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Run on the wheel, jog through the maze
I'll break the seal maybe one of these days
I don't know you from Adam, you could make my day / if you leave me a message I'll give it away
I am writing this not for myself, but for the sake of posterity. Regardless of what my newly expanded lifespan is, it is a virtual certainty that the subject of this missive will outlive me, and it is imperative that future generations be aware of the work I am about to undertake.
'cause the most perfect strangers that you can talk to / are the ones who pretend that you're not really you
On December 4, 2007, I encountered my universe's version of Dr. Raymond Joseph Stantz. This man, who had renamed himself "Dr. Proteus Razrazhatsya," is what laymen would term a 'mad scientist.' Like others of his ilk, he suffers from a neurological condition known as Foglio's Syndrome, which allows him to reach great intellectual heights at the expense of his ability to interact with the world around him in a 'normal' manner.
and with any attempts here to play Frankenstein / come with plenty of chances for changing your mind
I have reason to believe that the version of Ray Stantz who frequents Milliways also suffers from this disorder.
I won't find it fantastic or think it absurd / when the gun in the first act goes off in the third
In the few months since I met him, I have seen Dr. Stantz exhibit many of the symptoms of early-stage Foglio's Syndrome: high mental capacities, an awareness of the strangeness of the world around him, a tendency toward monologuing, an ability to make great intellectual leaps while in an impaired state of mind, and a total failure to acknowledge that there is anything abnormal about his behavior.
'cause it's rare that you ever know what to expect / from a guy made of corpses with bolts in his neck
I can only conclude that Dr. Stantz is either a latent mad genius or an extremely high-functioning one. What remains is to determine which of the two is the case.
if the creature is limping, the parts aren't in place / with a mind of its own and a fist for a face
I must emphasize that Foglio's Syndrome is not necessarily a negative condition--in fact, when managed properly, it can be a great asset. However, if Dr. Stantz's mad genius is still latent, he represents a threat of unimaginable proportions.
and when later we find that the thing we devised / has the villagers clamoring for its demise
The transition from early- to final-stage Foglio's Syndrome is invariably marked by a psychotic break, during which the 'mad' individual may act out in dramatic and dangerous ways. When my colleague Dave Davenport went mad, he was working as a technician in another mad scientist's laboratory; in his passion, he destroyed the entire facility, nearly killing his closest friends and himself in the process. The resources at Dr. Stantz's disposal are infinitely more powerful, and therefore more dangerous should he have a similar psychotic break. Every latent mad genius is, in effect, a time bomb waiting to go off--and this one has the potential to destroy entire universes when it detonates.
we will have to admit the futility of / trying to make something more of this jerry-built love
My goal, therefore, is to conduct a discreet study of Ray Stantz's past and current behavior, in order to determine the current stage of his disorder. If, as I suspect, his mad genius is still latent, I will do everything in my power to ensure that it remains so--or, if such is not possible, that his transition into true 'mad genius' is is as gentle and painless as I can make it.
and you'll notice it bears a resemblance to / everything I imagined I wanted from you
I must do this for Ray's sake, for his world's sake, for Milliways's sake... and for my own sake. I have borne witness to one friend's descent into madness, and I will be damned to hell before I allow it to happen again.
but at least it's my own creation / and it's better than real, it's a real imitiation.
Arthur Nicodemus Meriono
December 19, 2007


Whitetext lyrics: Aimee Mann, "Frankenstein"

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Dr. Razrazhatsya's laboratory is impossible to miss. The walls of the hallway leading to it are plastered with warning signs for the janitorial staff and the general public, warning against anyone bringing in liquids, metallic objects, or, of all things, shellfish allergies. Just in front of the door itself, someone has scrawled ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE in a substance that Artie doesn't care to examine too closely.

Whatever. Artie isn't going in through the door. Just around the corner there's an air vent at floor level, and the gaps between the bars are just wide enough for a gerbil to wriggle through. Two minutes later, he wriggles back out of another vent, inside the laboratory proper.

A gerbil's world is a world of sound and scent more than one of sight. The first thing Artie becomes aware of is an overpowering smell of coffee, mingled with citrus and at least a dozen different cleaning products, mostly of the sort used on electronics. Whoever cleans the place is absolutely fastidious--there's barely any human scent to be found anywhere. The sounds of the place are the hum and whir of electronic devices, unlike any Artie has ever heard, even back at Narbonics. Then, finally, there is sight.

