Peggy brings me popcorn while I watch the Preservers handing over my father to a UN security detail at The Hague. The event is being broadcast live on every newsfeed.
Peggy’s head flitters birdlike between me and the screen. The robot squawks, “Doc Dinosaur has been defeated.” Dad designed Peggy to resemble a pegomastax, but with better arms and hands, so it could handle chores around the lair. It’s the same size as the extinct animal, sixty centimetres tall. I built its speech hardware and crude AI (crude because it’s probably not a good idea for your robot servant to be too smart). Dad never noticed my improvements, though. He never pays attention to what I’m able to do. If he’d let me help him, maybe he wouldn’t be in shackles now.
Dad’s ego will never let him admit that Professor Unknown, the leader of the Preservers, is smarter than he is. Together the two of us could have outwitted him. We could have been unbeatable. We could have conquered the world.
As far as Dad is concerned, all I’m good for is busting him out of jail every time he gets his ass handed to him by the Preservers.
I should go to the command centre now, to initiate the escape protocols. Instead, I watch footage of Dad’s latest defeat. The Human Angel fighting a squadron of robodactyls over Paris – the Eiffel Tower, and much of the city, getting wrecked during the conflict. More Robodactyls dropping bombs on Russian military bases. The gigantic Brute taking on a regiment of T-rexbots, a battle that bulldozed large swathes of Brooklyn. A squadron of tricerabots trampling Madrid to rubble. And so much more carnage. Military installations and major cities around the world … all at least partially destroyed by Dad’s dinobots. The images are chilling. It’ll take years – maybe decades – to rebuild, for civilization to recover. They’re going to give Dad the death sentence. The commentators all think so. Doc Dinosaur is too dangerous. Doc Dinosaur always manages to escape. No more, they all say. No more.
Sometimes, I ask Dad what’s the point of trying to conquer or destroy the world. I ask him to outline his endgame, his ultimate goal. Every time his answers quickly devolve into megalomaniacal clichés. I don’t think even he really knows anymore. I think his jealousy of Professor Unknown drove him batshit crazy a long time ago.
I remind myself that I should be in the command centre, helping Dad escape. I should be saving his life. Instead, I stay in my room and continue watching the news coverage. All the world’s major cities are littered with inert dinobots, immobile giants surveying the destruction they wreaked. The images are perversely beautiful and evocative, like macabre art installations.
“Peggy, make more popcorn. This time, go heavier on the butter and the nutritional yeast.”
On the screen, there’s a replay of Spectral beating the crap of out my father on the Golden Gate Bridge while a battalion of giganotosaurobots destroys San Francisco.
Dad might be crazy, but he is a genius. This latest generation of dinobots was designed to be undefeatable, and his plan almost worked. He made them self-replicating, solar powered, and able to syphon raw materials from the air and from the ground below their feet. He only had to manufacture a handful, and then they multiplied.
I don’t know how Professor Unknown shut them all down, but, whatever Dad creates, Unknown manages to counter. Every time. I can kind of see why it drove him insane. But maybe Dad was at least a little deranged to start with. I mean, only a crazy person would choose to live on an invisible and undetectable artificial island in order to dedicate their life to the creation of dinobots of mass destruction.
Still, he is my father. I should bust him out of jail. But I can’t bring myself to do it this time – I mean, yet. I turn off the screen. I’ll sleep on it.
The intruder alarm wakes me. I’ve only ever heard that sound during Dad’s obsessive security drills.
No-one, not even Professor Unknown, has ever been able to locate this lair, but Dad can’t take the credit for that success. Mom built this – Madame Machine was quite the supervillain herself. But I barely remember her. She was killed when I was only three years old during a turf war with another villain couple, Stonelord and Lava Queen.
In the command centre, I check the security cams. Our lethally efficient raptoids have done their jobs.
I zoom in on the corpse of one of the fallen intruders. It’s a Krakullian, a weapon in each of its seven arms. I ask the security system, “Are all the intruders dead?” Yes. “Perimeter scan?” One ship, hovering over the water. Three Krakullians on board. I dispatch a squadron of robodactyls to neutralize the threat.
The news confirms it: the Krakullians have launched a global invasion. The timing can’t be a coincidence. The Preservers have repelled these aliens before, but, in the wake of Dad’s dinobot army crippling most of the world’s military defenses, Earth is particularly vulnerable.
The newsfeed is interrupted. A Krakullian general appears on the screen. “Heed me, citizens of Earth! We have captured your defenders, the Preservers. Professor Unknown, Spectral, the Brute, and the Human Angel will be brought back to Krakull to be publicly executed for their crimes against the empire. To avoid further death and destruction, surrender to us now! Your planet is now a Krakull possession!”
I hurry to grab something from my own lab. Another invention of mine that Dad has never paid attention to. If Dad had created it, he’d have some snappy name for it. I don’t care about that. What matters is what my helmet can do. It expands my consciousness, theoretically enabling me to control a potentially unlimited number of robots simultaneously. I’ve only tested it on a handful of dinobots at a time, with no adverse effects on my mind. In theory, it should work on a more massive scale. In theory.
Back at the command centre, I plug my helmet into Doc Dinosaur’s network. I’m in. My mind spreads into every one of my father’s dinobots. I reactivate all of them. My consciousness expands fractally. Time for the new Doc Dinosaur to save the world.
As a show of good faith, I reveal the lair to Professor Unknown and the rest of the Preservers.
“That was good work, kid.” The Human Angel winces as she pats my shoulder. She’s still healing from her injuries at the hands of the Krakullians.
The Brute, shrunk down to normal human height for the tour, adds: “You gave those Krakullian tyrants a rightful whomping, kiddo.”
Professor Unknown looks up from inspecting Mom and Dad’s equipment. “You’re certain that your father is locked out of the Doc Dinosaur network and the rest of this base’s systems?”
“He is. I’m sure.” During the chaos of the Krakullian invasion, Dad escaped.
Spectral addresses her teammates: “So, are we all agreed?”
They all nod. They all turn toward me. “Welcome to the Preservers!”
Doc Dinosaur joins the Preservers! It’ll drive Dad crazy.