A Busy Day, With Skunks
Ellen  Kuhfeld

Professor Wadleigh is seated at the breakfast table of a neat bachelor kitchen, drinking coffee and reading the DAILY TRUMPET. The front page is facing us; Wadleigh is smiling as he reads the inside continuation of the story. Headline "MERCAPTAN RAIDS FASHION SHOW". There is a picture of a man in a skunk suit in a furrier's fashion show; he is aiming a compressed-air gun at the audience. The models are shrinking back in panic. Underneath the pic is the caption "Criminal or Eco-Commando?" The sub-headline is "Raises Stink Over Furs". Wadleigh is short, slight, with dark abundant hair; dressed in a utilitarian jumpsuit.
Wadleigh (thought): "That man is the craziest super in town, but he knows how to get a headline!"

Wadleigh goes through a door into a high-tech garage. In the kitchen behind him, a small robot is cleaning the kitchen, loading dishes into the dishwasher. The robot is named Clea; she is modeled after Ilda, of the old Star Hawkins strip, but her body is formed and painted as a traditional housemaid.

He reaches into the window of an ordinary-looking car, flicks a switch on the dash. All sorts of armament bays open up; access panels fly open. The car is named Ada.
Car (from speaker on dash): "Good morning, boss!"

Wadleigh is loading rockets into a rocket-launcher which has come out of the right front fender. He is taking them from a crate labelled "smoke rockets". Other crates in the same area are labelled "super glue", "nets", "caltrops", and "armor piercing". Toneless whistling.
Car: "I'm down to three smoke rockets, and almost out of caltrops."
Wadleigh: "Coming up."

He gets into the drivers' seat; his hand dances over a control console, much more complex than usual for a car. There are modules labelled "Power", "Systems Check", "Armaments", "Navigation", "Camouflage". (Navigation has a switch for "inertial" and another for "autopilot". Camouflage has rotary dials for color and condition, keypad for license plate number.)
Wadleigh: "Ada, let's check the manual controls."
Ada (the car): "Sure thing!"

He uses an ordinary garage door opener.
Ada: "Everything's in fine shape, boss! I feel ready to take on the world!"
Wadleigh: "So let's do it!."

An ordinary chunk of large Detroit Iron drives out on the street. The garage door is seen to be the loading dock of a nondescript warehouse in a run-down district.

Wadleigh is driving down the street in a lower-middle class neighborhood of row houses and apartments. Some buildings have fire escapes. He sees a 7-year-old hanging from the ladder end of one of those escapes, the kind that are counterbalanced horizontally and swing down as you move your weight out on the ladder. The ladder is still horizontal -- the kid isn't heavy enough to overbalance it. The kid started to drop to the ground, then realized he was hanging fifteen feet in the air. At the moment, he is hanging by both hands, kicking, and howling.

Wadleigh pulls to a stop, leaping out of the car while it's still swaying on its shocks. He holds a coiled rope with a weight on one end in his right hand; the far end of the rope is in his left hand.
Wadleigh: "Hang on, kid!"
Kid: "I'm scared!"

Wadleigh tosses the weight up; it wraps around the end of the ladder.

He pulls the ladder down with one hand, and reaches up to the kid with the other; he's not tall enough, but they're a lot closer. The kid is reaching out to the rope.
Wadleigh: "Grab the rope and slide down! I'll catch you!"

Wadleigh getting back into his car; waving goodbye to the kid, who is standing on the sidewalk. His mother is running out of the door of the apartment house with her arms stretched out.
Wadleigh: "Don't go swinging from buildings without the right equipment, okay? You could get hurt!"
Kid: "Okay."
Mother: "Dennis!"

Cameo panel of Wadleigh driving.
Wadleigh: "Well, a bit of a delay isn't critical. Battle status, Ada."
Ada: "Right."

The car transforms into a much meaner-looking vehicle, with lasers rising out of the fenders.

He pulls right, over the curb onto a plaza, and drives towards a bank, on a level with the plaza. His lasers cut the doors off at the hinges.

