The lemons were heading eastward. While the Professor seemed fairly intent on where they were going, Grem, Acer, Everett, and Miles were utterly dumfounded. Acer opened his mouth to ask where they were going, but closed it once he realized the Professor would just snap back with a taciturn response and return his eyes to the road. It was only when they neared a harbor that Everett spoke up.
“What are we doing here?” Everett questioned with criticism.
“We’re heading to Germany”, Professor Z answered impassively.
“Germany?” Everett halted where he was, “I’m not leaving the states for your little wild goose chase!”
“We aren’t chasing anything”, Professor Z reminded, “We’re only travelling to a proficient workspace.”
“Forget it!” Everett had made up his mind, “I’m not going there! I’ve humored you Zundapp, let you do your research and all that, but if you think I’m leaving the country so you can draw pictures and fill notebooks, no thanks!”
Miles looked to Professor Z for reassurance on whether or not to provide financial support. Professor Z nodded at the range rover and stared at the halted Edsel in front of him. Everett was serious, and whether his disapproval of the trip to Germany was rooted in fear or laziness, Zundapp wasn’t sure. One thing he was certain of, though, Everett was not leaving the country.
“I suppose we must do the research here, then”, Professor Z concluded, “Let’s find a place to get started and once my findings are complete us four lemons will make the trip to Germany without you, Everett.”
Everett’s eyes widened, as if he was surprised and grateful he wasn’t going to be dragged overseas, “Well good, then. That works for everyone.”
The Professor looked around the industrial area they were in. A harbor was not the place to conduct world-changing research. He needed to find somewhere more adequate for the five cars to bed down for the night, and more importantly somewhere he could make observations and discoveries to the best of his ability.
“We can use the workers’ quarters”, Professor Z proclaimed, “They won’t be in use on a Saturday.”
“Isn’t that where the dock workers live?” Miles was confused, “Wouldn’t they be most prominent there on the weekend?”
“These are not those kind of quarters, they are in use during work hours for breaks and to store equipment”, Professor Z responded, “It may have much of what we need in stock.”
The worker’s quarters were not far off from their current location. They arrived in a matter of minutes, only to find that the steel garage door was locked. Everett saw this as no formidable obstacle and rammed full speed into the door, smashing it open.
“What are you doing?” Professor Z yelped, “We don’t want to be heard, do we?”
“I got it open, that’s what matters”, Everett rolled in with a grin, pleased with himself.
Zundapp sighed and followed him, and finally the last three cars rumbled through the demolished doorway. Once inside, Zundapp flipped on the lights and immediately spun round to face his lackeys.
“Grem, Acer, I have a task for you”, The Professor explained, “Find a hardware store and pick up the items required for my research. If it’s not all there, and I’m sure it won’t be, find somewhere else that carries what I need. Miles, you go with them and fund the transaction.”
“What do we need to pick up?” Grem asked the microcar.
“An abundance of items”, Professor Z stated introductorily, “Two spiral bound sketchbooks, eight by twelve inches. A compass, as in the mathematical tool, chalk, a protractor-“.
“Whoa”, Acer’s hood was spinning, “Slow down, Professor. You think you could right this down, there’s no way we’re going to remember all that.”
“Very well”, The Professor rolled to the other side of the room and searched through the cabinets, returning promptly with a piece of lined paper and a cheap pen. Upon writing, he scowled in disapproval, “This pen won’t do at all. I’ll have to add ballpoint pen to the list, something I can right with without it breaking between my treads.”
In a matter of minutes Zundapp gave the finished list to Grem, who looked over it and then glanced up to the Professor, “Is this everything?”
“Of course it’s everything”, Professor Z felt insulted, “You don’t trust me to avoid omitting important supplies?”
“Well”, Grem tried to find the right words, “You don’t have a pencil on here. What if you need to erase?”
“I don’t make mistakes”, Professor Z glared contemptuously at the Gremlin, “On your way.”
Once again Grem obeyed and he, Acer, and Miles rolled out the door to find the supplies needed. Once out of Zundapp’s earshot, Acer found the courage to complain.
