arse?" Then he had a serious moment. "Oh, bloody hell, Richard, we're gonna fucking die."

"Yeah, we are," Richard answered, strangely calm. But then, Jeremy realized, Richard had been here a few times more than him, even a scenario where he was about to be an item on the Extra Crispy menu. "Not the way I really wanted to go, if I'm honest," Richard continued after a moment. "Still, what do you expect being around an Evil Genius?"

"Not a quiet, uneventful death, to be sure," Jeremy responded. "I figured death by death ray. One day I thought he'd get the drop on us trying to dismantle one and just execute us."

"I was sure the bomb was going to be it," Richard told him. "Surely cutting all the wires at once would make it blow up?"

"You'd think," Jeremy agreed. "By the way, brilliant idea earlier. Unplugging the damned earthquake machine wasn't something I thought of doing."

Richard nodded and smiled. "There are times when that Evil Genius of ours thinks entirely too simply." Before he could say any more another earthquake hit.Both men watched as vents opened in the ground and steam released, followed by fire. They stared up at the volcano expectantly.

"I guess this is it, Hammond."

"Yeah," Richard agreed. Tears filled his eyes as he thought about who he was leaving behind. Still, he figured, God was somehow going to reward him for taking on an Evil Genius and surviving. At least until the time he didn't.

"You might want to get over here before I have to watch you two kiss, and I really don't want to see that," came a voice. There was James .

Jeremy was shocked. "MAY!! What the fuck are you doing here?!"

"Trying to rescue your sorry arses," he told them. "I can't leave my mates to die. Come on!" All three ran, leaping as ledges suddenly appeared with each new convulsion. Trees fell. The water looked as if it started to boil. Then, in a clearing, they saw it: the old caravan airship, ready to go.

"James," Richard gasped. "Are you sure--"

"Would you rather potentially crash or die in a monstrous volcanic eruption?" James replied.

All three piled in, James strapping himself in the driver's seat. "I never thought I'd see this thing again," Richard said with wonder.

"I bought it after we filmed that segment," James explained. "I've been working on it ever since. It's better than it was."

"Better?" Richard asked as the airship lifted off the ground. "Define better."

More rents in the ground appeared, spewing steam and fire. The caravan continued to lift. Any second now the volcano/lair would go Krakatoa and blow up and rain down lava and fire and bits of earthquake generator and various other bits of projects they'd been working on, any of which could hit them and make this escape pointless.

At a sufficient height James turned to the others. "I'd find something to hold onto, if I were you," he said with a smug look. Jeremy and Richard stared at one another. James flipped a few switches. There came a roar, then the caravan airship zoomed away from the volcano. From a safe distance they watched the explosion, the ash cloud rising thousands of feet, lightning striking out of it. In minutes the entire island covered itself in lava and sank, leaving nothing but steam.And

"James..." Richard stammered, "did you put a jet engine on a caravan airship?"

"Sure," James answered simply. "Why not? I told you I made it better."

"Let me guess...you just so happened to have the engine from an F15 lying about," Jeremy stated.

"A Harrier Jump Jet, dear boy," James corrected him. "I bought one. Installed the engine some time ago. What, did you think I was out making Reassembler episodes those weeks I was absent? I was working on this! " He chuckled. "There are lots of modifications I've made. You'll enjoy it. Hammond, press that button next to your seat."

"Are you sure it's not just some ejection button?" Richard asked, worried.

"Hammond, I wouldn't risk my own arse rescuing yours just to eject you from a caravan airship," James commented. "Besides, you're in charge of Wales. Now, press that button." Richard pressed it. From a compartment in the floor rose a mini-bar.

"Gin!!" Richard marveled.

"Wine!!" Jeremy marveled at the same time.

"What every caravan airship needs, a bar," James announced. "So let's kick back, relax, and plot what we're going to do next. We have awhile until we land."

So it was a caravan was seen flying over the South Pacific. Nobody was sure what was more bizarre that day -- the airship, or a volcano that suddenly popped up in the exact same spot as Krakatoa mimicked its legendary twin and promptly exploded.

Nobody who saw inside, typically pilots, s py satellites, or the odd alien studying life on Earth, could quite explain the presence of three middle aged men sharing drinks and singing along to a familiar song: Beyond the blue horizon waits a beautiful day...