Full-width panel. Seen from inside the bank, as he comes barreling through the doors (which fall under his wheels). His car has deployed an air-bag bumper, low and wide, and several customers are being bumped out of the way by it. The car is sounding a loud klaxon from a PA speaker.
Car (electronic): "Make way! Aoo-oo-gah! Make way!"
Customers: "Eee!" "Look out!" "Oof!" "@#@%^&*****!"

He pulls to a stop besides the teller stations. The trunk pops open, revealing space and also, right rear, electronic gear in metal cases. The air-bag is deflating and being sucked back into the car.
Wadleigh/Ada (electronic, bullhorn): "Freeze! This is a hold-up! I want tellers putting money in my trunk NOW, or I'll do things we'll ALL regret!"

Cameo panel of burglar alarm going off.

Wadleigh's trunk-lid slams; a couple of tellers are waiting in line with moneybags, but most are empty-handed. There are quite a few bags of money inside the closing lid.
Wadleigh (electronic, bullhorn): "You've been wonderful hosts, but I see I've outstayed my welcome..."

Car roaring out the bank door. The customers and tellers are busy being spectators; the guards are pulling out their guns and running after the car.
Wadleigh (electronic, floating back through door): "...so I really must run!"

Car receding into distance; in the foreground, a bank-guard in a flak jacket is firing a bazooka after it. The smoke-trail is almost to the right rear of the car.

Wadleigh, closeup face shot; the car is lurching around him.
Wadleigh: "Holy smoke!"
Car Speaker: "Squeeee!"

Talking to the car, while driving:
Wadleigh: "Ada: smokescreen, caltrops. Drop some tear-gas on the turkey with the bazooka!"
Car Speaker: "Crackle...."

Over Wadleigh's shoulder, as he twiggles switches on the control panels: "autopilot" and "autotargetting".
Wadleigh: "Damn, NONE of the automation is functional! I'll have to drive!"

The car has whipped around the corner; it is flowing, shifting, changing into a rusty clunker with a crumpled rear fender.
Wadleigh (thought): "Camouflage still works!"

The clunker drives along, sedately; Wadleigh is hunched over, looking very inconspicuous and subdued as he passes several police cars with their sirens wailing, heading the other way.

Small panel; rear of the car as it drives into the same loading bay it left.

Looking in the hole (right rear fender) with a flashlight.
Wadleigh (thought): "Wow, they blew Ada's CPU off!" (voice): "THE MONEY FELL OUT THE HOLE!"

Large panel, laboratory scene; a number of half-completed robots on a workbench, and finished ones lounging around. There's a computer, with eye-lenses, ear-grids, and a mouth-speaker occupying center stage. Wadleigh is dashing in a door, with a corridor beyond.
Wadleigh: "Babbage, monitor police radio for carform 16, with a crumpled right rear; that's what I used on the way home."
The Computer: "Boss? What are you doing here? Telemetry has you and Ada downtown heading for the FBI building!"

A strongroom at the FBI offices. On a shelf is a battered electronic unit, recognizable as the one that had been in the car's trunk. Bags of money are beside it.
Caption: "That evening, in the FBI evidence room...."

A man in a skunk suit appears from thin air: Captain Mercaptan.
Mercaptan (thought): "The FBI deserves a thank-you for last night!"

He puts down a small pressure container labelled "Essence of Skunk", begins screwing it to the door of the room. Tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. An actuator cord goes from it to the doorframe.
Mercaptan: "De dum, de dum...."

A cutting laser begins cutting out around the door. (Same effects as the car laser that did in the bank door.) Sound effect, "ssssss". All we see of Mercaptan is a sort of "poof" in the air where he vanished, and from which his voice comes.
Mercaptan: "Oops! Company! Well -- nothing left but a bad smell, that's my motto!"

The hole is completed, and the door falls in, setting off the container. Sound effects: "thud" from the door, "ssssss" from the container. 

