TSP064: Tokyo Oh-No

March 13, 2013

“But I’ve been to Tokyo, like, three times already.”  “And you’ll be going a fourth; now button up and eat your crab sticks.”

Japan had been on Sigurd’s radar for months now and every time he’d made plans to go, something had come up.  Back in May, that volcanic eruption had destroyed his secret lair and he’d had to call off a trip to Kyoto to oversee the renovation work.  The re-scheduled visit – arranged for the August bank holiday – had gone the same way when Sigurd’s father got himself trapped in the freezer section at Tesco in Abingdon.  And the less said about the failed outing to Osaka in November, the better (one thing was for sure – Agnetha would think twice before shopping at a WHSmith store again…).

The city break in Tokyo had been planned in a hurry and Sigurd’s visa had only just come back from the dry cleaners in time.  Now he and Agnetha were at the airport awaiting their flight.  He had managed to keep their destination secret right up until reaching the departures lounge, and even then Agnetha had needed more than just the subtle hints provided by the hordes of Japanese passengers, the troupe of geishas, the trio of sumo wrestlers in ‘full’ garb, and the name of the destination on the wall in four-foot high neon letters.  “What do you mean we’re going to Tokyo?!” she’d said after Sigurd had revealed a tattoo across his chest that said ‘We’re going to Tokyo’.  “But I’ve been to Tokyo, like, three times already.”

Sigurd sighed, explained that this would make it a nice square four and politely requested she hushed a little and finished consuming her overpriced sashimi.  Out of his pocket he produced the maps he’d been poring over for months, the best tourist attractions circled in red fineliner and little stick-pirates drawn in where space permitted.  Donning his spectacles and casually tweaking the next man’s moustache, Sigurd traced a path from the airport to the hotel where they had a reservation for the next two weeks.  Thoughts of the activities lined up over the fortnight brought an evil chuckle forth from his lips – he was especially looking forward to the satellite-mounted death laser workshop on Tuesday, and the seminar on biological warfare at the University was sure to give him some new ideas for world domination.  But although he’d been salivating in expectation of the military robotics exhibition, the highlight of the vacation was definitely going to be the day out at Miniature Goat World – he would have to buy an ice cream, for sure.

“What am I going to do in Tokyo?!” Agnetha blathered, crossing her arms, legs and eyes in an attempt to look put out and mildly deranged.  “The same as everyone,” Sigurd replied, “Go to the shops, sit in on a couple of catwalks, eat lots of fish and play hide-and-seek with self-employed locals dressed as Pokémon.  Anyway, I don’t know why you’re moaning so much – you always say Tokyo’s your favourite city of them all.”  “I was impersonating Michael Mcintyre – it was a joke.”  Sigurd ignored her.  “Well at the very least I thought you’d be happy that I was finally managing to attend the Symposium of Ultra-Evil after all these years.  I mean, come on – I’ve chaired the Committee since the turn of the century and not once have I been able to get to the annual conference.  Finally, this year, all of the arrangements fall into place, I whisk you off for a surprise break in a foreign country which you’ve expressed a fondness for in the past, we’re sitting in the airport with 10 minutes ‘til boarding, I’ve got a chocolate egg in my pocket that I found on the floor and am saving for later, and you decide that now is the perfect time to pour burning oil on my dreams and kick up a fuss?!”  Hurriedly he pulled out his notepad and jotted down ‘Burning oil’ under the heading ‘Home security’.

Agnetha unfolded her arms and smirked.  “Sigurd, you fool – do you really think I’m going to allow you to go to Japan this time, after all the other times I’ve thrown the spanner into the works?”  Sigurd stopped chewing on his calamari and looked into her eyes, confused.  “Sorry, run that by me again?”  Agnetha had a look of pure mastery shining out from her purple irises, and her crooked smile had become more feline without the need for a cat-mouth transplant this time – she was getting good at this.  “You think that all the times you’ve been prevented from going to Japan in the past year you’ve been a victim of accident?  It takes forethought Sigurd – months of scheming and preparation, all carefully calculated and then executed with precision.”

Sigurd blinked awkwardly (and I mean really awkwardly).  “But… it was a volcano!” he stammered.  “How could you possibly mastermind a volcanic eruption?”  “I studied Geography at school, don’t forget,” Agnetha shot back, “and there’s, like, a whole module on natural disasters when you get to GCSE level.  I chose to do my end-of-year project on Montserrat.”  “I don’t know what that is, but I’m guessing it’s a type of rice dish,” hazarded Sigurd.  Agnetha just stared.  “Didn’t you ever wonder what I was doing that time in WHSmith?  Didn’t you think I’d purchased rather more stationery than is healthy for a happy marriage?  Oh, and Sigurd…”  She paused for effect; the sumo wrestler in the seat behind her very visibly scratched his behind, which temporarily distracted her husband just at the critical moment for maximum impact, which was rather a shame as she’d been preparing this speech for ages.  “Sigurd dear,” she leaned in closer…  “I shut your dad in the pizza freezer.”

