by Martin Maenza
In a rather large laboratory, six figures of various sizes and colors performed a variety of tasks. The two larger-framed ones — one dull gray in color and the other shiny blue — picked up a piece of heavy equipment. All the while, another well-built golden figure instructed them.
“Easy does it, guys,” Gold said in his usual commanding tone. “That machine is very delicate. The last thing we want to do is break it. Doc worked very hard on it, you know.”
“What’s this ‘we’ stuff?” grunted Iron. “Last time I checked, we were doing all the work.”
“Uh… yeah… uh,” huffed Lead.
“Someone has to be in charge,” Gold said, grinning. His winning smile was offset by the texture of his robot skin.
“Less talking and more working!” a female voice called.
Iron let out a little chuckle. “I guess we all know who is really in charge, eh, Lead?”
“Hah-hah… yeah,” his fellow moving companion replied.
A shiny, silvery female figure stretched across the room. “Gold, we’re supposed to be cleaning up the lab for Doc!” she said. “Why are you standing around?”
“Um…” Gold was caught off-guard. “I was taking a break?”
“Robots don’t need breaks!” Platinum scolded. “Now, please keep busy while I help the others in the office.”
“Okay, Tina,” Gold said as she bounced off like a coiled spring.
“‘Okay, Tina,'” mocked Iron after she was well out of earshot.
“Oh, hush, you!” Gold said.
Platinum bounced into the back office area, where the remaining two Metal Men were busy. “How’s it coming, guys?”
“O-k-kay, T-T-Tina,” stuttered the diminutive Tin. The round-headed robot with the flat rectangular body was busy pushing about a broom, sweeping the dusty floor.
“Hmmmph!” grumbled the red-skinned robot with the long, pointed nose and protruding chin.
“Problem, Mercury?” Platinum asked.
“Yeah!” the hotheaded robot snapped. “Why am I stuck in here doing filing work?” He slammed a bunch of folders down on the desk. “This isn’t a man’s job! It’s a secretary’s job! I ain’t a secretary!”
“You aren’t a man, either!” Platinum remarked. “Remember, our primary directive is to serve Doc, however he needs us to. And it was obvious to me that he’s been so busy with his latest experiments that the lab has fallen in disarray. So, by helping clean it up, we help him.”
“Well, since he didn’t tell me to file, I’m not doing it anymore!” Mercury slammed the top drawer of the filing cabinet to emphasize his point.
Cowering as Mercury bounded past him and out of the office, Tin hid his face behind the narrow broomstick and closed his eyes. After a few moments, he opened them again. Mercury was out in the lab, squawking to the others. “H-h-he doesn’t s-s-sound h-h-happy.”
“Oh, pooh on him!” Platinum replied. She started to gather the folders from the desk when she spied something curious. “Oh, what’s this?”
Tin put down the broom and approached the desk. “Wh-wh-what did you f-f-find?”
“Just this,” Platinum said, raising a small letter to her beautiful face so her optical sensors could take in the contents.
“M-m-maybe you sh-sh-shouldn’t look at th-th-that,” Tin said. “Isn’t it a-a-addressed to D-D-Doc?”
“I need to read it to file it, don’t I?” Platinum reasoned.
“No, you don’t,” a firm voice came from the doorway. Platinum and Tin looked up to see a man with wavy brown hair standing in the doorway. He was dressed in a checkered brown suit with a white dress shirt and dark tie. From his mouth dangled a pipe.
“Doc!” Platinum squealed with delight. She rushed over to him, wrapping her stretched-out robot torso about his upper body a number of times. “You’re back early. And here I wanted to surprise you with a clean lab.”
With his arms bound, all Dr. Will Magnus could do was clamp down on the tip of the pipe in his mouth so he could take a few puffs. “I would say,” he continued through clenched teeth, “that I’m just in time.” The pretty robot’s face was bobbing up and down gleefully in front of his own. “Tina, if you don’t mind…”
“Oh,” Platinum said, her mouth forming into a perfect O and her eyes sparkling with surprise. “Of course!” She wound herself about him quickly, unbinding that which her stretched-out body had bound. She re-formed in her curvaceous female form. “Sorry.”
Doc Magnus stretched his shoulders as if popping them back into joint. With his busy schedule and the physical roughness of his creations, he felt he could truly benefit from a good chiropractor. Grabbing his pipe in his left hand, he took a few more puffs and then held out his right hand. “May I have the letter, please?” he said, trying to keep his patience.
“Yes, sir,” Platinum replied without a single moment of hesitation, putting the typed note in his hand.