“Do you guys realize it’s eleven O’clock at night?” Acer refereed to his dashboard clock, “What store’s even gonna be open?”
“We’ll find one that is”, Grem said confidently, “And if not, well we can always break in and get what we want ourselves.”
“Why isn’t that plan A?” Acer asked, enthusiastic to commit a robbery.
“We don’t want to risk getting tossed in jail, Acer”, Grem reminded the Pacer, “Besides, we have a much better chance of the cashier not recognizing us as criminals than the police not catching us when we commit actual crimes.”
Acer nodded in agreement as they neared a convenience store. The neon sign read 24 hours, just what they needed. Hopefully most if not all of what they needed was in stock. Grem led the way into the store and soon they were roaming the aisles in search of the items on the list.
“Like some sort of scavenger hunt”, Acer chuckled.
Grem returned the laugh, “Heh, yeah, kinda.”
“I think we’ve reduced the list a fair amount”, Miles looked down at the contents of their shopping cart, “The rest of the supplies appear to only be hardware and pharmaceutical.”
“I think you’re right”, Grem replied, “We should pay and move on to the next store.”
Then Grem looked down the Aisle towards a closed off area, and an idea came to mind, “But I think know where we can get the pharmaceutical stuff.”
Miles followed his gaze, but was lost, “What are you looking at?”
“Oh, I got you Grem!” Acer sniggered, “You go and pay for this stuff, Miles, and keep the cashier occupied.”
“Alright, but-“, Grem and Acer drove off down the Aisle before Miles could finish his sentence.
Grem and Acer approached the gated area. During the day, it would have been the pharmacy counter, but at night a large metal current covered the entrance. Grem and Acer looked for the edge of the curtain, and once they found it they grabbed hold and reversed hard, yanking it open and revealing the counter and back storage area. They made quite a noise, alerting Miles and the cashier up front.
“What was that?” Asked the cashier, startled by the cry of the metal curtain.
Miles thought fast, and reversed hard into the shelf behind him, creating a similar sound, “Whoops, sorry about that! Can’t seem to stop ramming into things, these halls aren’t built for an SUV.”
The cashier calmed again, “Ah, don’t worry about it sir, we’ve had that happen before.”
Back in the pharmacy, Grem and Acer were scanning a whole new selection of items. In addition to the casual items they had picked up in the main store, the Professor had hidden the suspicious ones on the back of the list. The AMCs filled their hatchbacks with the assorted medications and medical equipment Zundapp needed. Once the lemons had completed their task, they rolled out from behind the counter again. Acer attempted to close the metal curtain once more, but Grem stopped him.
“We can’t make that noise again, if the cashier hears it twice he’ll think something’s up”, Grem looked down the aisle, “They’ll find it busted anyway, we just have to get out of here before they do.”
Acer understood Grem’s premise and the two rolled back down the aisle to the front counter. Miles had yet to pay for their items.
“What’s wrong, Miles?” Acer snapped, “You were supposed to buy these for us!”
“Unfortunately, he has no money to buy them with”, the cashier explained, “His credit card is invalid and he had no cash on him.”
Grem turned to Miles, “Did you try another card?”
“All of them”, the cashier continued, “None of them worked. You’ll have to pay for him or leave without your items.”
Grem stared at Miles for a moment, then decided he would make sense of this later. He took out his own money and gave it to the cashier. The purchases were not cheap and it drained almost his entire savings. The cashier passed them their bags and Grem urged Miles to keep them in his storage area, considering he and Acer’s hatchbacks were already full. The three lemons rolled out of the store and immediately Grem and Acer turned to Miles.
“I thought you were funding our operations?” Grem interrogated the Range Rover, “What was that all about, how come your cards are all invalid?”
Miles sighed and decided to fess up, “I supposed you would find out sooner or later. I don’t have a penny to my name, when I was taken into custody my fortune was confiscated to pay all the fines placed on me. C.H.R.O.M.E. has everything I ever earned, and it still wasn’t enough to keep me from working the rigs.”