Suddenly it all became clear.  The books on plate tectonics casually strewn around the apartment they shared, the constant cutting out of WHSmith vouchers from the newspapers, the trail of frozen peas and baby carrots that led from Tesco back to her abandoned burnt-out car.  A master of evil Sigurd may well have been, but his attention to detail up to now had been somewhat lacking.  “And now,” Agnetha rallied, her enthusiasm rising in a crescendo, “I think you’ll find that the 1535 flight to Tokyo is cancelled.”  Sigurd had just enough time to glimpse Agnetha depressing a button on the side of her wristwatch before the room turned white and the buzzing filled his ears…


“Take my hand!” Imran cried, thrusting forth the aforementioned extremity, hopeful of catching hold of Assad as he swept towards him in the dangerously rising icy waters.  With an almighty effort the wet and bedraggled Assad threw himself in the direction of his lifelong friend and fellow beekeeping enthusiast, who – as promised – gripped his limb tightly and hauled him atop the freezers.  “Remind me,” Imran continued as Assad knelt on the stack of frozen peas, coughing up water and loose assorted nuts, “Why exactly are we robbing Tesco whilst it’s being pumped?!”  Assad just shivered, a faint smile present on his lips, the excitement of his grand idea in action entertaining him greatly…

For the past 6 months – ever since the Greens had come into power with an overwhelming 45-5 majority in the House of Commons (this of course being after the country’s Americanisation into 50 geographical States) – the Government had gradually been turning the tables on the leading commercial powerhouses.  B&Q warehouses up and down the country had been demolished and converted into breeding grounds for bitterns and quails (these birds selected in order to keep the same marketing and branding); Starbucks coffeehouses had been transformed into inner-city fens; and supermarkets throughout the land were being sealed and filled with water – in a process known as ‘pumping’ – to provide safe homes for many of the nation’s endangered water-dwelling creatures and add a delicious irony to the abundance of ‘Caution – wet floor’ cones.  The branch of Tesco presently occupied by Imran, Assad and 500,000 gallons of Nature’s finest had been earmarked for pumping from Day 1 of the new political regime; being based in Chelmsford – the town identified in the Green Manifesto as ‘the very bowels of Satan himself’ (at least with regards to the availability of decent bottle banks) – it was always going to be first on the list of targets, purely to demonstrate that this government meant business… and lakes.

As the water rose to just above the home-brand pizza shelf the two would-be thieves scrambled to the very top of the unit; Assad surveyed the scene.  “The reason we’re robbing this place while it’s being pumped, Imran, is because nobody else would think of doing it!  Look around you – all the produce is still on the shelves!”  It was true – Tesco had been given so little warning that the pumping was to take place on this particular day that there simply had been no time to evacuate all foodstuffs as well as customers and staff.  At 10 o’clock that morning the Greens had come knocking, and by 11 the whole premises were empty, devoid of human life, excepting the generous quantities of fingernail in the day’s bakery goods.  Imran and Assad had capitalised on the opportunity this afforded them by stashing themselves behind the fondant fancies and now both of them stood triumphantly overlooking aisles 25 (frozen food) and 26 (cotton buds – just loads and loads of cotton buds), equipped with large reinforced bin liners (not the economy range – they’d made that mistake before) chock full of edible loot (and cloves).

“Remember the plan,” Assad continued.  “Before the water reaches the ceiling we have to reach that skylight there.”  He pointed with a sesame seed breadstick, revelling in the extra grip provided by the extraneous seeded coating.  The pair began to run along the shelving in the direction of their exit.  “Urgh,” Imran exclaimed, “Why can’t people dust the top of these things?!  My trainers are filthy!”  As they reached the end of the row, the fiercely rising waters now threatening to lick their footwear, the intrepid duo leapt to the adjacent unit.  A sudden movement below them fleetingly sent a surge of terror into their hearts – a school of salmon were swimming past the rows of dishwasher tablets; clearly the fish counter’s stock that morning had been especially fresh.  Jogging at pace, their soaking wet tracksuit trousers for once being employed in the activity for which they were designed, Imran and Assad hastily made their way to the patch of light emanating from their one hope of escape.  Assad reached it first and with strength and finesse worthy of an Olympic 10.0 – or at the very least 15 free minutes to other mobiles on the same network – swung his sack of swag up onto the nearest fluorescent light fitting before raising himself up to the hatch.  He reached down for Imran’s Fingers (also his Swiss rolls, Jaffa cakes and caramel wafers) before returning the earlier favour and lifting his accomplice – by now waist deep in the swirling torrent – up to the suspended ceiling.  Pausing only to catch their breath the twosome speedily set to work forcing the windowpane using the tools nearest at hand: some instant custard and a stick of celery.  The water was barely a foot from the ceiling once the glass gave way and the two amigos made their way out into the cold evening air on top of the store roof.

Assad smiled at Imran, exhausted; Imran returned the expression, ecstatic at their success but deeply deeply anguished at spotting a great black hair in a mole on the back of his hand.  After attempting unsuccessfully to pluck out said hair with his now too-long-in-the-bath-effect fingers, Imran’s face suddenly turned pale and his mouth gaped open.  “What is it?” asked Assad, worried that his friend may have spotted a watching policeman.  “I’ve got to go back in,” Imran responded with fear in his eyes.  “Whatever for?!” Assad enquired, worriedly.  Imran’s response was filled with emotion, his voice cracking with the strain…

“Selma will kill me if I’ve come all this way and forget to get milk!”