Editor’s note: For this column, all proceeding text in italics/bold must be read in a Ted Knight superhero narrator voice. If you are unsure what that is, listen to the opening narration in this video.
Last month, we saw the government take action after a University of Iowa basketball player, mistaking the famous Chrysler Building as an ear of corn, attempted to harvest the entire tower. This followed nationwide riots after the Maryland Men’s basketball team defeated Duke at the battle of ACC. As politicians declared the acts blatant terrorism, authorities turned to Dr. Wallace Loh, current President of UMD and former provost at Iowa.
This week we return to UMD’s McKeldin Library, where local basketball superstar Alex Len and his ever-faithful sidekick, Nick Faust, are found studying hard for their upcoming finals!
At least, one of them is.
“Hey Alex, why you studying so hard man? You’ll be joining the NBA makin’ bills anyway!” said the young Faust, arms crossed over a basketball. Alex didn’t lift his eyes from his textbook, but a smirk broke across his concentrated face.
“Because man,” he said in his fading Ukranian accent. “There are higher pursuits than money! Knowledge is a power only the learners know.”
“Wordsmith,” said Faust, sprouting a jealous smile. “What will brains do for a professional b-ball playa?” Now Alex looked at him.
“As long as I have an educated voice, it’s one more for freedom, peace, and tolerance in an oppressed, wartorn, hateful world.”
Faust was laughing. “You crazy man.”
“No,” said Len, whose smile had vanished as his eyes returned to his textbook. “This world is.”
Meanwhile, in a sealed room of the FBI’s New York office in Federal Plaza, CIA interrogator Keith Booth closed the steel door behind him, waited for the sound of the sliding bolt, and turned to face the lone man seated at the small table, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
“What took you so long to find me?” asked Dr. Wallace D. Loh, smiling, wearing his best suit, presenting as though he were greeting a new freshman at orientation.
Booth was not amused. “What the hell are you up to Loh? Why are your students threatening American buildings and people? And where is that chip?”
“Americans?” chortled Loh. “You think this is about politics?”
“I don’t care what it’s about, my job is to stop it. I never liked you Loh, that’s why I moved to Loyola and finally quit this whole business together. Now I’m doing what I love, grilling little punks like you until they shit out sideways everything I need. Don’t make it come to that. I’m giving you one more chance, and you better answer me: WHAT ARE YOU PLANNING?”
“It doesn’t matter,” whispered Loh. “You’re too late!”
Back in College Park, brilliant computer genius James Padgett was telling his unyielding friend-fo-lyfe and total ladykiller Dez Wells about a new threat to technologically advanced society, but Dez finds it hard to pay attention.
“It’s a supervirus,” James said, out of breath while walking briskly across Chapel Field. “It can break through any firewall to other like networks. And all it does is swallow files. And from what I learned during my one-day internship in New York right after the NIT Final Four, it was stolen out of the city last month!”
“Which one-day internship? You always doing something techy man” said Dez.
“Well,” sputtered James. “I really see a fut-”
“DAMN son!” exclaimed Dez. “Look at those legs! Man I love skirt day. MAN I LOVE MAY.”
“Dez, pay attention, this is serious! Whoever owns that chip could tank the files of an entire network, like the CIA, or Google or,” James went silent, his jaw dropping.
“YEAH MAN, you see that girl’s skirt? Ohhh hike it girl.”
“Don’t play games with me!” stammered Keith Booth, calmer now, but fiercer. “What happened at McKeldin Library two weeks ago?”
Loh scoffed. “Pfft. What’d your boys tell you? Oh wait, let me guess. Someone ‘said something suspicious,’ and you evacuated the building and found nothing?”
Booth went silent. “You’ve been in solo custody without your constitutional rights. How do you know that?”
“Tell me Agent Booth,” said Loh, a sinister smile breaking wide across his face, as a strange rushing sound surrounded them. “Did you find the beer?”
The concrete walls of the cell evaporated in a tremendous explosion, leaving only the steel door standing. Booth lay motionless on the ground.
Loh, though covered in soot, had not moved an inch.
“Here Agent Booth,” he said, placing a Natural Light beer on the table. “Have one on me.”
Alex Len shut his textbook.
“Man,” said Faust, who had finally opened his own. “I ain’t never seen you close a textbook in my whole life.”