“So you’ve been lying to us about your wealth this whole time?” Acer was furious.
“Technically, I never said I had money after you rescued me from the oil derricks, it was just sort of implied”, Miles pleaded his case, “Please, you can’t tell the Professor! If I’m not funding your operations, he’ll have me back on the rigs! He’ll turn me in!”
“We’re loyal to the Professor, Miles”, Grem stated uncompromisingly, “We’re not letting this slide, so let’s hope he’s in a really good mood and doesn’t hate you for this.”
Miles look down at the ground as they neared the hardware store. He knew he was in for trouble when Professor Z found out about his web of lies. The three cars reached the hardware store, clearly closed with the lights out and the doors locked. Acer prepared to charge, but Grem held his tire out in front of him and moved ahead.
“This place has a security system”, Grem warned, “Look up near the top of the window, they tried to hide it but that’s a top-of-the-line sensor.”
Grem drew his machine gun, and sent a bullet directly through the siren. Acer was impressed by Grem’s marksmanship, but unimpressed by the quality of the security system, “Top-of-the-line, eh? Apparently not quality enough, if they really thought ahead it would be bulletproof!”
“Well let’s be grateful it wasn’t”, Grem said, shattering the glass and rolling into the now alarm-disabled hardware store.
The three lemons turned on their headlights to see through the darkness of the store. Grem consulted the list once again, and they searched the premises for the tools and materials they needed. Acer was searching near the back when he found a car lift.
“Hey Grem, do you think the Professor wants a car lift?” Acer asked.
“The list says to get a jack”, Grem looked up at Acer’s discovery, “But I guess it couldn’t hurt to get both. You try to get that thing free from the ground, and don’t tear the wires out of the lift.”
Acer worked to get the car lift out of the ground while Grem and Miles collected the remaining supplies. Finally the work was done, and Acer rolled over with the lift in tow, perched atop a flat wagon. Then Grem, Acer, and Miles fled the scene before anyone saw them. They left the shop with a broken front window, a shot security system, and a square whole in the workshop floor that had once held a car lift.
The Professor was waiting in the workers’ quarters impatiently, Everett asleep at the back of the room. Grem, Acer, and Miles started to lay everything out on the floor, and once Grem placed several boards and a tarp down Zundapp got to work. He grabbed hold of the demolished door and dragged it into the room. Then he found the hammer and started boarding up the doorway.
“What are you doing?” Acer asked with fear, “Trapping us in here?”
“Relax, Acer”, Professor Z insisted, placing the tarp over the boards and hammering it on top, “We can’t let anyone see that the lights are on in here, so it must look like it is either dark inside these quarters or the door is closed. No one should suspect anything, not even in broad daylight.”
“So did we get everything you need?” Acer awaited the Professor’s confirmation.
“Did you get everything on the list?” Professor Z questioned with annoyance.
“Yeah”, Acer responded.
“Then you already have your answer, don’t you!” Professor Z groaned at the Pacer’s unbearable ignorance and set to work arranging his supplies.
“Well I’m bushed”, Grem yawned, “Where do we bed down for the night?”
“There’s still some tarp left”, Zundapp suggested, “You may drape it across that end of the room if you wish to darken it.”
Grem and Acer did as Professor Z said and each of them took an end of the remaining tarp. Soon they had nailed each end of the tarp to an opposite wall and created a curtain. Once their section of the room was shrouded in darkness Acer and Miles rolled past the curtains and went to sleep. Grem, meanwhile, reversed back toward the Professor to say one last thing before he went to bed. Everett continued to sleep, but Professor Z was very much awake, invigorated with ideas of science and motivated by the thought that his findings would soon be presented.
Morning came quicker than Zundapp had wanted, and even quicker for the tired lemons. Despite the fact that the Professor was still working, he still insisted the others wake up at a decent hour. Miles was reluctant to get up, but Grem and Acer did so and managed to get Miles to do the same. Grem rolled groggily over to the Professor.
“Have you been up all night, Professor?” Grem asked, with a tinge of concern in his voice.
