Thunderous applause filled the colossal Howard Metzenbaum Ballroom of the Singapore Jewel Palace Convention Center. From where L'il Timmy Rompkins stood at the podium, and endless sea of black-suited scientists beamed up at him, their ubiquitous spectacles reflecting light back upward. For L'il Timmy, this was a moment without equal. He turned his head slightly from the panolpy of humanity to glance back at Professor Klimmingstock, who simply nodded his dried-apple visage once in appreciation. A vivacious pleasure ran through Rompkins, for, while a humble man, was not immune to the viscitudes of scientific prestige. Gazing back over the crowd again, he resisted an impulse to raise his arms in triumph. Instead, his eyes blurred with involuntary tears - whether from emotion or pain, he couldn't or wouldn't know.
And that slight blur in his eyes was a manifold blessing, for it blinded him to something a more alert observer would not have failed to see. For amidst the sea of black-suited scientists, several individuals stood out rather shamefully. The first was an odd couple - a long-haired redheaded male of approximately 6 and a half feet of bruises, clingingly girlishly to a stunning Malasian in an eskimo parka. Several tables over, there was a blond-headed muttonchopped ape of a man in the unmistakable uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Marines. A table beyond that was a small passel of Singaporean policemen, and diagonally from their table, closer to the front, was a table of perhaps seven bland young men in tweed jackets and leather riding boots.
But perhaps most bemusedly, at the front table, normally reserved for guests of the keynote speaker, there was a winsome woman with flaxen hair contrasting sharply against her black leather coat.
As the applause died slowly away, Professor Klimmingstock spoke into his microphone.
"Zee zpeaker vill now take ze qvestions - ve have time for only three. First, ze chair recognizes Professor Guido Guicciardini of Polytecnico Torino."
Professor Guicciardini steeped to the microphone in the center of the hall. From L'il Timmy's blurred perspective, he was just a smudge of darkness in the center of the hall. But a more lucid observer would have seen a short, swarthy man with a five o'clock shadow and a preposterous cowlick shooting up from his helmet of black hair.
"Dr. Rompkins," Guicciardini began, in his flawless english accent, "Could you clarify the sequences you described on the recombinance slide..."
"Jutht a minute," L'il Timmy responded, as he clicked through the carousel of overheads
"You passed it! You passed it!" yelled several from the crowd.
"Thorry," Rompkins responded, reversing direction
"Slow down! You passed it again!" yelled several others. After a moment or two more, Rompkins settled to a slide.
"Thith one?" he asked Guicciardini.
"No, I'm afraid I meant the slide in the recombinance series, not the neurotrasmitter series."
"Oh... sorry" Rompkins replied, beginning another hunt through the carousel to the encouragement of the crowd.
"Thith one?" he asked again.
"Yes - that's the one. You cite D, A, F, and Charlie as the dominant sequences. Doesn't this conflict with the Gherkin data?"
"Oh yeth! It doeth! Thatht'th the trouble with the Gherkin data. It'th inverted. Thee how theeth pairth thort of flip flop around? Thath becauth ith'th backwardth."
A great sigh of appreciation went up from the crowd, and Guicciardini bowed and sat back down.
Klimmingstock spoke into his microphone again.
"Zee chair recognizes Dr. Farkin of zee Urnstacht Institute"
Dr. Farkin stepped to the microphone, his utterly undistinguishable form taking up a certain volume of space in which there would otherwise have been air.
"Dr. Rompkins, from a purely ecological standpoint, in no way meant to address biogenesis concerns, let alone biodiversity, not to diminish these, of course, but to indicate that after all, everything has its place, and in your talk, having focussed exclusively on the biogeny, bioprogeny, and bio-whateveryamightcallit, you have failed to distinguish between the macro and the micro, and in pursuing parmeceum and germs and whatnot, you have skipped over many telling points that those of us who are more interested in the overall interplay of ecosystems might like addressed with a little more detailed analysis at a conference that supposedly has an ecological subtext."
