My epic summer has just gotten even more epic, because Evil Scientist Summer Camp just turned into Evil Scientist Space Camp! AND it will be led by the totally epic evil astronaut Neil Strongarm! Who is looking for evil apprentices for his next space mission! Which means that I could totally go into SPACE!!!
I’m already well on my way to Evil Emperor of the Camp. Winning this competition should be easy. Okay, so maybe I didn’t expect Geeky Girl to be quite so good at being evil, but I know I’ve got this. All I need is a plan. Hmmm . . . I wonder if you can take evil kittens on space stations.
Let the Epic Evil Spaceness begin.
The Great and Powerful Mark
About the Author
Marek Jagucki is a graduate of Falmouth School of Art and Design. He is a full-time illustrator and graphic designer based in Yorkshire, UK.
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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.CHAPTER 2
Trevor the Tech-in-ator's voice boomed out of the loudspeakers.
"Attention, please! The special guest for this veek's challenge has arrived."
Campers started to cheer and clap. There was a lot of happy mwhaaa-haa-haaing around the platform.
"Ve velcome the vonderful Evil Astronaut ... Neil Armstrong!" Igor and I gasped as a stony silence fell over the camp.
And then even worse, the astronaut boot stepped back into the shuttle craft.
There was the sound of a scuffle for the microphone and Trevor mumbling something about "Vhy is he so sensitive anyvay?" Then Phillipe Fortescue saying, "Just give her zee mic!" Then the perky and enthusiastically evil voice of Kirsty Katastrophe spoke. "The wonderful, stupendous, best and most evil astronaut in the world, who definitely was NASA's first choice to walk on the moon and not that other guy whose name no one can remember anyway" — she took a breath — "we welcome ... Neil Strongarm!!"
The white astronaut boot stepped out of the shuttle again, this time followed by a man in a white astronaut suit who stomped down the stairs to the platform. "Amateurs," he mumbled.
While the camp counselors, Trevor, Kirsty and Phillipe, all came up on the platform with Neil Strongarm, shook his hand and led him to the microphone to speak to us all, I found myself just staring at him.
"I can't believe it's him. In real life. It's him," I said.
"Yes, you always liked him, didn't you?" I heard Sanj's voice over my shoulder. "Didn't you used to have a Neil Strongarm doll?"
"You had a Neil Strongarm doll?" Dustin repeated, flicking his super-bouncy hair off his super-clean-cut-looking smug face.
"It was an action figure. A licensed, limited-edition action figure!" I corrected.
"Anyway, I remember you playing with that doll" — he paused — "sorry, limited-edition action figure all the time," Sanj said. "It was sweet." He smiled and then laughed his evil wheeze. "But this is grown-up stuff now, Mark. Neil Strongarm is judging an evil space contest, not hanging out with superfans."
"You wait. Neil Strongarm will be hanging out with me, swapping evil plans, by tomorrow," I said, leaning into Sanj. Igor tapped me on the shoulder.
"Us, hanging out with us, I mean," I said.
"Hmmm." Dustin smirked. "Prepare yourself for disappointment."
Fang growled in my pocket, and I had to react super fast to block the paw swipe headed toward Dustin.
"You can't, kitten," I whispered to her as I held her down inside the pocket. "Remember, if they find you, we are outta here."
"AAAAAAchoo!" Bob sneezed as he walked past me. "I am definitely allergic to you, New Kid."
I kept holding Fang down in my pocket as I talked to Bob. If there was one person Fang would want to pounce on more than Dustin, it's him. "Bob, you know my name. We share a tent. I've been here a couple weeks now. Can't you just call me Mark and stop with the New Kid thing?" I said.
Bob thought about it. "Nah. Bugging you by calling you New Kid is much more fun." Then he laughed a not-very-impressive "Mwhaa-haa-haa-haa" and pushed past us to join Diablo and the scary Goth-looking girl near the front of the crowd.
Neil Strongarm stood in front of the microphone now and tapped it with his finger. "Is this thing on? OK, so you know who I am. You should know who I am. I'm Neil Strongarm, the most famous evil astronaut that ever lived."
The crowd cheered.
"And I am the inventor and creator of the first evil space station, SSSH," he added.
The crowd went quiet again.
"Darn it, you don't have to shut up. I'm not shhhing you. It's the name of the station. Secret Space Station Homebase. SSSH. You know, because it's secret." He paused. "Ah, never mind."
"Great name, sir," a wheezy voice spoke out from the crowd.
"Thanks, kid," Strongarm continued, and smiled down at Sanj in the front row. "But the real question is, why am I here talking to a bunch of kids in white coats?" Neil Strongarm leaned over the microphone.
"Because you are committed to empowering the next generation of evil scientists?" Dustin asked, flicking his hair as he spoke.
"No, of course not." He paused, glaring at Dustin. Then he looked over the mob of assembled campers. "Well, I'll tell you. Because a couple of you little, insignificant, unimportant, irrelevant nobodies might just get the privilege of becoming minions, I mean, apprentices on my space station."