“I had no choice”, Professor Z debated, “If I was going to get everything done in time, I needed to work through the night. My findings are nearly complete, and once they are we need to get to Germany immediately.”
“Why do we still need to go there?” Acer asked the question that had been bothering him since last night, “We made do researching Everett right here.”
“I made do”, Zundapp took full credit for his achievements, “And we need to go to Germany because that is where my lecture is scheduled. I’ll unveil my findings to the elite scientific community.”
“You’re a wanted fugitive”, Grem reminded, “Won’t someone recognize you if you’re voluntarily out in front of hundreds of vehicles?”
“If someone does call the police, you’ll alert me”, Professor Z explained, “You’ll have to tap into the phone lines and radio waves to assure we have notice before they arrive. Hopefully no one recognizes me, but even if they do they might not want to interrupt a revolutionary scientific seminar.”
“Wow”, Acer interjected, looking through one of Zundapp’s notebooks, “You filled this whole thing in one night? What about the other one?”
The Professor snatched the notebook back from the Pacer, “Get your treads off of that! Every page is vital to the presentation! Now if you two will excuse me, I have to fill the last two pages of this notebook!”
“Alright”, Grem replied, “Just one more thing, what did you want us up for?”
“If it will keep you from pestering me”, Professor Z began, “Than I’ll give you your task early. I need you all to go down to the docks and purchase our boat fare. We need to be in Germany by five O’clock at night.”
“But, um, no boat can go that fast, Professor”, Grem pointed out.
“Don’t correct me”, Zundapp glared daggers at the Gremlin, “Ever.”
Grem took a hint and removed the boards and tarp from the doorway, leading the way to the docks with Miles and Acer. They were still confused as to how they would get to Germany by boat in less than twelve hours, but decided not to question the Professor any further. Professor Z remained in the room with Everett, now finally waking up.
“What, what time is it?” Everett asked, “When are we doing the research?”
“It’s already done”, beamed the Professor, shutting the filled notebook, “You were quite cooperative.”
“You researched me when I was sleeping?” Everett felt violated, “I thought I’d be awake for that!”
“Well, you couldn’t keep your eyes open”, Zundapp stated ostentatiously, “I was able to do it just fine.”
“So what now?” Everett was confused as to what the next order of business was, “Do I just get paid and go?”
“I’ve got a place set for you, don’t worry Everett”, Professor Z explained, “I think your placement there will help the both of us very much. Let me go over the specifications with you.”
Grem, Acer, and Miles rolled through the door just as the Professor and Everett had finished their conversation. Zundapp turned to them with a clear duty in mind.
“You procured a boat?” The Professor asked expectantly.
“Yeah, he’s a freighter”, Grem specified, “Only us aboard, and the guy seems sort of shady. I don’t think he’ll give the word to any authorities.”
“That’s good, that’s very good”, The Professor commended their success, “When does he leave for Germany?”
“Half an hour”, Grem continued, “We couldn’t get him any later.”
“Then you’d better start loading our equipment”, Zundapp ordered, “We need those items I’ve put aside for you, I’ll get the notebooks.”
“We’re on it!” Acer sped forward to the neat array of supplies sitting by the wall.
Among the items were a dozen bottles of oil, the protractor, the compass, the pen, some rope, the medical supplies and equipment, and four oddball concrete blocks. They didn’t quite match the rest of the supplies, but nonetheless Grem set them on the flat wagon from the hardware store and Acer took the rest. Miles was of little use and just coasted beside the two AMCs. Professor Z drove at the back with Everett as the five set out for the harbor.
The place was even dirtier and more polluted than it had looked the night before. The sunlight revealed an ugly industrial cluster of brick buildings and sooty exhaust funnels. Grem spotted the ship they had chartered and soon he was the first to leave the concrete dockside and set his tires on the deck of the freighter moored to the pier. Soon Miles, Professor Z, and Acer were all safely onboard. However, one thing was hard to miss about the group.
“Where’s Everett?” Acer asked with confusion.
