MEANWHILE, AT HIS SUMPTUOUS MANSION OF MAJESTY, INSPIRATION HALL, MILD-MANNERED MILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY SIMON P. SYNAPSE, ASSISTANT TO DR. LUDWIG PERICRANIUM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY AT THE NUGA CITY INSTITUTE FOR ACADEMIC STUDY, WAS BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL AT BOTH ENDS. IN A REMOTE STUDY ON THE THIRD FLOOR, SPACIOUS AND LUXURIOUSLY DECORATED, OUR HERO, SIMON P. SYNAPSE, WAS GRADING THE SECOND YEAR PHILOSOPHY OF PSYCHOLOGY MIDTERM EXAMS, WHEN SUDDENLY SIMON'S PUDGY FRIEND AND BRAINSTORMING COHORT, NICOLAS C. PATE, BURST INTO THE ROOM WITH AN URGENT MATTER.
"Do not interrupt!" Simon commanded preemptively, holding a hand up to ward off the potential intrusion of ideas contaminating to his present ruminations. "I am engaged in an exercise of great import. I cannot suffer myself to be led astray in this delicate matter, lest the smallest of miscalculations undermine the true and just result of my labor." He twisted one end of his handlebar mustache in deep concentration.
"You're marking exams!" Nicolas deduced quickly.
"Yes, dear percipient Pate, indeed, I am marking exams. You know, some who engage in the more, well, shall we say 'common' modes of intellectual discourse would deliberate simply upon the task at hand and reach the false conclusion that marking exams is no more effortful than the comparison of the answers given to the answers that are correct. I scoff at such a puerile evaluation and refuse to make such an ignominious concession to fatuity. It takes great care and cunning to calculate the optimum grade for each exam under consideration. For example, on this particular test, the student has omitted an answer for question three in the multiple choice section. The hasty grader might mark the answer wrong and never give the matter a second thought -- and why not? The correct answer is not given, so of course it's wrong, right?"
"Wrong! The right answer may not be given, but neither is the wrong one! The smart appraisal of this circumstance would involve asking oneself, why is there no answer at all? Surely the omission was a mistake, and incorporating that error in the final tallied grade would skew the summation so that it is no longer accurately representative of the student's knowledge of psychology. Then, employing my meticulous and discerning powers of observation, I notice, by the gentle illumination cast by my desk lamp, a slight and faded mark by the correct answer and perhaps a small indentation, too. Might the student have intended to give the correct answer but, owing to some intervening mishap or conspiracy, been thwarted at fulfilling the demands of the question? I think further, and I realize that all the other answers given in this section are correct. So why wouldn't the student have intended the answer to question three to be correct also? So you see, my cerebral companion, with the exercitation of a modicum of intellect, one can arrive at the just conclusion. A score of one hundred percent to Mr. Jonathan Dimwater! I'm sure he'll be quite pleased. Oh. What is it, Nicolas?"
"Oh, I was wondering if you could help me figure out if I'm deaf or not."
"You think you're deaf?" Simon exclaimed, worried. "What has befallen upon you to give credibility to such a thought?"
"I was reading how grasshoppers hear with their knees, and so I went to the ice cooler, extracted a can of soda water, shook it, and held it up to my knees, and I couldn't hear a blasted thing."
Simon laughed heartily over Nicolas' protestations over the gravity of the situation. "Nicolas, my friend, your perspicacity serves you well, but in this matter your consternation has caused you to pretermit one crucial element of fact!"
"Carbonated beverages do not emit sounds!"
The wave of relief washed over Nicolas like a wave of relief. "Again, you are right, Simon. Thank you!"
NO SOONER HAD NICOLAS SPOKEN WHEN THEIR CONVERSATION WAS INTERRUPTED, FOR JUST AT THAT MOMENT, MAYOR MIDDLING BURST INTO SIMON'S PRIVATE CHAMBERS, WAILING WITH ANGUISH, ALTERNATELY OSCILLATING HIS ARMS RIGIDLY AT HIS SIDES AND FLAILING THEM OVERHEAD, AS IF HE WERE IN A POORLY ANIMATED CARTOON. LITTLE DID SIMON AND NICOLAS KNOW -- BUT SOON WOULD THEY FIND OUT -- THAT THE MAYOR'S TERRIBLE NEWS WOULD CHANGE THEIR LIVES FOREVER!
