Todd finished shaking hands with his political handlers and went into his chambers with the small metal box.
Opening it, he removed a small article clipped from a scientific journal.
"Byserthian Swarm Birds Found To Be Planetary Menace," read the headline.
As he read the article, Todd's eyebrows climbed so high they disappeared under his hairline. "What?" he shrieked. "This is crazy!! Byserthian Swarm Birds emit chlorine gas, which would have added .000000001% to the natural balance of chlorine gas in the atmosphere over the next 245,876 years? What kind of menace is that?"
"Good enough to get you impeached," chuckled a quiet voice behind him.
Whirling, Todd saw his political handlers. One was holding a small but nasty-looking energy weapon.
"You see," continued the man with the weapon, "turns out Byserthian Swarm Birds would have killed us all. We owe Greg a great debt for killing them."
"Are you insane?" Todd yelled.
The man's eyes narrowed. "Don't give me that flinjwort, Earthling," he spat. "Didn't your own Congress commission a study of the amount of methane produced by cows rather than try to slow down oil consumption or industrial polluting?"
"Er, ah..." Todd stuttered.
"Don't fret, son," one of the other handlers said, placing his hand on Todd's shoulder in a fatherly fashion. "It's politics. Different parties gain precedence, different issues come and go. You know how it is. It doesn't matter what effect killing the birds did or didn't have; it's all just an excuse to do what we really want. Byserthian Swarm Birds just aren't politically expedient right this minute. Neither are you," he concluded as Todd slumped to the floor. The man chuckled and removed the neural disruptor from the palm of his hand, dropping it into his pocket.
Greg opened his eyes. A beautiful nurse handed him a cappuccino. "If this is drowning--thanks, Todd!" he thought.
Todd's ex-buddies bustled in and briefed him.
"So tell me," Greg said thoughtfully 45 minutes later. "Why DID Wal-Mart kidnap us? Why is it so important one of us die?"
"Oh, that," said the fatherly-type handler. "No one cares if either one of you dies. We just like good entertainment. You guys want to kill each other because of our Long-Distance Sub-Protonic Conviction Dissolver. He held up a small device that looked like a cross between a lobotomy pick and a pair of electronic binoculars.
"I see," said Greg. "So the reason I want to kill Todd is because of that thing?"
"Oh, yes," the fatherly-type handler beamed. "You two actually used to be the best of friends."
"Well, glad that's settled," said Greg. "But I KNOW Todd must die--they're just trying to trick me into letting my guard down," he thought.
The fatherly-type handler held up a robe and wig. "Well, son," he smiled, looking about as friendly as a shark, "there's an opening on our Supreme Court. We need forward-thinking planetary saviors such as yourself on our side. Whaddaya say? It's an appointment for life, you know!"
Remembering the length of Todd's "appointment for life," Greg said hastily, "No, really--I'm flattered, but I just can't. I have library books overdue. Truly."
"But son!" said the fatherly-type handler, looking disappointed. "We owe you for saving the planet!"
"Well, here's how you can repay me," Greg said. "How about you give me a ship, beam Todd over to the sick bay so's I can nurse him back to health, and I'll head back to Earth. When I get there I'll have Todd send you a cable descrambler. You want violent entertainment, we got it in spades. It'll be a lot cheaper in the long run."
"Great idea!" said the handlers.
Todd opened his eyes.
"Got a cable descrambler?" Greg asked, bending over him.
"Uh--I think I had one in my briefcase when I left home," Todd mumbled groggily.
Greg pawed through Todd's briefcase, scattering Star Trek cards, Dr. Pepper cans, and old floppies.
"Ah! Here we are!" He went to a small transporter receptacle on the wall and sent the device to Wal-Mart Central.
Todd tried to sit up and found that he was encased in a block of steel clear up to the top of his head. Only his face was exposed.
"Hey! What's going on?" he demanded.
Greg giggled. "I just LOVED that device for encasing body parts in steel," he said.
"Wait!" Todd yelled in panic.
"Number One: Why am I here? "Two, why are you here? "Three, why do you want to kill me so bad? "And finally, Four, how do I get home?"
"You know, it's funny," Greg snickered. "They told me the answers to all those questions on Wal-Mart Central."
"They did?!? What are the answers?" Todd yelled.
"Doesn't matter. They were lying anyway," Greg said laconically.
Todd struggled futilely; he couldn't budge an angstrom. Suddenly he relaxed. "Greg forgot about my high-speed friends," he thought sumgly.
Greg peered at him. "I bet you think I forgot about your high-speed friends," he smiled.
Todd stuttered in shock, "Why, no; I--er, that is---"
"Funny thing," Greg mused. "I went and visited them disguised as you. You 'accidentally' spilled some rubbing alcohol in the holodeck just before they all had a big picnic there. One of 'em got it all over her feet and set it on fire by air friction. One of the other ones ran and hit the fire alarm, but instead of fire redardant the sprinklers filled the entire holodeck with molten steel. They couldn't get the door open fast enough. So they're all encased completely over there, and boy--are they mad at you! Better hope they don't get out."
Todd closed his eyes resignedly. "I suppose you're going to kill me now," he sighed.
"Naah--you are," said Greg, wheeling Todd's steel slab to an exercise room.
"What?" said Todd, flabbergasted.
Greg pointed a funny-looking device at Todd; it looked like a cross between a lobotomy pick and a pair of electronic binoculars. He pressed a stud on the device, then turned it off and put it in his pocket. Settling into a chair, he said, "Computer! Dematerialize Todd's steel slab, please!"
KLUNK! Todd winced as he suddenly landed on the floor. Picking himself up warily, he was astonished to see that over six dozen weapons sat on a rack within arm's reach, and that Greg lounged unarmed, at least 25 feet away.
"What a fool!" Todd thought to himself, grabbing a Romulan disintegrator and a Klingon ritual disemboweler and heading towards Greg. Suddenly, he stopped.
"I must die," he thought. "I must die. Yes, it is important that I die. The universe depends upon my death. No matter what, happens, I MUST die."
Turning on his heel, he headed back to the fully-stocked weapons rack. Grabbing a large bottle of Denebian Slime Devil venom, for which he knew there was no antidote, he quickly swigged it dry. Tossing it aside, he quickly arranged several dozen edged weapons around himself on the floor in such a way that he would be dismboweled, decapitated, or eviscerated if he fell. Beginning to feel ddizzy from the venom, he quickly set the disruptor to Wide-Angle Vaporization, Max Power, and raised it to his head.
As Greg laughed uproariously, Todd smiled, knowing he was doing the right thing, and began to squeeze the trigger..........