(A Frique & Fragg Story)
By MONICA MARIER
“You want a what?” asked Frique.
“A mind-control device. Your budget is two-thousand dollars.” said Schmitz.
“Two thousand? That won’t even buy the parts and solder!” moaned Fragg.
“Excuse me,” piped up Dr. Twain, the new guy. Frique and Fragg exchanged glances of mutual bemusement.
“What is it, Dr. Twain?” asked Schmitz.
“What would you want a mind-control device for? The only application I could think of would be to make people do whatever you want.” Twain laughed out-loud— the laugh of a man standing over a precipice. “But (heh-heh) that’s would be ridiculously unethical! (ho-ho) Right? You wouldn’t do that. (ah-hah....ha...)”Twain’s laughter died in the dead silence caused by three people staring at him, dumbfounded.
Even in the limited light casting a shadow over Schmitz’s features, it was evident that his brow was furrowed in disbelief. He looked at Frique and Fragg who just shrugged.
“Just where did they dig you up?” Schmitz asked Twain.
Twain shifted nervously. “I transferred from a company that makes talking robot vacuum-cleaners.”
Schmitz turned to Frique and Fragg, choosing to ignore Twain. “So how soon can you have it ready?”
“Probably a wee—” began Fragg before Frique elbowed him in the solar plexus.
“A month,” Frique said with a dead-pan expression as Fragg wheezed behind him.
“You have five days,” said Schmitz icily.
Frique glared at Fragg who was now puffing on a Ventolin inhaler.
“Now get lost, I’m busy,” grumbled Schmitz. He pushed a button on his desk and the previously dead-locked doors unlocked and swung outwards.
“I’m sorry,” began Twain, frowning, “but I can’t be a part—”
As a single unit, Frique and Fragg clapped hands over Twain’s mouth and forcibly dragged him from Schmitz’s office. Everyone in SchmitzCo knew that when Schmitz let you leave his presence intact, you didn’t stand around yakking.
As soon as they were in the safety of the R&D dept. again the two veteran scientists turned on the rookie. There was a fair amount of malice involved since it was evident that Twain was not a typical sweaty pimply basement-lurker like most scientists. He had wavy hair that was shiny and neat. He had it pulled back in a pointy-tail like Frique’s, but while Frique’s just made him look like a douche-bag, on Thomas Twain it looked bohemian and macho. He probably used conditioner.
He also suffered from perfect posture, a strong chin, white teeth, good breath and a goatee that was short and well-kempt. Clearly Twain wasn’t going to fit in.
“Alright, noob,” sneered Frique poking Twain’s chest (which was as high as he could reach). “You have a couple of things to learn about SchmitzCo.”
Twain listened dutifully, eager to learn, which irritated Frique even more.
“Now it seems to me that you’ve got something very bad for this business called a ‘moral compass’,” Frique continued.
“Of course I have a moral compass!” snapped Twain getting riled.
“Yeah, in this job, that’s something you should have left in your car before you walked in,” said Fragg mildly. He was less confrontational than his cohort.
“I commute by train,” mumbled Twain.
“Uh, yeah,” said Frique, unamused. “Which brings me to another of your faults. Is it possible for you to think something that you DON’T say aloud? Or is your brain simply hard-wired to your mouth?”
“I dunno,” said Twain coldly. “I’m thinking some pretty strong things right now that I’m not saying.”
“Hey, he’s learning!” said Good-cop Fragg.
“I just believe in being honest,” said Twain. He was getting flustered and his voice was losing that caramel-coated tone it usually held.
“Honest?” asked Fragg looking questioningly at Frique.
“Never heard of it,” said Frique shrugging. “It sounded to me like you were being a blunt asshole.”
“I was being truthful!” said Twain. A crimson flush was spreading over his cheeks.
“Same thing,” said Fragg. “You could use a little training in diplomacy.”
“How can I be diplomatic about mind control? It goes against everything I believe in!” shouted Twain, rubbing his temples.
“You want to know how?” asked Frique in a sardonically sweet voice. “It’s like this. Schmitz says, ‘make me a mind-control device’ and you say, ‘okeydokey!’”
"Over my dead body," hissed Twain.
"Whatever floats your boat, Skippy," Frique muttered before stomping off and shouting, “Elliot, where did you put those notebooks?”
“They’re in the storage vault,” answered Frique. He was about to join him when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Brushing the white hair out of his burgundy-colored eyes, he turned to look at Twain’s pleading face.
“Fragg, you seem to be a different sort of man than Frique,” Twain said in a half-whisper. “How can you honestly put aside all your ethics like this?”
Fragg looked at the Twain’s wavering blue eyes. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t’ understand what the job did to you over time. He’d learn. The kid was only a few years younger than him but Elliot Fragg was a world away from Dr. Thomas Twain — separated by a gulf that spanned more than years.
“It’s a paycheck, Twain, nothing more. We’re not out to save the world or anything.”
“Yeah, but destroying the world?” insisted Twain.
“That’s all about perspective,” said Fragg, shrugging.
“Hey Fragg!” called Frique from the Bunsen burner station. “Was that Lucite ball by the test-tubes a liquid-oxygen hamster-ball or that deadly neurotoxin we were working on?”
“I dunno. Why?”
“Cause I just dropped it.”
“I guess we’ll find out in a minute then,” said Fragg stoically.
Twain looked around at the room as the three of them held their breaths and reflected on their lives. His mind was beginning to unhinge as he watched Frique’s and Fragg’s faces start to go blue.
His last thought before passing out was, No wonder they don’t care anymore. Morals require fear of something. And these two aren’t afraid of anything. Not death, not retribution, not anything… They have nothing to lose.
Twain was wrong of course. The secret wasn’t a lack of fear. It was about locking it up until you went insane.