“Thank you,” Magnus said, then started to walk around to the seat at his desk. Tin scooped up the broom from the floor and quickly moved out of his creator’s way. Magnus sat down and looked about for his ashtray to set down the pipe.
Platinum moved the folders that had been resting atop it. After a few moments of silence, she finally said, “So, are you going?”
The scientist raised an eyebrow to her. “Going?”
“You know!” Platinum said. “To Hawaii!”
“Hawaii?” asked a voice outside the doorway. Mercury stuck his bulbous head inside. “Where?”
“W-w-why h-h-he…?” Tin started to say.
“It’s Waikiki, you stuttering simp!” Mercury snapped. “Who’s going there?”
“No…” Tin started to clarify.
“Yes,” Platinum said. “Honolulu, actually.”
“Honolulu?” another voice in the doorway said. This time it was Gold. “Who’s going to Honolulu?”
“I’m not–” Doc started to say.
“Oh, it’s so lovely there!” Platinum cooed. “I hear the sunsets are just so gorgeous, so romantic!” She nuzzled up to the scientist at the mere thought of that.
“Oh, please!” Mercury said, scowling. “If I were able to be sick, I would be right now!” He started to storm off.
“W-w-why is h-h-he…?”
“I haven’t said I was going,” interrupted Magnus.
“Oh, you must!” Platinum said. “And you could really use the break!” She took her tapered metal fingers and began to massage his shoulders. “You’ve been so tense lately.”
“Tina, please!” Magnus said as he fidgeted in the chair; he was still sore from her previous embrace.
“Hawaii would be a wonderful trip,” Gold said.
“W-w-why is h-h-he going…?” Tin was sputtering. Without a thought, Gold spun around and gave his teammate a solid rap on the back. “…to Hawaii?” Tin finished his question finally.
“Just some conference,” Doc Magnus said. “I get asked to speak at a number of places each year. If I took up every offer that came my way, I would spend more time behind podiums speaking than I would working in the lab. Who needs that?”
“But, Doc, this one said they wanted to present you with an award!” Platinum said.
“Of course. You deserve to be recognized by your peers,” Gold added. Doc raised an eyebrow at his creation. “Well, those in your field, at least,” the robot corrected himself.
“I don’t know,” Magnus said, taking another puff on his pipe.
“You should go!” Platinum insisted. “Come on, you’ve got no deadlines looming. It could be relaxing — a good way to charge the old battery.”
Doc Magnus pondered for a moment. “Well, I guess…”
“And we could come, too!” Platinum said.
“What?” the scientist blurted.
“What a great idea, Tina!” Gold chimed in. “Especially if Doc wanted to show off his creations. Either that, or we could take care of whatever needs he had.”
“Sh-sh-show off?” Tin sputtered.
Gold gave him a slight nudge with his foot, made eye contact, and warned Tin with a glance to remain quiet. “What do you say, Doc?”
“Please?” Platinum said with a pout, jutting out her perfectly formed lower lip in a fashion similar to how she had seen those women do on television daytime dramas when they wanted to get their way. “Pretty please?”
Doc Magnus glanced around at his creations and considered. Suddenly, there was a loud thud in the other room. “What the–?!”
“Don’t worry!” called the voice of Iron. “We’ve got it covered!”
“Yeah, right!” the voice of Mercury said mockingly in the background.
Doc sighed. “Okay, fine.” Gold and Platinum let out a little cheer.
Leaning back in his chair, Dr. Will Magnus puffed on his pipe. The famous inventor reasoned that the trip was the lesser of two evils. If they stuck around here, and the robots continued to “help” him, his lab would be in a lot worse shape than if he left it alone for a week or so. Besides, he thought, would a vacation be so bad?
Water droplets trickled off the large stalactites that hung from the ceiling of the dank, dark cavern. The liquid made a slight blip-blop sound as they landed in the pools of water on the floor, one of which actually opened up to a larger shaft and exit to the hidden lair. The constant sound of the dripping water didn’t seem to bother the dwelling’s only inhabitant as he sat amongst the shadows, muttering to himself.
“Yes, yes,” the darkly dressed figure said to himself as he pored over some ancient texts. “Finally, after all these months of research, success!” He ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair and stretched. On the table next to him sat an ornate golden helmet with a fin at the top and two fins splayed back from the eye sockets.
Reaching across the table, the man pulled open a large book. The maps in the tome were worn and the pages curled and slightly yellowed. Still, they would serve his purpose.
