The Ultimatum

The door opened and Verell stepped in accompanied by the two very broad and tall thugs with clean-shaved heads who had been in his office. There were a few scars on their hands and faces that looked like they might have been rat bites. Verell himself was a squirrelly sort of fellow, his glasses pushed a bit too far up on his snub nose. His brown mousy hair was combed to the side and held in place with a greasy-looking product. His voice, however, was much deeper and louder than his appearance would suggest. 

"Good morning," he said with a small grin. "I am glad to see you two are right where I left you. Crystal, I suppose you are wondering why I knocked you out with diethyl ether?"

Crystal said nothing. Harry tried not to wince as Verell walked closer. His cologne smelled terrible, like he had used an entire bottle of mosquito spray. 

"Harry Goldberg, I presume. From the SDPA."

"O" Harry corrected. 

"What?"

"SDPO. Scientific Discovery Protection Organization. My position title is field agent. Didn't actually expect to ever be held hostage, though. Mostly paperwork and cleaning up after lab explosions-"

"Nobody cares! Please do not talk again, your voice is extremely irritating."

Harry opened his mouth to tell Verell where he could shove his irritation, but closed it again. The thugs had subtly put their hands on their hips, drawing attention to the shiny black Glocks in their belts. 

Verrell smiled with satisfaction and began to talk again. "I used ether because it has a much stronger effect than chloroform on dampening your 'special' abilities. Crystal will not be able to fly at full strength for at least 36 hours. Unfortunately by that time you will both be dead. But before I kill you I want something from you. Can you guess what that is?"

Crystal and Harry offered no replies.

"Well you see I have been attempting to modify your formulas. Your flying rats were cute, but hardly useful as weapons. I needed to make them smarter, more... evil.

"I understand you have improved your intelligence serum. I need the formula. I also want the procedures for your hyperspeed and electricity producing experiments. I know you will give these to me, Crystal, because if you don't, Mr. Goldberg here will have said his last irritating word."

Crystal finally spoke up. "I thought we were both going to die anyway. Why would I give you more power only to prolong our lives for a few hours? No, you better just shoot us."

"Um, Crystal, can we talk?" Harry muttered under his breath.

"Shut up!" Verrell yelled, waving his gun at Harry's general area. "Okay, Cryssie, new deal." He came to stand in front of her and stroked her face with the barrel of his gun. "How about if you give the information to me and I will let your little boyfriend go? Hmm? I won't even torture him. Cross my heart."

Crystal met his eyes squarely, despite the gun barrel digging into her cheekbone.

"No? Perhaps you need more motivation. Hans?"

The shorter thug exited the cell. The waft of fresh air that subsequently entered was a relief, as Verell's cologne had begun to overwhelm the entire room. Even Thug 2 was looking a little green, his head beginning to glisten. 

"I may not be as smart as you, Crystal, but I have a few resources of my own. Money being an important one, of course, from selling inventions stolen from employees like yourself. Weapons, you see, are far more lucrative than little helpful gadgets. You can't make millions on vegetable choppers and more efficient solar panels. But money isn't everything. Neither is power. No, the world is everything. And I will not rest until I have it in my grasp."

"How do you propose to conquer the entire world, Brandon? Vaporize every water source? Engineer a breed of killer ferrets as your minions?"

"Don't give him ideas," Harry muttered. 

"My master plan is nearly complete. Your formulas are only the beginning. I will begin by withholding the cure that everyone needs, and thus begin my reign of power."

"What cure does everyone need?" Harry asked out loud.

"I am so glad someone asked, and yet so annoyed by the sound of your voice. CANCER. I have engineered a vaccine for cancer. I have already begun mass production, and I will only sell it to those who agree to serve me. The world will fall at my feet and lick them until I tell them to stop because it tickles."

Crystal scoffed. "That is the worst bluff I have ever heard. A vaccine could never prevent all forms of cancer." 

"It is not a bluff if you are holding a royal flush, my dear. Oh, look - here comes another card for my hand."

Crystal gasped. Harry froze.

Hans had returned, with Brenda thrown over his shoulder. He turned to close the door behind him and Brenda raised her head which was perilously near his buttocks. "Hi, guys. Sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't rescue you, I tried-"

"I knew that I wouldn't have to find her. I knew if I captured you two Miss Farmer would not be far behind." Verrell grinned evilly as Hans set Brenda down in a chair and proceeded to secure her to it. 

Brenda kept babbling. "I'm so sorry, Crystal. I love you, girl. You're like my best friend in the whole world. Man, it stinks in here, it smells like-"

"Is she drugged?" Crystal asked. 

"Yes, well I think the ether had a cathartic effect on her. So, Miss Johnson? What will it be? Death of yourself and your friends? Or will you give me what I need in order to save both their lives? It's your choice. I will give you three hours to decide."

Verrell and his men left the cell. Brenda had still not stopped talking. "-shiny heads. I think you should marry Harry, Crystal, he is such a great guy. Marry Harry, that sounds funny. Marry Harry, marry Harry, ma-"

Suddenly she stopped, and cocked her head, apparently listening. In a normal voice she spoke again, and began to wriggle her hands against the ropes. "I think they're gone. Don't worry, guys, I'll get you out faster than you can say 'gallium arsenide field-effect transistor'.

Crystal grinned. "Brenda, I love you  so much. You're like my best friend in the whole world," she taunted.

"Shut up."

The End

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