The floor is bare concrete, with lines of colored tape in complex patterns marking off different sections of the space. A dozen different computer systems are sitting idle or running incomprehensible data analyses. (One appears to be running a very complex variant of the SETI@home screensaver.) Any clear wall space is covered with bookshelves--scientific journals, mostly, in a number of languages. At the far end of the room is a heavy metal door with a sign proclaiming it as 'The OTHER Observatory.' Closer to home is a large wooden desk, onto which Artie clambers with some difficulty. The top of the desk is as spotlessly clean as everything else; the only objects to be seen are a framed photo of two small boys, an eco-sphere with plants and brine shrimp inside, and a coffee percolator which looks like it would be better suited to compressing neutronium. Artie's getting a buzz just inhaling the fumes coming off of it.

C'mon, Artie, focus. You're not here for sightseeing. He leans over the edge of the desk and, after a few moments of prying, manages to get one of the side drawers open. It's filled with files, through which the gerbil starts to skim. He's not quite sure what he's looking for; hopefully, he'll know when he finds it.

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"Okay," says Artie. "Explain it to me one more time, so that I can confirm that I'm not hallucinating this whole incident. You want to do what?"

"Break into the laboratory of a mad cosmologist at Columbia University," says the holographic image of Dave Davenport. (Artie doesn't know where it's being projected from. If he did, the projector would be broken down into its component parts by now.)

"...because he's got a grant from a Canadian government agency and the Dave Conspiracy wants to know what he's doing with it."

"Exactly."

"I'd ask if you've lost your mind, but I already know the answer to that."

The head and shoulders of Helen B. Narbon appear to holo-Dave's right, peeking into the camera's field of vision. "Really, Artie," says holo-Helen. "I read the letter the Council of Five forwarded to us. According to the Daves' operatives in Ottawa, the Ministry of Extraordinary Threats is gearing up to face some sort of significant threat to the entire world. You, of all people, should care about that."

"Since when do you care?"

"Since I happen to be living on this planet for the time being, and I don't want anyone else destroying it before I get a chance to," says holo-Helen primly. "If Dr. Razrazhatsya has any information that can prevent that, I want to know what it is."

Artie takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Okay. I agree that saving the world is a good thing. But think about what you're planning for a moment. The Ministry of Extraordinary Threats has never, in its entire history, employed a person named 'Dave.' Either we're dealing with a staggeringly huge coincidence, or the Ministry knows about the Conspiracy and is deliberately staying off of its radar. Given that, do you seriously think that a man named 'Dave' will be allowed to get within ten miles of anything the MET is paying for? And you're no good either, Helen, you were Dave's boss for more than five years. And Mell--well, come on, do you expect Mell to get in and out without demolishing the place? The only one who could conceivably get anywhere near Razrazhatsya's laboratory is..."

Artie trails off, comprehension dawning.

"...You planned this from the beginning, didn't you? That's why you called me instead of going straight to New York. You set this up to manipulate me into going instead."

A long pause. "Actually, we just called to wish you a happy birthday," says holo-Dave. "But since you're offering..."

Artie sighs and facepalms.

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"Alright, Janessa, it's an hour past closing time, I'm going to have to ask that you leave so I can finish cleaning up."

"Aw, c'mon, man, I'm almost done with this paper--"

"You've been playing solitaire for the last forty minutes. Out."

Reluctantly, the student packs up her laptop and walks out into the snowy night. The spindly blond barista watches her go, then turns back to his task of putting the chairs on the tables. There are better-paying jobs out there, ones with more benefits and shorter hours, but this one's his, and he wouldn't trade it for the world.

"Caliban..."

"We're closed," says the barista without turning around.

"I'm not here for a macchiato, meat sack."

Very slowly, the barista turns around. Standing just inside the door is a hulking, reptilian beast, eight feet tall and almost as wide, covered in scales and spines and oozing greenish ichor from every pore.

"Oh, hey, Phil," says the barista. "What are you doing here? The next information exchange isn't for another week, you shouldn't even be allowed on the mortal plane."

"I got special permission." The beast idly stretches its meat-cleaver-like claws. "The Malebrache wanted to get in touch with you in a hurry."

"If you're looking for an update on the WGA strike, I don't--"

"Nah, nah, it ain't that. Fact is, we wanted to let you in on some information, while we still can."

...that's unexpected. Caliban blinks in surprise. "What's going on, Phil?"

It shrugs its massive shoulders. "Couldn't say exactly. All I know is startin' tomorrow we're s'posed to stay out of the mortal realm until further notice. Orders from Satan herself."