“Yeah?” responded Len. “Well I’ve never seen you open one.”
Faust didn’t laugh. “Not cool bro. What’s wrong with you?”
Len sighed. “I am sorry friend. You are a good any loyal teammate. I’m just… distracted. Something doesn’t add up.”
“Dude, you CRAZY! Now I just wish you would study.”
“Nick, this place was evacuated for a bomb threat, but no one was ever accused, nobody knows what that kid even said to get the whole place evacuated.”
“Yo man,” said Faust, his face flattening. “I read in the Thirsty Turtle Times WHICH THE ENTIRE MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM READS that it was just beer dude.”
“Nick,” said Len, whose face was somehow flatter than Faust’s. “The Thirsty Turtle Times is a rag. Nothing printed in it is true, it’s like a crappy ripoff of The Onion.”
“Nah dude, it’s real. And I heard it’s actually more inspired by Andy Borowitz…”
“…who writes fake news. It’s all parody, man,” stammered Len, slowly losing patience.
“Dude, they keep it real. It’s all the truth.”
As the boys continued the debate of ethics in journalism, trouble brewed at Rikers Island! Iowa Basketball star Whitman Studley’s bail has been revoked for stealing corn from Hurricane Sandy shelters. Here in the grand mess hall he sits, too vigilant even to eat his lunch, telling stories of corn famine to compete with fellow inmates’ tales of violence and testicular fortitude in streets of New York! How long will it hold out?
“That’s when Daddy said ‘Son, we gon’ be livin off da locusts now,’ and I said, ‘why pop?’ And he said ‘Cuz they ate all da corn and got da nutrints from ‘em!’” he said, looking nervously around at his lunching fellow inmates.
“I’m also in here because of corn,” said Krazy-8, a well-built man with cartel tattoos on his right bicep. “I shoved a whole stock down his throat.”
“I’ve had enough of you Iowa boy,” said Tuco, another tattooed man, much larger, with a shaved head and trimmed goatee, standing up across the table. Whitman looked on, expressionless, as other inmates scattered, knocking over chairs to get out of the way, masking a low but growing rushing sound. “You feel me?”
As Tuco stepped onto his stool, a license plate, fresh off Rikers Jail’s own press, landed in front of him. It was a Maryland plate, “LOH 1.”
The resulting silence in the cafeteria unveiled the now thunderous rushing sound.
The walls of the mess hall crumbled as inmates scattered for cover. A full tornado had done what no criminal had ever done, and broken into Rikers Island Jail, with an entire floor of blood and rubble to prove it. As the tornado rapidly dissipated in supernatural fashion, a fully suited man burst from its center as if he were an Olympic diver. Somersaulting forth and landing on his feet in front his own license plate, Dr. Wallace Loh gazed down at a the wide-eyed, gaping Tuco, who was covered in dust and still had one foot on his stool.
“Pardon me good sir, but this man and I have a date with destiny,” he said, as he looked over at Studley. “Where are your personal effects?”
Studley pointed in the direction of the jail’s front office. Loh promptly waved his hands in that direction, and in one swift fluid motion, the tornado looped to the far wall, smashed it to pieces, and whirled right back before the wall had fully crumbled. The noise was deafening. As it returned, the tornado dissipated, clothes fell into Studley’s lap and a small USB drive landed in Loh’s outstretched hand.
“They only found homework on it?”
“You did well,” Loh said, cracking a smile. “Within one week, the University of Maryland’s entire collective servers will crash, taking with them the records of every final exam! They’ll be redoing them all summer!”
“Jolly,” said Studley suddenly in a British accent, as he changed back into his street clothes. “About time too. If I had to put on that stupid Iowan persona for another bloody minute, things would have gotten awful nasty. Well, maybe not a minute. I probably could have performed for another hour or two, maximum.”
“Hey,” said Loh to Studley. “How do you know the toothbrush was invented in Iowa?”
“I ain’t got a clue, do I?”
“Because,” said Loh, whipping up the tornado with a snap of his fingers, “if it were invented anywhere else, they’d have called it a teethbrush!”
As inmates of Rikers Jail slowly gathered their bearings, rising out of mountains of broken concrete, many of them witnessed a massive tornado whipping out of a spectacular cavity in the walls of their mess hall, mysteriously laughing itself into the clouds.
To be concluded…