“He’s off to his new grounds”, Professor Z explained, “I’ve put him up with a place I think he’ll enjoy.”
“Oh, sorry Professor”, Miles feigned forgetfulness, “I was supposed to pay him, wasn’t I? Next time, just remind me, money’s no object!”
Zundapp stared darkly at Miles, “Yes, I’m sure.”
Suddenly a voice boomed, frightening the four lemons, “You guys ready to go or what?”
“Oh, yes, yes of course”, the Professor assured, “Let’s set sail.”
The freighter honked his horn with one short blast and Grem and Acer unmoored him from the pier. The freighter drew his anchor up and glided out into the open sea. For a while the lemons stayed on the front deck, until the Professor suggested they go back to the stern for shade and rest. There were no objections and so the four lemons rolled to the other end of the ship, supplies still in tow. Once they had arrived they all eased off their shocks and went to sleep again, getting up early had taken a toll on Grem, Acer, and Miles. Staying up all night made it even more essential for Professor Z.
Zundapp was the last to wake up; catching up on his sleep had taken some time. However he had awoken just when he had wanted. It was nearly night and Grem, Acer, and Miles had seemingly been playing cards.
“What is this?” Professor Z spat, “Cards? Where did you get cards?”
“The store”, Acer gulped, “I thought it would be a fun way to pass the time.”
“First of all, that was not one of the permitted items I put on the list”, Zundapp said angrily, “Second, why not spring for an intellectually stimulating game, like chess, instead of this game of chance?”
“Go Submarine isn’t a game of chance”, Acer debated, “Also, none of us can play chess.”
The Professor sighed, “So Miles, you didn’t mind paying extra for this frivolous activity?”
“Well, you know”, Miles looked from side to side, “It’s just a game of cards.”
Zundapp’s lips twisted into a crooked smile, “Do you know why I wanted us to take a boat to Germany, instead of a plane?”
“You’re on the no fly list?” Miles guessed.
“There are private planes we could have chartered”, Professor Z countered, “They would have been a lot faster too, faster than this six day voyage.”
“Six day voyage?” Miles was surprised, “You said we needed to be in Germany by five! I thought we were late as it is!”
“Oh no, Miles”, Professor Z explained, “The seminar is in a week. We have all the time we need to get there. But I did not choose this form of transportation for the sightseeing.”
“Then why did you?” Miles was starting to feel scared.
“Grem, Acer, hold him still”, ordered the Professor.
“What are you doing? What’s happening?” Miles was panicking now.
“We tried to be nice to you, Miles”, Professor Z recalled, “We kept you safe from the cops, fed you, fixed you, gave you a place to rest. But you played us for chumps. You had no money, and then you let us believe you did. You promised to fund us, when in reality we were funding you. You deceived us, and that will not go unpunished.”
Grem and Acer held Miles closer to the edge of the ship, “So that’s it? You’re going to try and dump me in the sea? What if I don’t sink? My cab is still full of air!”
“Full of hot air”, the Professor insulted, “Acer, get the blocks.”
“You can’t do this!” Miles was shaking with fear.
“Yes we can”, the Professor broke into a sinister cackle.
Grem held Miles in place while Acer tied the concrete bricks to his axles. Miles tried to escape, but the blocks prevented this. Even if he did manage to break free, there was nowhere to run. He was in the middle of the ocean with three vicious killers.
“No one crosses us!” Zundapp laughed manically, “Not even one of us!”
Grem and Acer shoved the Range Rover off the deck and into the ocean. Miles fell from the stern and hit the water with a loud splash. Grem and Acer chuckled and Zundapp howled laughter louder than either of them.
As Miles sunk, he realized that this was the end. He had worked with maniacs, and this is what he got. He started to run out of oxygen, and his sheet metal started to buckle as the pressure got to him. Just when he thought all hope was lost, He felt something shoot the ropes. The concrete dropped down into the abyss as Miles was grabbed by four silver grappling hooks.
They surfaced in a matter of seconds. Miles wiped the water from his eyes and looked to the source of his rescue. Finn McMissile had saved his life.