“It’s a good thing you had the coordinates of Dr. Chrome’s secret laboratory pre-programmed into your cell phone slash handheld GPS system,” March said to Max as the six of them approached the base of a large grassy mountain.
“The Strat K provided the coordinates,” Max said. His cell phone/GPS system started to beep uncontrollably. “We’re here.”
“Humpf,” Leonard straightened his cap, “the bloody K”.
“So where’s the entrance?” 14 asked.
“The GPS says that it’s right underneath us,” Max said.
Cane and Sharp reached into their trench coats and pulled out a gun in each hand.
“Let’s do this,” Cane said.
“I’m afraid you can’t bring guns in with you,” Max said. He got down on his hands and knees and felt through the long grass for some sort of hidden door.
All five hunters stared at the little man as he crawled about the grass.
“What do you mean we can’t bring our guns in with us?” March protested.
14 put a gentle hand to his hip, unwilling to part with Colt.
Without looking up from his search for the entrance, Max explained: “A spark from a single shot of gunfire could offset the balance of the cooling medium that Dr. Chrome is using to maintain conditions in his laboratory, which could lead to a rapid heating of the lab, causing the chemical to reach its oxidation state-”
“And a volcanic eruption of radioactive gas and the end of civilization as we know it,” Sharp finished his sentence. “Yeah, we get that – but how are we supposed to kill the evil doctor if we can’t shoot him?”
“We’ll do it the old fashioned way,” Leonard said.
“A hanging?” 14 asked.
“No,” Leonard reached into his right shoe and pulled out a long sharp knife, “a slaughter.”
14 turned to Sharp, “You know, that’s how he first got his reputation in this business, as ‘Leonard the Slaughterer’,” 14 said, “but it was much too hard to say so Leo switched over to guns-”
Sharp lifted her eyebrows and nodded along to feign interest, but cut off 14 mid-sentence and implored of Leonard, “but none of us brought knives, all we have with us are guns.”
“Such a shame,” Cane shook her head. “I just got a brand new set of Boker Magnum throwing knives for my birthday,” she pouted. March put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “They had extra padding on the handles… and real leather sheaths that attached to the belt of my gun holster.” Cane looked liked she was about to cry.
“Looks like I’ll be the one to rub Chrome,” Leo said. “You all just worry about getting the sample.” All the bounty hunters reluctantly placed their guns in a pile on the grass.
“Aha!” Max yelled. He lifted a patch of heather to reveal a wooden door in the ground. Max lifted the door and one-by-one the hunters dropped down underground. They followed a long hallway deep into the heart of the volcano until it finally opened up on the main room of Dr. Chrome’s laboratory. It was a series of metal grated platforms stacked above each other, connected by steal ladders. A pit of lava bubbled below.
Cane and Sharp’s heels made soft clicking noises against the metal grates as they slowly approached the large vat of Irn Bru. When suddenly an intercom projected some feedback and then a distinctly German voice announced: “Hunter, party of six, your table is now available. That’s a Mr. and Mrs. Bountry Hunter, party of six, your table is now available… in hell!” The announcement was followed by amplified evil laughter, which echoed in the caverns of the volcano.
On the platform above them, a black chair swiveled around to reveal Dr. Chrome laughing evilly and hysterically at his own terrible joke. He had on a red lab coat and black rubber gloves.
“Wow, he looks a lot like Zac Efron,” Cane said, “only German.”
“Ridiculous!” Chrome yelled. “I am not German, I am Austrian,” he clarified.
Dr. Chrome’s arms were poised on either armrest and in each palm he held a small furry brown critter.
“Are those hamsters?” March asked.
Chrome ceased his laughing. “Evil hamsters!” he yelled like a German Nazi might, if a German Nazi ever had the opportunity to yell out ‘evil hamsters’.
“This one is named Oom,” Chrome said lifting his left hand and rubbing the hamster’s little head with his rubber-gloved thumb.
“Why Oom?” Leonard asked.
“Because that’s the sound a backwards cow would make!” Chrome Nazi-yelled again.
“I wonder what a backwards cow looks like?” 14 asked.
“Ridiculous!” Chrome said. “A backwards cow looks precisely the same as a forwards cow – just turned around.”
There was a long pause.
“And this one is named Laut,” Chrome said lifting his right hand.
“I don’t even want to know what kind of backwards animal makes that sound,” 14 said.
“Ridiculous!” Chrome yelled. “Laut is my mother’s maiden name.”
“Wait,” said March. “Oom and Laut? Umlaut? As in the punctuation that appears over vowels in Germanic languages?”
“Ridiculous!” Chrome yelled again. “I am Austrian, not German.”
“But they speak a Germanic language in Austria-” March insisted.
“Enough! I know what language I speak! I speak English with a very cheesy thick Austrian accent that is always confused with German,” Chrome stood up from his swivel chair and placed Oom and Laut in plastic run-about balls. “You have arrived just in time to watch me release the radioactive gas.”
