The Man From CARBUNCLE; The Time-Machine Affair

Violin Solo, the sua-vey secret agent who worked for Our Nation’s secret taskforce, CARBUNCLE, adjusted his tie and holster and checked to see that his shows were shiny, before going into the Ready-or-Not Room to be briefed by his boss, Mr.Hooverly, on his (Solo’s) next assignment. He knocked crisply and professionally on the door. He heard Mr.Hooverly say, “Come in, Mr.Solo.”

Violin Solo entered the Ready-or-Not Room. It was a large room, its walls lined with electronic gear and flashing lights. In the center of the room was a massive round table which served as a conference table, as well as Mr.Hooverly’s desk.

Mr.Hooverly was seated, chatting with a youngish blond man whom Solo had never seen before.  CARBUNCLE agents were trained to be observant, and Solo could tell that the blond guy was not only a Russian, but probably a Commie, and a competitive ballroom dancer as well.

“Mr.Solo, may I introduce Ely Putasokinit?” spake Mr.Hooverly. The Ruskie stood up as Hooverly addressed Solo. The two agents shook hands. “Mr.Putasokinit is to be your partner on this new project, which I will henceforth describe.”

Here Mr.Hooverly motioned, indicating that Ely and Solo shoulf be seated.

“As you may know,” began Hooverly, “the International Ballroom Association will be holding its annual convention here in New York City.”
Solo had never heard of the organization, but he assumed that Mr.Hooverly would give him whatever information he needed.
Hooverly continued: “What few people know is that the IBA is used as a front for the Apple Blossom Pink Party.”
Solo nodded knowingly. The Pink Party comprised a bunch of tree-huggers, led by their handsome, intelligent, heroic, godlike leader, Nelf Leeda.
“You know very well what happened in the election of 2000; Leeda addressed The People on many occasions and said many sensible things, and enough citizens were impressed by his speeches, that they voted for him. Therefore Foofur and Doofur were tied in Florida, where the vote was decided. This was before the Harris Resolution of ’02, when Florida’s dominant electoral status was diminished — indeed, nearly obliterated. However, research indicates that the Apple Blossomers are far more prevalent now. Nelf Leeda stands a very good chance of being elected this time around. In fact, if it wasn’t for Doofur’s untimely death, Leeda would be a shoo-in.”

Solo nodded again. In a freak accident, a plane had crashed into the Oval Office, killing the Chief Exec. Incredibly, the Vice President, Olguy, had been in the Oval Office, speaking with the President only minutes before the unexpected intrusion of the plane. Thus, Olguy was spared by Fate to serve the rest of Doofur’s term. Olguy had proven to be the textbook example of a president: diplomatic, charismatic and intelligent, with an instinct for making difficult decisions swiftly and wisely. Olguy was considered to be the people’s choice by many, and his only real rival was Nelf Leeda. There was a Democratic candidate as well, but he scored badly in the polls.

Ely Putasokinit spoke: “I am thinking as foreign visitor, but I must say, would it be so terrible if sensible-speaking Leeda-man was elected?”

Solo ducked his head to hide his derision. Hooverly smiled a tight little condescending smile as he explained in a scholarly tone, “Mr.Putasokinit, you are not yet used to the ways of the American culture. We can;t just willy-nilly elect free-thinkers and hope that everything will work out. No, we must stick to the tried-and-trite.”

Putasokinit looked puzzled. “But was not America in fact founded by free-thinkers?”
Mr.Hooverly’s smile grew broader. “Really, Mr.Putasokinit, that was long ago. Free-thinkers do not have a purpose in our present-day government.”

Ely Putasokinit subsided But Violin Solo was moved to ask a question. “But sir, I really don’t understand the connection between ballroom dancing and the Pink Party.”
“It’s very simple, really,” said Mr.Hooverly. “The organizations have several members in common.” Mr.Hooverly touched a button, and a computer screen, wafer-thin, flipped up from the table top. “Here are pictures of the troublemakers. I’d like you to commit their faces to memory.”
Onscreen appeared a picture of a doleful panda with the caption, Ever have one of those days?
Solo thought he heard Mr.Hooverly say, “Frig-all,” and the Russian leaned over and said, “May I, sir?” The blond agent pressed the proper buttons and the correct images appeared — and a motlier bunch of oddballs Solo had never seen.
“Those two couples are partners,” Mr.Hooverly pointed, “and those two have partners who are not affiliated with the Pinks. Your assignment, Mr.Putasokinit, is to become the partner of that woman. Mr.Solo, you will dispatch the woman’s partner.”
Solo’s eyes widened. “You mean kill?
“Not unless absolutely necessary,” responded My.Hooverly.

