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Poem: "Dr. Doohickey and the Mad Science Scrambler" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "Dr. Doohickey and the Mad Science Scrambler"

This poem came out of the July 2, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from ellenmillion, ankewehner, and rix_scaedu.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles, as a gift to Barnstead (pernishus), faithful amanuensis and general factotum to Pernicious, the late and much-lamented Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat.  This poem belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.



Dr. Doohickey and the Mad Science Scrambler


"I thought you told me
that Dr. Doohickey was dead!"
snarled Mr. Pernicious,
spittle flying in the face of the cringing minion.

"I -- I thought he was," the minion said.
"He went through the wood chipper!
We found bits of him everywhere.
We even found most of his legs.
I brought them to you."

That was possible.
Mr. Pernicious never bothered
trying to tell his minions apart;
it might have been this one.
They all looked alike to him,
like little blobs of white dough.

"Evidently," Mr. Pernicious said,
"the largest piece of him escaped."
He twirled his long black moustache
with his elegant brown fingers
as he watched the superhero
briskly rolling toward them in a wheelchair.
"Since you failed to prevent this,
get a gun and rectify your mistake."
The minion hurried away.

Mr. Pernicious went back to his efforts
to broadcast the video of himself across the city.
With his power of Temptation he could corrupt
all the politicians at once, and far more cheaply
than bribing them one at a time.
"Just a few more minutes, and the city will be mine!"
he said as he uploaded the large file.

On a nearby roof, several minions
settled a beam rifle onto a tripod.
The distinctive vermilion thread of a heat beam
leaped from the muzzle of the gun.
It struck the sidewalk just in front of Dr. Doohickey,
instantly vaporizing part of the pavement.
The resulting explosion knocked him flying.

Dr. Doohickey's geoshield flicked open,
a dome of glittering crystal panes
whose piezoelectric field dispersed the next beam.
Then it retracted back into a small triangle.

The wheelchair lay on its side,
uppermost wheel spinning sadly in the air.
Dr. Doohickey scrabbled against the pavement
until he reached the arm of the chair,
where he pressed a hidden button.

The chair unfolded
into something with gleaming metal legs
and tucked its wheels against its underside.
It picked up Dr. Doohickey with gentle claws
and settled him securely into the seat,
a harness slithering into place around him.
Then it scuttled up the side of the building
toward the hapless minions,
who screamed and ran away.

This left the superhero free
to continue his assault on Mr. Pernicious.
The mechanical chair brought Dr. Doohickey
right up to the glass door of the building.

Fortunately Mr. Pernicious was never unarmed;
he always had the power of the Evil Eye.
"If you want something done right ..."
Mr. Pernicious muttered
as he squinted at the superhero.

"Not this time," Dr. Doohickey said,
flicking a silver cornetto
hidden amongst the struts of his chair.

"Mannaggia," said Mr. Pernicious.
That was all he had time to do
before Dr. Doohickey pointed at him
with a device whose business end clacked and whirred.

Suddenly Mr. Pernicious had a migraine.
He could hardly think through the stabbing pain
and blinding flares of light inside his skull.

"I call it the Egghead Beater,"
said Dr. Doohickey.
He paused, waiting for a laugh,
but nobody ever laughed at his awful jokes.
He was such a dork.

Such an infuriatingly effective dork.

Mr. Pernicious threw down a smoke bomb
and made a strategic retreat
into the alley behind the building.

The day had started out with such promise.
Now his marvelous plan had been foiled
by a crippled super-gizmologist
in a myrmicine wheelchair
wielding a weapon made from an eggbeater.

Oh, the ignominy!
He would never live it down.
The other villains would tease him forever
about falling prey to the Mad Science Scrambler.
(He was not calling it the Egghead Beater.
He was not.)

Hastily Mr. Pernicious shucked off
his expensive Italian suit of black wool
with its matching top hat and cape.
He offered them to a wino, saying,
"I'll trade you my clothes for yours."
The wino flung his rags at Mr. Pernicious
and fled before his benefactor could change his mind.

Mr. Pernicious donned the smelly clothes
and burrowed into the wino's abandoned nest.
Who would look twice at a brown man
sprawled in an alley?

Not Dr. Doohickey, who spied the wino
and galloped after him, mechanical legs clacking.

The minions arrived then,
bowing and scraping and dripping excuses.
Mr. Pernicious cut them off by saying,
"I want a taxicab and some strong narcotics."
His head was still killing him.

