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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Hamster Who Saved Christmas, Part 2

Continued from this post. 

In a world that featured an eight-foot-tall sentient milkshake, talking vegetables, a murderous toilet and men and women with a bewildering assortment of so-called super-powers, a hamster with the ability to drive was really not such a miraculous thing. Little Wolfgang had no other special abilities. He couldn't talk, like Can 'o Beans or Putrid Soup; nor did he possess the power of super-farting like Flatulent Cow. He wielded no special weapons, as did The Screwdriver, The Shank or Cheek Forker; he wasn't wise like Buddha in a Bucket or Causeless Philosopher.

But Wolfgang the hamster had certain special qualities that other hamsters lacked. Yes, he could drive a car, a singular achievement among rodents (well, aside from certain trademarked cartoon mice), but Wolfgang's greatest power was the power of love in his tiny fluttering heart. And as Wolfgang pushed his sleek, miniature Lotus 7 to its limits, he felt a wordless surge of gratitude to the bald man for building his car, and to the tall man for giving him the big purple ball that would somehow save Christmas. (Wolfgang was a little foggy on the details.)

Wolfgang drove one-pawed, the right on the wheel, the left holding the ersatz Christmas tree ornament aloft. The air rushing past the speedy miniature roadster threatened to blow Wolfgang's jaunty stocking cap off his head, but Wolfgang paid no heed; it was a long way to Toronto, and the gently falling snow would soon make the roads impassable. Speed was all, and the city lights blurred as Wolfgang whizzed southwest down the centrelines of the city streets.

*     *     *

Meanwhile, Government Vito bade farewell to the innocuous balding scientist who'd designed Wolfgang's roadster. His mission accomplished, Vito made haste to his grandmother's house, his part in this Christmas story over. Ah, but what of that innocuous scientist? As soon as Vito left him alone, the bland man's features twisted and blurred into those of the malevolent shapeshifter Hoodwink! Casting his dark eyes about the Rideau safehouse to ensure no one was listening, he pulled his yPhone out of his jacket pocket and scrolled through innumerable menus until he located his Contact List at last. More scrolling revealed the number of Dr. Burnshock Brand himself, and Hoodwink initiated a call.

"This is Dr. Burnshock Brand speaking on a secure Minions of C.H.A.O.S. channel," said Dr. Burnshock Brand. "Congratulate Hoodwink And Offer Salutations."

"Yeah, yeah," muttered Hoodwink. "Look, the Paladins came up with a countermeasure - a jamming device that'll block you from triggering the Christmas present sealant. But I know where they're going to plant the device. If you move fast, you can set up an ambush..."

*    *    *

Three hours later a toy Lotus 7 raced down the Gardiner Expressway, dodging the thankfully light traffic. The Lotus' tires kicked up snow as Wolfgang executed a perfect pinwheeling spin up the sidewalk and onto the grounds of the CN Tower. This daring maneuver was at last too much for the little stocking cap, which flew off into the cool winter night, never to be seen again.

Wolfgang glanced at the Lotus' built-in clock and noted with primitive satisfaction that it was still fifteen minutes to midnight - plenty of time to drive up the side of the tower and then plant the jamming device atop the Christmas tree at the tower's apex. Wolfgang shifted into high gear, accelerating toward the tower's base, gritting his sharp buck teeth and bracing for the wrenching impact of the 90 degree turn that would mark the final lap of this most unusual race.

But suddenly something huge and heavy slammed into the side of Wolfgang's roadster, sending hamster, car and jammer flying in opposite directions! Each landed with a soft thump in the heavy blanket of snow covering the tower's grounds, and when Wolfgang came to his senses he saw, to his horror, the terrifying evil of the fiendish Rabid Shopping Cart, now foaming at the grill with hydrophobic mania. Even now the cart was rolling into position to squash Wolfgang flat.

Wolfgang had only seconds to choose a course of action. Should he make a run for the car or the jammer? Or should he focus on preparing his fragile form to dodge Rabid Shopping Cart's charge? Wolfgang had no way of knowing if the sapient grocery cart would try to smash the jamming device, crush his car, or squash him. Each outcome would be equally disastrous!

There was not an instant to waste. Wolfgang's beady eyes flicked left to the idling Lotus, then right to the purple orb resting in the snow. He could not possibly reach one, then the other before his cagey foe crushed either the jammer or the car, and he needed both. Just before Rabid Shopping Cart's wheels started to spin, Wolfgang made the only choice he could: he charged straight ahead, right at the slobbering maw of the demonic cart.

Startled, Rabid Shopping Cart was thrown mentally off-balance for a crucial moment. His forward wheels turned right, then left, slowing his momentum and nearly tipping himself over. Wolfgang leaped bravely into the valley of death itself - in this case, the cart's undercarriage, where the toilet paper or flats of soda generally went. Enraged, unable to reach his prey with his killer wheels, Rabid Shopping Cart spun in impotent circles, saliva flying. Wolfgang felt himself getting dizzy, the landscape blurring about him as he rode this mad tilt-a-whirl. He caught a glimpse of the roadster, then the ornament; and he knew what he had to do. It would take crackerjack timing.

Faster and faster spun Rabid Shopping Cart, and Wolfgang's paws held on tight lest he be flung into the snow at the wrong moment. Wolfgang counted off seconds in his head, measuring how long each rotation took, judging how far he would fly when he let go. And then, a half-second before the Lotus would swing into view again, he release and sailed end-over-end through the air.