Violin Solo glanced nervously at his new CARBUNCLE partner. Cool as a cucumber, the Ruskie was. Bet it wouldn’t bother him to knock off a ballroom dancer, thought Solo. Come to think of it — well…

Hooverly was droning on, “When the woman’s partner is no longer present, Mr.Putasokinit takes his place and stuns the crowd with his skill and dexterity and all-around hipness.
Oh, really? thought Solo, somewhat miffed. He knew a thing or two about “hip.”
“Which is when, Mr.Solo, you kidnap Nelf Leeda, shove him into a time-machine and send him somewhere, where he can’t do any harm. I don’t know, the Pleistocene would be nice.”

Violin Solo was so stunned by the weight of his task that he could scarcely speak. “B-but sir,” he spluttered, “what about the Pink Party’s security forces? How do I get Leeda into the time-machine? Couldn’t I just use the time-machine to go back to an earlier Nelf Leeda and push him off a cliff, or something?”
Mr.Hooverly looked at Solo very sternly, indeed. “That will do, Mr.Solo,” he said severely. “In answer to your most recent ridiculous question, no, you can’t go back to an earlier Nelf Leeda and push him off a cliff, or something. The time-machine will not work in that fashion. However, I will give you a device which is guaranteed to lure Leeda into the time-machine.” He oponed a drawer and took out a pillbox. This he placed on the floor, pointed a remote-control at it, and looked triumphantly at Solo. Mr.Hooverly then touched a button on the remote-control. A hologram appeared: it looked like a willowy blonde underdressed twenty-one-year-old woman, with apple-blossoms in her hair and a ripped-up T-shirt with the message on it: “Vote for Nelf.”
Solo was baffled. He didn’t think that Leeda would respond to this cheesy groupie. As much as Solo disliked the candidate, the man had principles, for Lord’s sake! Nevertheless, Solo realized that his career with CARBUNCLE would be over if he refused this assignment. He attempted to look butch and resolute. “When do we start, sir?”
Hooverly grinned broadly. “That’s the spirit! You will go to the Hotel ___ this morning.”

Some competitive ballroom dancers (it seems) made a respectable amount of money not only in prizes, but also from dance schools they owned and lines of clothing they endorsed and/or designed. Thus Ely Putasokinit, who was posing as a ballroom dancer, rode to the Hotel ___ in a very nice, rather plush limousine, while Violin Solo unfortunately had to take the bus. Nelf Leeda had already arrived at the hotel, to cheer on the Pinks who were also dancers. The time-machine had been sent on ahead by CARBUNCLE. It was cleverly disguised as a concession stand. As there were no T-shirts or drinks or food for sale from it, the time-machine soon became cluttered with styrofoam cups, paper napkins and literature and other debris.

Solo, meanwhile, was engaged in a most difficult task — trying to look interested in Nelf Leeda’s political views and trying to get the creep near the time-machine. He didn’t know if the hologram-chickadee would lead Leeda to the machine, wending through the crowd — was is possible to make it behave thusly? He was getting nowhere with Leeda. After the candidate patiently explained his points of political view, he remained polite and distant. Solo wondered in dismay if the guy had ever seen a real politician in action — jollying with The People, pumping their hands and urging them to vote.

Finally, in desperation, Solo looked for a place to set down the pillbox. He didn’t want the damn thing to get trodden on. At last, he was able to put it down and activate it. It surprised him a little — the hologram-groupie looked event more realistic at the hotel than it had in the Ready-or-Not Room. The hologram’s skin looked pink and firm and moist, her eyes glistened, and her hair looked like spun gold. For a moment, Solo was tempted to ask if she’d like to accompany him to someplace quiet. But she had been thoroughly activated.

“Oh, Mr.Leeda,” she breathed in the manner of one who is meeting her idol.
“Well, hello, there,” smiled Leeda. “You can call me Nelf. Say, your eyes are the prettiest shade of green that I’ve ever seen.”
The hologram looked pleased, but modest. “Why, thank you, Mr.Leeda — Nelf. I just wanted to ask you — I’m a little concerned about your position on the crisis in the Middle East –”
The hologram was leading Leeda away. The last word Solo had heard was “position,” and he realized that he had to catch up with them.
The hologram was taking Leeda straight to the time-machine, which mere.y looked like an unused concession stand, and Leeda was unaware that he was stepping into a trap. The hologram-woman and the politician went inside the time-machine and Solo barely had time to press the controls before the door shut. He snatched his hand free only just in time, and Nelf Leeda was well on his way to being the first Apple Blossom Pink Party representative to live 500,000 years ago.

Meanwhile, as Ely Putasokinit had discovered, no one had to kill anyone (unless you counted Leeda’s unfortunate journey). The dancer whom he was meant to replace had gone into acting suddenly. His former partner was very receptive to Ely’s offer to dance with her. Mr.Putasokinit wowed the crowd with a fabulous display of footwork, and more importantly, impressed the judges.

Thus the two-party system was saved, and it was a great Christmas — especially if one worked at CARBUNCLE.

[This story was written in the 1990s.]


About Mary Borchard

Fabulous art available.
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