"It's a disaster, Mr. Synapse! A disaster!" Mayor Middling moaned in his high tenor voice. "People are drooling in the streets because they've lost their way home. Some have forgotten how to walk. Some don't remember they have homes at all. It's terrible, Mr. Synapse! It's spreading throughout the whole city, like a plague! You've got to help us, Mr. Synapse, you've got to!"
"This sounds serious," mild-mannered millionaire playboy Simon P. Synapse replied gravely. "How is it happening? Where did it start?"
"At the moment the worst of it is outside the Shortstop Evil Enterprises, Inc., Business Bureau Building. But no one knows how it's happening!" the Mayor wailed, shaking his fists repetitively at the sky. "The victims are all too stupid to tell us!"
Simon stepped aside and motioned for his companion, Nicolas, to confer with him. "I have a suspicion about this. As improbable and unsubstantiated as it may be to say so, I believe this is the work of none other than Neuron Shortstop, a.k.a. The Masked Imbecile!"
"So!" Nicolas exclaimed, his eyes widening with alarm. "The Masked Imbecile strikes again!"
"Yes! His nefarious subterfuge is before my eyes as lucid as the back of my head. But I don't want to alarm our poor Mayor until I'm sure, which means I'll have to go investigate and see for myself. But I can't go investigate without alarming him anyway. What we need is a plan!"
"Yes, a plan!" Nicolas repeated.
"We need a plan to foil not just our animastic adversary but the whole town as well! We need a plan that will enfranchise us from the roles of our daily lives so we can investigate in secret, while at the same time providing a beacon of hope for Nuga City, to infuse it with the courage it needs to prevail!"
"What, dress up in costumes or something?"
"Nicolas! You've got it! We'll assume alter-egos! But we must first excuse ourselves from the company of our distinguished guest." Simon parted from his conference with Nicolas and once again faced Mayor Middling, who had been standing idly.
Mayor Middling poked himself in the eye. "My eye hurts," he said, poking himself again. "I can't figure out why. It's all sore and watering and everything."
"They've got him, too!" Nicolas exclaimed in alarm.
"Look, on his head," Simon whispered to Nicolas. "A lump on it the size of an apple. He must have been hit over the head by a secret weapon. That's what put him in this stupor."
"Shhh," Simon said, then turned to the Mayor. "Everything's fine, Mayor! Don't be alarmed! Yes, yes, everything will be well with a good night's sleep!" Then, to, Nicolas, he whispered, "See him safely out the door and then meet me in my private chambers."
MEANWHILE, ON THE STREETS OUTSIDE THE SHORTSTOP EVIL ENTERPRISES, INC., BUSINESS BUREAU BUILDING....
"How many are you going to bop on the top?" the soggy fop that was Noddle Bungledrip asked, as he and his master crouched under cover of the bushes and the night.
"Hush!" Neuron Shortstop hushed. He wrung his perpetually gloved hands together. "Another one's coming!"
A middle aged woman in toweringly high heels walked alone down the concrete sidewalk. When she was just passing the devilish duo, Neuron leapt toward her, wielding his terrible weapon of doom. He clocked her upside the head with his super powered baseball bat. Her eyes rolled back in her head, and she went limp, but she did not fall. Rather, she sagged and hung from the bat, as if held up by magnetism alone. The baseball bat quivered violently, and bits of purple electricity were sucked from her head and into the bat. At last, the devilish deed was done. Neuron pulled the bat away and fled down the street, his cell-conglomerate of a servant slithering in tow.
The woman, dazed and confused, blinked her eyes and looked about. "Duh," she said. "These buildings are tall. If I climb up, I'll be tall too. Then I won't need these high heels." She moved over to the Shortstop Evil Enterprises, Inc., Business Bureau Building and wondered how she was going to scale the building with her heels on.