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“I just don’t get it,” Geeky Girl said for the third time.
“He’s an astronaut and he’s evil.” I paused for her to take it in. “So he’s an evil astronaut.”
Geeky Girl’s face looked like she was trying to figure out how to divide a really big number or something. Then she shook her head again. “He can’t be both.”
“Yes, he can,” I said.
“Urgh,” agreed Igor. Igor was a kid of few words. OK, no words, but he knew his stuff about evil celebrities.
Geeky Girl kept talking. “But how can a person spend time in the vastness of space and look back at the small, fragile blue marble—”
“Wait, they play marbles in space?” I interrupted. “But that would be stupid ’cause, like, they wouldn’t really roll, just float around—”
“I meant the Earth!” she interrupted back. “Because it looks like a blue marble from far away in space! How could someone look back on the fragile blue marble that is the Earth and not want to do something positive with their lives?”
I slumped down onto the bench. “Igor, show her the book.”
Igor went over to one of the beds in the tent and picked up a hardback biography of Neil Strongarm. He handed it to Geeky Girl. “Urgh, urgh,” he said.
She read the title, “The Man Who Should Have Been the First Man on the Moon,” and then flipped it over to read the blurb on the back. “‘One day, as I looked out of the spacecraft window back at the spinning blue marble in the vastness of space, I had a thought about my destiny.’ See!” she said smugly, and then kept reading. “‘I looked at the Earth, so tiny, and all the stars around it, and I thought, World domination is for wimps! I want it all! Space and everything!’ Noooo…” Geeky Girl whimpered.
“I told you,” I said. “Neil Strongarm is actually evil and he’s actually an astronaut and he is actually coming here to camp to run the contest this week. This is gonna be so epic!!”
“Urgh, urgh, urgh,” Igor added.
“Reeeooowl!” Fang jumped up on the book and clawed at the picture of Neil Strongarm on the cover.
“Hey, kitten, watch the book jacket.” I scooped her up and put her on the bed next to Geeky Girl.
“I don’t think Fang likes Neil Strongarm,” Geeky Girl said.
“She hasn’t even met him yet,” I said. “And I can’t exactly go up to him and introduce them, can I? Illegal pet in camp? Fang and I would be on the first canoe out of here.”
“Urgh, urgh.” Igor nodded his head.
Then the ground started to rumble. “Whhhooooaaaa,” I said, grabbing the bench so I didn’t fall off.
Fang dug her claws into the mattress and Geeky Girl’s jeans to steady herself. “Owwwww, Fang!”
Geeky Girl unhooked Fang’s claws from her now partly shredded jean leg. “What is that noise?”
“URGH!!!!” Igor shouted from the tent flap as he peered out. “Urgh, urgh!”
“He’s here?!” I jumped off the bench and ran to the tent flap with Igor to look out.
“Who? And how do you know that’s what Igor meant?” Geeky Girl said, standing up to join us.
“You spend long enough in a tent with a guy and you learn what his urghs mean,” I said. “It’s Neil Strongarm’s transport shuttle. It just landed.”
Then the kid with the trumpet that gives us our evil wake-up call in the mornings started to play. There was a kid on the drums with him this time, though, too.
Dum … dum … dum.….… DA DUM! the trumpet started. Then the drum kicked in. Boom, boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom.
“Is that the movie theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey?” Geeky Girl said.
“Yeah, he learned a new evil space tune in honor of Neil Strongarm,” I said. “I would be worried that it might impress Neil, but really, when you spend time in small echoey spaceships, the last thing you want to hear is a lot of loud music.”
Igor nodded again.
“So, did you come up with any plans to impress Neil Strongarm yet?” I asked Geeky Girl.
“I don’t even think I want to impress an evil astronaut,” she said, and shrugged.
“’Cause I’ve come up with some of my best evil inventions yet. I’m going to offer them to Neil, so he knows that I’m not just any old evil scientist kid. I’m an evil inventor too.”
“So what have you got to show him that’s so impressive?” she said, crossing her arms.
“OK, first, my Evil Super Space-Expanding Foam—useful in all space station and spaceship scenarios. Everything from battle repairs to home improvements in space can be made easier with Evil Super Space-Expanding Foam,” I said in my best TV-commercial voice.
“Thanks, dude,” I said. “Oh, and Igor and I both came up with the idea for the Pogo Stick Lunar Travel Individualv Vehicle. Useful for low-gravity environments. Cover more ground than walking-jumping. Use less energy. And have way more fun.”
“A moon pogo stick?” Geeky Girl said. “Yeah, you guys are definitely going to impress him with that.”
“Well, you haven’t done anything,” I said. “Look, I know that you didn’t want to be stuck in an evil scientist summer camp, not actually being evil an’ all, but if you’re here, you really gotta make more of an effort.” I paused. “Besides, I really like the moon pogo stick thing.”
“I told you, I don’t care about impressing this guy. You two go for the whole Evil-Emperor-of-the-Week thing with whatever pretend space games he comes up with. I’m not interested,” she said.
Geeky Girl pulled back the tent flap and looked at the shuttle as it opened its hatch.
“Hey, do you think he’ll show us the plans for his new evil space station, SSSH?” I asked Igor.
“Why do I have to shhh?” GG asked.
“You don’t,” I said.
“You just shhhed me,” she said.
“No, his space station that he’s building. It’s called SSSH—Secret Space Station Homebase. SSSH. Get it?” I said.
“Sssh-Urgh,” Igor said.
“I get it,” she said. “I just don’t see what the big deal is about an evil astronaut.” Geeky Girl shrugged her shoulders and strolled toward the landing site where all the campers had already started to gather.
Igor and I looked at each other, and then burst into a spontaneous high five. “Because it’s the biggest deal ever!” I shouted.
“Urgh!” Igor squealed.
“But we gotta be chill, OK? You don’t want to look desperate to impress him,” I said.
“Urgh, urgh, urgh,” Igor added.
“Totally, Igor. He’ll definitely notice us—the best big, bald unibrowed dude and the coolest young evil scientist”—Fang clawed at my leg—“and that evil scientist’s cat,” I said as I scooped up Fang and put her inside my extra-deep kitten-size pocket on my white evil-scientist coat. We walked to the platform just as the stairs extended from the hatch and a big white astronaut boot stepped out.
Text copyright © 2019 by Mo O’Hara
Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Marek Jagucki