Outside, a huge cloud billows out to envelope Prof. Wadleigh. A thought balloon appears over his head, with a picture of a skunk the size of Godzilla, trashing Tokyo. He clutches his throat, a look of extreme disgust on his face.
Wadleigh: "GAH!"

The FBI agents come charging in, wearing gas-masks and holding guns. They find Professor Wadleigh collapsed in front of the burnt-open door.
Agent: "Captain Mercaptan, from the smell -- but what's Wadleigh doing here?"

A shower-room with bars on the windows. A guard with a backpack tank of Mil-spec XXX Deodorant is hosing down Wadleigh, who is flinching.
Guard: "Lawyer! I'll give you lawyer! You don't go NEAR the squad room phone until you're decontaminated!"

We see Wadleigh sitting by himself in a holding cell, wet from the shower and wearing ill-fitting jail clothes. A voice speaks from the air beside him.
Voice: "Hi, Dick!"
Wadleigh: "Eep! Don't sneak up like that!"

Wadleigh's put on a more public face; he's speaking to a voice coming from air, about where the head would be on somebody sitting next to him.
Voice: "Sorry. I didn't mean to skunk you."
Wadleigh: "If you had, you wouldn't have been looking for me in the FBI evidence room."

Voice: "I can skunk your arraignment. You hold your breath, and escape."
Wadleigh: "Can't wait. I have to rescue my AI -- she knows all my hideouts."
Voice: "Well, if you can get out of jail yourself...."

Wadleigh at the barred door to his cell, talking with a guard.
Wadleigh: "Hey, I get loose on a technicality if you don't give me my phone call. I can live with it!"

Dual panel, Wadleigh and his computer. He's talking on the phone; his voice and the computer's are both coming from the telephone line linking the two, in electronic balloons. Clea, the robot from page 1, is sweeping the floor of the lab.
Wadleigh: "They're holding me at the county jail. Notify my lawyer, and see about getting me out."
Computer (machine-readable dialog balloon): "Right, boss. Still wearing the short-range tracking molar?
Wadleigh: "Yes."
Computer: "I'll pick you up around 2 a.m."

A jail cell, with a barred window showing the moon outside. Wadleigh is relaxing in his bunk, watching a laser beam cutting a small opening in the outside wall.

A sturdy little robot, wearing lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat, is clinging outside. It has a rope over its shoulder, and a mountaineer's axe; and a cutting laser in one hand. It fastens a rope ladder to the wall with grapnels.
Robot: "Hi, boss! Captain Mercaptan is just around the corner in the Skunkmobile."

FBI property room; Captain Mercaptan has opened the (hastily repaired) door of the property room from inside, and Wadleigh is entering, carrying several heavy cardboard boxes.
Caption: "Still that night, back at the FBI ..."

Mercaptan and Wadleigh on a sofa in Wadleigh's living room, reading the morning paper about the jailbreak. Ada's CPU is in a corner with the money. (The CPU has a small loudspeaker jury-rigged to it.) A butler-robot named Rhett, looking rather like Alfred in a metal tuxedo, is beside them with a decanter on a tray. They raise glasses in a toast.
Both: "Here's to crime!"
ADA/loudspeaker: "They'll never hold us!"
Rhett: "Indeed."

The FBI labs. An exact duplicate of Ada's navigation unit is on a workbench, with techs discussing it.
Tech: "If we download this nav-unit from Wadleigh's car, we can backtrack him..."

The techs apply a screwdriver to it. A cloud billows out around them. (Sssss...) Thought balloons, as the techs crumple in a faint:

A giant skunk on top of the Empire State Building, with biplanes dropping like flies around it.

A Frankenstein-skunk on platform shoes with a flat head and bolts out of its neck, arms held stiffly out, grasping the tech by the throat; his tongue protrudes, his eyes cross.

Rhett pouring Mercaptan a refill of his drink.
Mercaptan: "I hope they enjoy the Limburger in the moneybags!"
Ada unit (in corner): "Can I be a Buick when you repair me?"
Wadleigh (to Mercaptan): "Ignore her. She's got an Electra complex."

- END -