A gasp came up from the crowd.
"I thought this was just going to be some stupid games about who could cope better in space or make the best stupid evil space plan or something. You are actually going to take one of us into space?" Geeky Girl spoke out from the crowd. "Did our parents sign a form about that?"
Trevor leaned into the microphone. "Yes, they signed the form," he said. "And technically Mr. Strongarm said he was looking for possible apprentices. So it could be more than one of you that goes into space."
"So he really could take a couple of us into actual space, then?" Geeky Girl's voice had gone up like she had sucked helium or something. "Into actual space?!!!"
Fang was now covering her ears, the pitch was so high, and Geeky Girl was bouncing on the spot, like Sanj's four-year-old sister, Sami, does when she knows it's time to watch The Squeaky Piggy Show on Cartoon Kid TV.
Neil took back the microphone and continued. "So you are all going to have to work hard to prove that you deserve to go into space with me. I'm going to test your stamina, your strength and your evil intelligence. Most of you will fail. But some of you won't, and the winning team will not only get to be Evil Emperor of the Week, but you'll also get the chance to be on my space team."
Now Igor was doing that excited bouncy thing that GG had been doing before. Only when Igor did it, he shook the ground. "Hey, man. Chill, Igor." I put a hand on his bouncy shoulder. "We got this; just play it cool."
As I looked over Igor's bouncing shoulder, I could see Trevor the Tech-inator, Kirsty Katastrophe and Phillipe Fortescue (the camp leaders) all bustling around the edge of the clearing surrounding the platform, setting up capsules on the outside.
Sanj noticed it too. "Dustin, what are they putting around the perimeter? It's like they are sectioning off this area beyond the tents. Curious."
Fang was getting suspicious of something too. She was making her uneasy growl from inside my pocket. Or maybe I was just imagining it. She'd heard Sanj's voice — that was enough to set off her Spidey Sense and make her think something was up.
"To make sure that I can accurately judge your performance in space, we have to create space-like conditions," Strongarm continued.
"Easier said than done," Sanj mumbled to Dustin.
"Easier said than done, you might think. But you would be wrong. With my invention, it's easy to create a space-like atmosphere. All you need to do is say, 'Release the space dome.'"
With that Trevor, Kirsty and Phillipe each pushed a button on the remote controls they were holding. All the capsules they had put around the perimeter burst and joined together as they inflated. In a matter of minutes, the whole area of the campground clearing was encased in this inflatable space dome.
Then I heard a POP and an inflatable tunnel shot out of the edge of the dome. Then another POP!, then another POP! Soon the dome was surrounded by connected tunnels that seemed to lead to other smaller inflatable areas.
This man was a genius. He'd invented a completely portable and easily inflatable space station.
"I know what you are thinking," Strongarm said at last, when all the whooshing of air from the inflating and the popping noises stopped. "You are thinking: This man is a genius. He has invented a completely portable and easily inflatable space station. And you would be right."
The crowd ooooohed and applauded again.
"You are now in the prototype of SSSH."
The crowd went silent again.
"It's the NAME of the space station, people, remember?" Then he paused. "I might have to rethink this name. Anyway, you are in the prototype space station. And here is where you are going to train to be evil astronauts and where I am going to see who will survive."CHAPTER 3
I turned to Igor. "Did we just become the first kids ever to be encased in an inflatable evil space zone?" I said.
"Urgh!!" Igor bounced again and it made the whole dome shake.
"Result!!" We high-fived.
This was the best week at Evil Scientist Summer Camp yet. It was only a matter of time before Neil Strongarm realizes that he totally needed me with him in space. We were getting Evil Emperor of the Week and we were going into space! And the best part was that inside this dome there were no snakes or bears or even raccoons in a bad mood to ruin it. We were in a sealed environment now. It was down to us. Could we hack it in space or not? I say ... bring on the space stuff.
All the kids were exploring inside the dome. Feeling the walls and looking into the tunnels.
Kirsty stepped up to the microphone. "Right, we are going to get ready for the first set of tests. We need to see how you respond to weightlessness and stress on the body under space conditions. We are adjusting the air pressure now. You will all start to feel the gravity changing here within the next few seconds."
As she said it, kids around me started floating up in the air and bumping into one another. Igor, not surprisingly, stayed on the ground the longest. And even in the zero gravity he just kind of floated low and hovered.
Geeky Girl pushed off from the ground and then started doing gymnastic flips in the air. She looked totally at ease in zero gravity. Neil Strongarm even noticed.
"Just ease into the feeling of weightlessness," he said. "Like that flippy girl over there. She's got the hang of it."
He'd now noticed Sanj and Geeky Girl, and he hadn't noticed me once. I had to do something that would make an impression on Strongarm. As I hovered in the air near him I hatched a plan.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Space Cat-Astrophe"
Copyright © 2019 Mo O'Hara.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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