Two of the minions hustled him toward the street
with his arms draped over their shoulders.
This was good because Mr. Pernicious
could scarcely see through the tears.

He was scooped into a back seat,
handed several pills and a bottle of water.
He swallowed the lot without his usual paranoia.
If the pills turned out to be poison, well,
at least his headache would go away.

"Don't worry, sir,"
one of the minions said,
patting his shoulder.
"We'll get him next time!"

"Next time," Mr. Pernicious said grimly,
"I want you to capture him alive,
so that I can kill him myself."

* * *

Notes:

Mr. Pernicious is a Moorish Italian.  Most, but not quite all, were driven out of Italy some time ago.

Piezoelectric energy is a feature of quartz crystals.

Geodesic construction generalizes a straight line onto a curved surface, as in a geodesic dome or hemisphere.

Myrmicine means antlike.

The chair's design was somewhat inspired by six-legged antbots, robots designed to navigate rough territory.

The Evil Eye is a mystical power of doom recognized in Mediterranean cultures.  It can be blocked by various things including a cornetto or small horn.

Mannaggia is a general term of frustration in Italian, often rendered as "damn" although it has no direct translation into English.  It appears most often in southern Italy.

A migraine is an intense headache, often accompanied by other effects.  Its cause is obscure but is believed to be neurological.  This seemed like a good match for a weapon that works via nerve disruption.

Mr. Pernicious -- Alonzo Donati is an Italian of mixed Moorish descent from Lucera.  He has brown skin, blue eyes, and straight black hair.  He wears a long black moustache.
Origin: Growing up in the foster care system, he experienced much discrimination because of his ancestry.  Due to the constant recriminations and abuse, he came to view himself as the personification of evil, developing superpowers in the process.
Uniform: Classic villain garb consisting of a black top hat and cape with an impeccable Italian suit in black fabric and a white dress shirt.
Qualities: Expert Intelligence, Good Dramatic Personality, Good Fighting, Good Gizmology, Good Wealth
Poor Internalized Racism
Powers: Expert Evil Eye, Good Temptation
Limitation: Evil Eye can be blocked by traditional methods such as cornetti or nazars.
Good Minions: There are nine lieutenants and many faceless drones.  Mr. Pernicious pays little attention to telling them apart.
Motivation: To be the physical embodiment of evil.

Dr. Doohickey -- Donald Hicks has fair skin, brown eyes, and floppy blond hair always falling in his face.  He has an average-sized body, a little soft from spending lots of time in his workshop.  After losing his legs in a woodchipper death trap, he uses a super-gizmo wheelchair.
Origin: Always smart and interested in technology, Donald just gradually got better and better, crossing into super-gizmology in college.
Uniform: Typical lab wear, usually dark pants with a light shirt, sometimes a white coat.  He likes to wear a helicopter beanie at parties.
Qualities: Master Intelligence, Good Engineer, Good Geek Friends, Good Wealth
Poor Dorky
Powers: Master Super-Gizmology, Good Constitution
Expert Antchair resembles an ordinary wheelchair but can reconfigure to scuttle or climb on six metallic legs.  Good Agile, Good Smart, Poor Energy Hog.
Expert Storm Gun fires cloud of carbon nanoparticles which wrap the target in fine black strands along with an electromagnetic pulse that kills technology.  Good Carbon Net, Good EMP, Limitation: Sometimes releases random EMP on stormy days.
Good Egghead Beater (or Mad Science Scrambler) began as an eggbeater and disrupts nerve impulses in soups, causing a migraine and making it difficult or impossible to use mental superpowers.
Good Geoshield is a device that folds down to a single triangle, but quickly expands to a geodesic dome.  Made primarily of quartz, it uses piezoelectric power and general relativity to disperse beams and bolts.  Good Protection from Rays.
Motivation: To discover how everything works.

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19 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 16th, 2013 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is seriously wonderful, and I'm definitely going to make it a gift to Barnstead. I'll be pointing him over here shortly.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 16th, 2013 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> This is seriously wonderful, <<

I'm glad you like it.

>> and I'm definitely going to make it a gift to Barnstead. I'll be pointing him over here shortly. <<

I can add the gift-attribution to the post. How would you like it phrased? Does Barnstead have a LiveJournal account?
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 16th, 2013 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

"As a gift to Barnstead (pernishus), faithful amanuensis and general factotum to Pernicious, the late and much-lamented Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat."

Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 17th, 2013 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Done!
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 1st, 2015 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

RE: Re: Yay!