“What are you talking about,” Sharp said, “I thought you were brewing the radioactive liquid to sell to the Russian terrorists.”
“Ridiculous!” Chrome threw up his hands. “Screw the Russians, I will rule the world!” As his hands flew up, they released each roll-about ball and the two hamsters scurried down a ramp toward a giant U-shaped tube. The 5 and ½ Hunters watched the hamsters roll in confusion as Dr. Chrome slipped a gas mask over his face.
Suddenly, Max exclaimed: “That tube controls the cooling medium! The hamsters’ plastic roll-about balls will seal off the tube and stop the circulation of the coolant!”
Sharp and Cane reacted instantly, swinging from ladder to ladder until they reached the ramp. They each leaped into the air and did an impressive 360-degree turn-karate kick in order to launch the hamsters into the boiling lava below. Their jumps appeared as if in slow motion. But both hunters returned to the ground and waited. Ten seconds later the hamsters finally rolled right up to their feet so they simply bent down and picked up the little fur balls.
“Ridiculous!” came Chrome’s muffled yell from within his gas mask.
“We thought so,” Cane said. “It would have been ridiculous to kick the poor little creatures into the lava when all we had to do was pick them up.”
Leonard launched himself up the ladder to the platform where Chrome stood. He passed his knife back and forth between his hands, ready to take a swipe at the evil Austrian doctor that looked so much like a German Zac Efron.
Dr. Chrome slowly backed away as Leonard approached with the knife. Max was in the process of taking a sample of the Irn Bru into his thermos with the help of Cane and March. Sharp and 14 joined Leonard on the platform with Chrome.
“Any last words?” Leonard asked the doctor.
“Ich will meine Mami,” Chrome whimpered.
“Hey – that’s German!” Sharp said.
“Austrian my ass,” 14 said nudging Leonard. It was a much more powerful nudge than 14 had intended and it knocked a surprised Leonard off-balance backward into Sharp. In his stumbles he dropped the knife and it fell between the metal grates into the lava below.
“The knife,” Leonard yelled. But it was too late, Dr. Chrome had already fled the scene.
Sharp tried to catch her own balance by taking a firm step to her right. Her boot stomped down hard on 14’s foot and the gun in her heel fired. 14 let out a piercing cry as he grabbed his left foot and hopped around on his right foot in pain.
“You shot me!” 14 yelled.
“Well, actually you pushed Leonard into me, so really you shot yourself,” Sharp said with not even the tiniest hint of remorse. Just then the ground started to tremble.
“The gunshot,” Max yelled, “it offset the equilibrium!”
“Way to go,” Sharp said to a still-crying 14.
“They really are the worst hunters ever,” Cane said under her breath to March. March silently agreed and then pulled out her phone.
“Who you gonna call?” Cane asked.
“The Ghostbusters won’t be of much help in this scenario,” Max said with a chuckle. “Plus, they’re located in Manhattan,” he said rather seriously. “There’s no way they’d be able to get here in time.”
“I’m calling Daddy,” March said as large rocks began to fall form the volcano walls splashing hot lava high into the air.
Suddenly, twenty men dressed all in black propelled down the side of the volcano on long ropes. Half of them set to work on the large vat of radioactive Irn Bru, pouring large amounts of a third liquid into the mix. The other half shot large metal posts into the walls at opposite ends of the volcano.
The trembling stopped.
“What just happened?” Sharp asked.
“One of the men dressed all in black responded with, “The metal posts inserted exactly seven feet into the north and south walls of the volcano absorb the vibrations to prevent an eruption. And the liquid we added to the sample is a variant that causes the Irn Bru and Mendellium to separate because of their different densities so that we can safely remove the radioactive element from this dangerous environment.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t think of that,” Max said scratching his head. “Or the snazzy entrance with the drop-down rope thingies for that matter… we’ll just save that little maneuver for next time,” he said with a wink at Cane, who could only laugh in response.
March walked up to the man in black who was speaking and gave him a hug. “Thanks Daddy,” she said.
“Daddy?” Leonard asked. “The bloody Strat K,” he said shoving his hands into his pockets.
“You shot me!” 14 yelled again at Sharp.
“Oh come on,” she protested, “it’s not even all that bad.” She turned to Cane. “We should get the sample back to headquarters.” And with that the Trench Twins disappeared with Max and the thermos. March propelled back up the volcano wall with her father and the other 19 black-clad members of the Strat K. Leonard and 14 were left all alone in the empty laboratory.
The two hunters sat in silence.
“SHE SHOT ME!” 14 finally yelled.
Leonard rolled his eyes at his partner. “Isn’t anyone going to help us out of here,” he yelled up the volcano.
A blue dress floated down through the air and “Tell her About It” started to play over the intercom.
“Bloody Strat K,” Leonard said reaching for the dress.