"What??" Caliban's eyes go wide as saucers. "The only thing that would prompt her to do that is... is..." A beat. "What is it, exactly?"

"Beats the heaven outta me, man. But I sure ain't gonna stick around to find out. Anyway, I came to give ya this..." It reaches into a cranny between two spines and pulls out a pitch-black envelope with a blood-red seal. "'s from Malachi. He says you should be sure there ain't any other mortals around when ya read it."

"Er... thanks, I guess." Caliban carefully plucks the envelope out of Phil's thorny grasp. "See you soon."

"Don't count on it," says the beast, and then it's gone.

Caliban sits down in the one chair that hasn't been put away yet, opens the letter, and starts to read.

All of the milk in the stock room freezer spontaneously curdles from the stream of celestial invective Caliban utters once he gets to the end.

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"Why are we just finding out about this now??" says a Dave, waving the offending piece of paper in the air. "We're the goddamn Conspiracy! Why don't we have people taking care of this stuff?"

"Yeah, don't we have an Extraordinary Threats thingy too?" says another Dave.

"No, we have a Vague Threats Committee," replies yet another Dave. "They're the guys who send out those press releases saying 'We're onto you.'"

"Oh, right."

"Still, he's got a point," says a fourth Dave. "Assuming this letter is legitimate--"

"It is. I checked."

"--then this 'Ministry of Extraordinary Threats' has been operating for more than a century without any Dave presence whatsoever. This is a grave oversight, people. We need to get an agent in there ASAP."

The fifth man at the table, who also happens to be named Dave, puts down his sandwich and speaks up. "I hate to change the subject, but doesn't the whole 'unspeakable horrors from outside of reality' thing kinda take precedence over that?"

The other four Daves turn to stare at him.

Dave #3 shakes his head sadly. "You have no sense of priorities, man."

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A tinny version of Ravel's Boléro is playing as Artie gets out of the shower. It's his cell phone. He picks up. "Hello?"

"Where the hell are you?"

"Nice to hear from you too, Dave."

"Seriously. Where are you? Please tell me you're on the way over."

Confused blink. "On the way over where?"

"To the Mad Science Symposium! We've been waiting for you for three hours now! What happened?"

"WHAT??" Artie yelps. "The Symposium's not for another two weeks!"

"It got bumped up. The Volcano Worshippers Convention was booked for the same weekend so they had to reschedule everything. Didn't Helen tell you?"

Helen's voice in the background: "I told you to tell him!"

"Well, I've been busy! The ur-gerbils keep chewing through the perimeter fence and--"

"Oh, you've been busy? Who has to replant the garden every time they get in?"

"I thought you had the clones doing yard work."

"I do. The ur-gerbils keep eating them, too. Do you have any idea how many poolboys we've gone through in the last month?"

"...am I interrupting something?" says Artie when there's a moment of relative slience.

An exasperated sigh from the other end. "Look, just get here as soon as you can, okay? It's at the Milwaukee Hilton, they've already started so you can just pick up your badge at the door."

"And tell him to bring the chemical samples!"

"And bring the samples, yeah. Helen wants to pass them out at the mixer tonight."

"You expect me to get there tonight?? How am I supposed to do that?"

"Catch a plane. Charter one if you have to, I know you can afford it. Just get here." The call cuts off.

Artie stares at his cell phone for a long moment, then sighs. He's got some packing to do.

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Ask me five questions! Any five questions and I'll do my best to answer them. Be as crazy as you want.

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From the moment he wakes up, Artie knows that he's been changed. He's had his body altered too often not to recognize it when it happens. This isn't the body he had when he went to bed last night--in fact, unless he's much mistaken, it's not a body he's ever had under any circumstances before.

Oh, Lord, what did Helen do this time?

He opens his eyes. The room's different, too. Do the rooms themselves shift and change like the Bar does? Or is it something else?

He sits up and takes a look at himself--herself. This is a female body. Well, it was bound to happen eventually, wasn't it? God knows Helen and Dave have been gender-swapped often enough. Fair complexion, fairly muscular build. Short-ish hair, can't pull enough in front to be certain of the color... As he's--she's feeling her new facial features, she's overcome by a sudden wave of nausea. She bolts for what she fervently hopes is the bathroom door.

After puking up last night's curry, she stares in bewilderment at the strange face in the bathroom mirror. Where did THAT come from? Why did I start feeling sick all of a--

And then it clicks.

Not only is Artie in a female body, s/he's in a pregnant female body.

"Next time I see Helen," she grumbles to herself, "I swear by whatever gods are handy, I'm going to wring her freaking neck."

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