Oh, excellent, and nobly done! I've (e)known pernishus for many years, going back to alt.callahans (where I was/am known as SilverBlack) from about six months after the altPlace opened. Hey Mike! (Flips a Pennsylvania commemorative dollar coin toward the bar; it swerves in midair to land dead center in the correct compartment of the till.) For janetmiles's next drink or two!

Edited at 2015-09-01 10:29 pm (UTC)
pernishus From: pernishus Date: July 17th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC) (Link)
The late and much-lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat has instructed his faithful amanuensis and general factotum Barnstead to convey to mademoiselle Elizabeth Barrette ("Don't go there, Barnstead -- or it'll be your earlobes browning in that skillet instead of mushrooms and onions for tonight's Boeuf à la Stroganoff," the late and much-lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Farm Cat admonishes his faithful amanuensis and general factotum sternly) his sincere gratitude for being immortalized ("Yet again?" the late and much-lamented Pernicious the Musquodoboit Harbour Cat's faithful amanuensis and general factotum cattily remarks -- and then squeals "OUCH!" and wipes something red from his... well, from where his left earlobe was at some point...), eponymously, he presumes to assume, in such a marvelously-crafted work of art, as a token of which which he appends a photograph of himself, along with the diffident suggestion that, in the event votive candles are to be lit in front of it on a regular basis, he will be more than pleased to provide them at a 3% discount if shipped on a monthly basis (upon receipt of subscription) from the modest votive candle factory he just happens to own in the general vicinity of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Pernicious

Edited at 2013-07-17 01:01 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 17th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

What an adorable picture! I'm glad you both enjoyed the poem so much.

And Pernicious, may you be happy in the halls of Bastet until your next life comes around.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 18th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm mildly annoyed that the villain is a person of color, but otherwise this is hilarious!

Seems Mr. Pernicious has gone for Voldemort's plan of capturing the protagonist alive.

Free association time! My brain just reminded me of two things:

1. A photo manip I saw the other day of a Yughi-oh screencap of Yughi-oh as a baby, with text reading "Oh my god, look at that hair! He's going to be a protagonist! [This is so horrible!]"

2. I forget the name of the story, but somewhere out there is a story with a main character named Hiro Protagonist.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 18th, 2013 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>I'm mildly annoyed that the villain is a person of color,<<

Well, you're entitled to your opinion.

In my writing, people of color can be heroes, villains, or any other role. Damask's body is mixed-race and the headmates vary in skin tone. Other characters are an assortment of different races too.

>> but otherwise this is hilarious! <<

Yay!

>> Seems Mr. Pernicious has gone for Voldemort's plan of capturing the protagonist alive. <<

I wanted to explore why someone might want to do that, when it would usually seem more secure to just kill him and be done with it. Tried that, didn't work, want to make SURE next time.

>>2. I forget the name of the story, but somewhere out there is a story with a main character named Hiro Protagonist.<<

Snow Crash
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 18th, 2013 05:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

If Voldemort had been half as clever as he thought he was, he would have shot Harry with a gun.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 18th, 2013 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

True, of course. But a gun is a muggle device, and a would-be pureblood just won't go there. It's a stellar example of how prejudice can cripple your logic and planning.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 19th, 2013 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

True, true.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 1st, 2015 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

RE: Thoughts

«In my writing, people of color can be heroes, villains, or any other role. Damask's body is mixed-race and the headmates vary in skin tone. Other characters are an assortment of different races too.»

Ayup, that's the only fair way to do it: skin, gender***, or any other characteristic. Otherwise it ain't equality.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 1st, 2015 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

In fact, I'm increasingly fond of creating character roles (okay, for this project I need a leader, a second-in-command, a brain, a fighter...) and then dice up traits like sex, race, etc. using a random-number generator or handheld dice. Then I flesh out character descriptions incorporating those traits.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 4th, 2015 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I've heard of that ... way, way back before the kids grew up and moved out, and I played D&D with them. Good method.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 4th, 2015 04:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I figured that if it worked for dicing up roleplaying characters, it'd work for literary ones too. And I already knew how to from lit to RPG, it's how I got started.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: July 18th, 2013 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)
By the way, this is neat: A new adaptive device for paraplegics that lets them come up to the eye level of people who can still walk. Warning, the video is loud and auto-plays: http://www.wimp.com/newdevice/
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 18th, 2013 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

It's good to have options.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: September 1st, 2015 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Does Dr. Doolittlehickey's history include an analogue of Polynesia the parrot?
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