"Uh... yeth." Rompkins replied, and the crowd roared with laughter as Dr. Farkin, oblivious to the humor, stepped back.
"Zee last question," Klimmingstock began, "in zee time honored tradition of zis conference, shall be to a randomly chosen member of the audience with no particular zientific zpecialty. Zee chair recognizes Mr. Darkins."
From the table of tweed-clad young men, one nondescript man arose and approached the microphone. His pale, waxy face bore no trace of emotion, and his bloodless lips parted only briefly as he spoke.
"Dr. Rompkins, could you explain to us two things? Why was your work financed, by Earl Platudinor, and what is its connection to nerve agent XZ-27?"
A palpable murmer ran through the crowd.
"Zis iz outrageous!" Klimmingstock began, but Rompkins cut him off.
"Mr. Platudinor hath a particular love for the thplindly legged wombat, Mithter Darkinth. Thath why he funded my rethearth. And I've never heard of nerve agent ektheetwentytheven. Thank you. Good night"
With that, Rompkins backed away from the podium, his feeling of triumph fading quickly as he began wondering what the hell was going on. As he made his way through the curtains on the left side of the stage, he tripped, and would have barrelled into an off-stage drum kit had he not been caught suddenly by a beautiful flaxen haired woman at the last minute. He looked up in wonderment as she ushered him through the tangled curtains and helped him to a chair. He could hear Professor Klimmingstock's muffled closing remarks from the stage beyond, but he couldn't take his eyes of this gorgeous russian.
"Whath your name?" he asked her, splitting his lip slightly in the process.
"Call me Angelista" she replied.
There is no plot discrepancy, gentle reader. It was, indeed, Angelista Rasmussen herself. Unknown to Fats Patinki, Angelista's candy-apple red Porsche Boxster had been custom modified. It had to be, since this is 1987, and the Porsche Boxster wasn't even introduced to the market until 1993. But nothing was beyond the abilities of Sultan Zhpat, and when he outfitted his assassins, he didn't mess around. Under the seat of the Boxster was a specially packaged fire protection system, that expanded radially into a massive-damping foam that could absorb enormous energy. Simultaneous with the explosion of the fourteen pounds of C5, four small accelerating charged propelled Angelista and her chair up through the roof of the Boxster, across the parking lot, and down into the lounge of the Classy Inn of Covington, which, strangely, was named "Smithreens" after its proprietor, Luann Smithreen Lubbel. So, gentle reader, ask not how Angelista re-enters our story, for after her catastrophic descent through the roof of Smithreens, she quickly realized that she had just survived an attack by one of the Hungarian Brothers assassin team. Collecting herself, she discovered that her chair had landed atop a lithe young woman, the waitress of Smithreens, who was now most definately deceased. Seeing no-one else in the lounge, she dragged the lithe young woman's body out to the flaming Boxster, and seeing no sign of a 1970's muscle car (preferred by the Hungarian Brothers), she pusehd the young woman's body into the midst of the wreckage, thus providing the third stiff referenced by Lieutenant Frank Corky. Proceding quickly through the underbrush on the edge of the parking lot, she hitched a ride with a young couple on their way to their honeymoon in West Virginia, got dropped off near an ATM, used the ATM card she kept hidden in her leather coat, withdrew $300 in American dollars, and hired a taxi to drive her to the Lexington airport. From there, she took the direct flight to Greenback, Tennessee, beating Frank Corky by 72 hours, retrieved her luggage from the Greenback Hilton, and found the fax at the front desk directing her to proceed immediately to Singapore.
And now she was only hours away from victory. All she had to do was seduce young Rompkins, gain the secret of nerve agent XZ-27, prize away his means of contacting Earl Platudinor, get him to divulge the home address of his brother Big'un, and find out how much he knew about the Inuits.
Angelist smiled at Rompkins, winning him immediately. But her deep stare that so captivated L'il Timmy proved her undoing, for in staring at him, she didn't notice the hulking bear-like man dressed as a nutter butter, stumbling out of the shadows on his fatal approach.