Time itself seemed to slow to a lazy meander. Wolfgang watched snowflakes drift past in slow motion. He looked up and saw Christmas lights blinking at the top of the CN Tower. And then, suddenly, he landed with a grunt right in the Lotus' driver's seat, like one of the Duke boys sliding into the General Lee through the open window.

Wolfgang wasted no time admiring his acrobatic skills. He jammed his paw hard against the accelerator, spun the wheel around 180 degrees, and drove hard for the jammer. Rabid Shopping Cart had halted his addled spinning and saw what Wolfgang was attempting. It became a race - hamster versus shopping cart for the ultimate prize: Christmas itself.

The shopping cart's coal-black tires skidded for purchase as it hurtled forward, intent on crushing the jammer under its wheels. And Wolfgang's Lotus laboured valiantly, seeming to lean forward as it charged toward the prize. Wolfgang's tiny heart raced just as quickly - perhaps even faster - than the eight wheels bearing down on the purple sphere that held the promise of Christmas morn.

Wolfgang extended his left paw. He glanced right and saw Rabid Shopping Cart's bulk bearing down like a dreadnought. It was going to be close - too close!

Wolfgang's paw caught the ornament's eyelet and held tight, yanking the jammer from the snow. A millisecond later, Rabid Shopping Cart passed through the space they'd just occupied. The Minion of C.H.A.O.S. gurgled madly and attempted to come around for another pass, but it was going too fast, too fast! With an ear-piercing grind of rending metal, Rabid Shopping Cart smashed headlong into the tower's base, its momentum transforming itself into a twisted hulk of whimpering metal.

Wolfgang chittered triumphantly and brought the nose of the Lotus around for another pass at the tower. This time the little car darted obediently skyward, its adhesive tires holding the car tight against the tower's side. Wolfgang spared a glance backward as he drove up the building's length, then immediately wished he hadn't. Gawking through the tower's glass floor was amusing, but from outside these dizzying heights were nausea-inducing.

Navigating the underside of the CN Tower's bulbous main body was a little tricky, requiring him to hang upside-down for a few seconds, one hand on the wheel, one clutching the ornament. But soon enough he was on the topside of the sphere and on his way up the radio tower. The Christmas tree atop the spire beckoned.

Wolfgang parked on a low branch, then abandoned the Lotus and climbed up to the top of the tree, ornament in hand. With a flourish, he threaded a narrow twig through the ornament's eyelet and the jammer hung there gleaming with all the promise of a plan to ruin Christmas averted.

But just then, Wolfgang felt himself grabbed by a huge human fist. Wriggling defiantly, he looked up into the triumphant, sneering visage of none other than Minion of C.H.A.O.S. Shin Barker!

"Stupid hamster. Did you really think the Minions of C.H.A.O.S. could only spare one agent to intercept you?" chortled Shin Barker. "Ukelele Banquet gave me a lift up here just in case you got past Rabid Shopping Cart."

Wolfgang looked around and sure enough, there was the evil Ukelele Banquet, floating a few metres away. The levitating faux-guitar plunked a few sour notes of triumph.

Wolfgang sighed. It was over. He couldn't possibly defeat two Minions; he was just a hamster. Christmas would be ruined. Even now, Shin Barker was reaching for the jammer while Ukelele Banquet strummed an especially sarcastic instrumental version of "I Believe in Father Christmas."

But Wolfgang's sigh of defeat had a crucial side-effect: sensing the hamster's resignation, Shin Barker dropped the hamster, presuming the little rodent would fall to his doom. But Wolfgang, sensing one last chance to save the day, angled his fall to land on Shin Barker's left shin, where he immediately sank his sharp little teeth. Blood spurted.

"MY SHIN!" barked Shin Barker, pain flaring up the length of his wounded leg, throwing him off-balance. One of Shin Barker's pinwheeling arms smashed right into Ukelele Banquet in the middle of a chord, sending the floating ukelele spinning headlong into space with a startled flurry of discordant chords. Shin Barker screamed as he fell off the tree, eyes bulging as the doom of sudden deceleration awaited.

Wolfgang, too, was falling, releasing his hold on Shin Barker's leg. As they tumbled through the air Wolfgang felt sad that he wouldn't see the joy on the faces of Canadian children when they tore open their presents on the morrow, but he felt proud that he'd doubtlessly be remembered for his noble sacrifice. If only Shin Barker would stop spoiling the moment with his screams...

Suddenly, Wolfgang felt his fall arrested as he plopped into an outstretched palm. Startled, he looked up into the big blue eyes and handsome smile of Paramount Importance, one of Canada's premiere caped superheroes.

"Sorry I'm late," he said. "But that asteroid I just stopped would have ruined Christmas too."

Wolfgang chittered, Paramount Importance laughed, and Shin Barker kept screaming until he landed safely in a passing pillow delivery truck.

*   *   *

The Prime Minister flung his yPhone across the room. Dr. Burnshock Brand's desperate apologies continued to echo from the phone's tinny speaker.

"Idiot," fumed the Prime Minister. "I had everything planned so perfectly. My only mistake was letting Brand pick the interception team. Next time I won't make that mistake."

Yes, Christmas 2013 had been saved, all thanks to that stupid hamster and those meddling Paladins. But he still had at least one Christmas to go during the Prime Minister's term...


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