Grabbing a metal instrument with two pivoted legs, he spread the tines apart the required distance. With one end of the drawing compass firmly planted in a specific spot on the paper, he swept the other part across one of the maps in a circular motion. Its arc crossed the edge of a small land mass nestled in a large body of water.
“Hmmm,” he mused to himself, comparing the ancient map with a more recent one of the same area he had staked to the wall. “That could pose a problem. Still, if the artifact is there, then that is where I must search!”
Rising from his seat, he walked across the way, his dark purple cape swirling behind him, and his matching boots clicking on the stone surface. “After all, if I’m to increase my power base and allow myself an edge in battle against my accursed half-brother, then nothing shall stand in my way!”
He approached a small shelf chiseled into the stone wall’s surface. “In the meantime, I will simply employ more technical means to clear out any obstacles that I might encounter!” He started to retrieve a number of devices from their holding place.
Dr. Will Magnus stepped out on the veranda of his large suite. The warmth of the afternoon sun was cut slightly by the cool breeze coming from the water. For a moment, he was at ease.
A tapered hand suddenly caressed his right shoulder, and he could feel the gentle press of a firm, thin arm about his back. “Eh?” he said, glancing to his left.
Platinum was there, nuzzling up against his left shoulder. “See, I was right, wasn’t I?” she said.
“Mmm-hmm,” the scientist said.
“Doc!” a voice called from inside the room. The other four Metal Men were standing around idly as Gold hung up the phone. “Good news, Doc. I just checked with the convention staff, and all is set for the dinner tonight. Until then, you have some free time.”
“Free time?” the scientist huffed.
“Free time!” Platinum squealed. “Oh, how wonderful! We could go shopping or something.”
“Shopping?” Magnus said with a raised brow.
“Or something,” Platinum said softly.
“M-m-maybe we c-c-could… I don’t know…” Tin said shyly.
“Spit it out, squirt!” Mercury snapped.
“Just give him a minute!” Iron said, stepping between the two and glaring at the red-skinned robot.
Mercury threw his nose and chin into the air as he turned away.
Iron then turned back and looked down to their smaller teammate. “Go ahead, Tin. What were you saying?”
“I was j-j-just gonna sug-g-gest maybe we c-c-could see some sights?” Tin said cautiously, almost as if it were a question.
“Sounds… uh… good to me,” Lead offered.
“Sure!” said Gold, taking the lead. “The islands are such a beautiful place! We might as well observe all its natural wonder. It could be a great learning experience.”
“Great!” Platinum exclaimed. “Can we, Doc?”
“I suppose you…” the scientist started to say.
“Oh, you come, too!” Platinum begged. “It wouldn’t be the same without you.” She stepped back and frowned slightly. “But first, maybe you should change.”
“Change?” the scientist said. “Why?”
Platinum tipped her head slightly, then craned her head about and back. “We’re in a tropical paradise,” she explained. “Perhaps green tweed is not the best for sightseeing.”
“Oh,” Doc Magnus said. “Well, I don’t have any–”
“Got it covered!” Platinum said, anticipating his words. Rushing over to the closet, she produced some folded-up clothing. “See why I offered to help you pack?” She held up a pair of white pants and a short-sleeved red shirt covered with large white flower patterns. “This says ‘tropical vacation.'”
Doc Magnus rolled his eyes.
Platinum plopped the clothes in his hands, stretched behind him, and started to nudge him. “Go change in the bathroom,” she said excitedly. “And don’t forget about your shoes.”
“Penny loafers and sand don’t mix! There are sandals in the closet, too.”
Magnus shook his head as he headed for the bathroom. You’d think I can’t dress myself, he thought to himself. In a moment, the bathroom door closed loudly.
“Geez, Tina!” Mercury squawked. “You’d think Doc couldn’t dress himself the way you’re acting!”
“I was just trying to help,” Platinum protested.
“Meddle is more like it!”
“Hey, you two, stop it!” Gold said, coming between them. “Let’s not ruin this by…”
Gold stopped in mid-sentence, cocked his head toward the window, and paused. Turning back to the others, he asked, “Did your audio-sensors just pick that up?”
All six robots stopped to listen. One by one, their eyes lit up with realization.
“That sounded…” Iron began.
“…uh… like…” continued Lead.
“…s-s-someone in…” Tin added.
“Trouble!” Platinum said.
“Come on, Metal Men!” Gold instructed. “Let’s go see what we can do!” The others followed his lead, rushing for the veranda and out of the room.
Mercury was the last. “Great, just great! Even on a vacation, we can’t catch a break!” He hurried off to follow the others.