The Plot to Take Over the World

by Dave Pecora

Note: This story is entirely unrelated to Animaniacs. Please stop humming the "Pinky and the Brain" theme so I can tell the story. Thank you.

March 23, 1995

Private Musings of a Very Evil Being:

Ha ha ha ha ha. I have surpassed myself with this plot. It is the plot to end all plots, the masterstroke of evil genius, the triumphant harbinger of an everlasting era of human doom, destruction, and despair.

My plan has already been set in motion with the proposal of a new, even more stressful grading system at MIT. My goons are currently threatening to reengineer the MIT bureaucrats if they do not implement this grading system. Student opinion will be disregarded by the administration as usual. Heh heh heh. I have no doubt which grading system will be used next year.

Ha ha ha. I have also arranged for federal funding to MIT to be cut to almost nothing, with the help of my able cohort Tadpole Grinch. MIT will be forced to make dramatic budget cuts.

Now -- ha ha -- ARAMARK's contract is up for review this year, and based on its current popularity, is unlikely to be renewed. I have anticipated this development and have done extensive studies of rats from around the Institute. It turns out that to these rats, no other food can compare to ARAMARK food. When ARAMARK does not return next year, the poor beasts will go insane. Ha ha ha ha ha. I have secretly acquired a large stock of ARAMARK food. As the sole supplier of this rat manna, my every wish will be the rats' command.

So how does this all fit together to form a world's ruin? Ha ha. I have noted that Ben Bitdiddle, the graduate student in charge of the MIT particle accelerator, is a fanatic. He insists on taking 200 units of Course 6 classes every term -- and he must get an A in every single class. The alternative is unthinkable. Unfortunately, poor Ben is not superhuman, and usually has to stretch himself to the limit to get the A's, staying up for months on end and barely coming in above the borderline in many cases.

Therefore, under the new grading system, Ben will get at least one A-. It is inevitable. When the grades come in, he will be exhausted from staying up so many months and won't be thinking very clearly. His fuzzy thinking and his fanaticism will induce him to throw himself into the Charles. Ha ha ha. This unfortunate incident will leave the MIT particle accelerator without adequate supervision.

Before the suicide, my rat slaves will have been preparing for the event by gnawing through the particle accelerator's internal wiring. They will do a lot of damage, but not enough to be noticed by the experimenters using the accelerator, who will think their strange results indicate the presence of a quirk or some other new type of subatomic particle. Routine inspections of the wiring would detect the actual problem, but with the severe budget cuts, MIT will simply not have the money to pay for these inspections. Ha ha ha.

After Ben has diddled his bits, I will have my rats complete the job -- and then I will set my secret agent in motion. Birdbrain Duckworth-Fowler IV is a Harvard student who has harbored a bitter grudge against MIT ever since he was rejected by MIT four years ago. He will be more than happy to get even by following my written instructions with regards to the particle accelerator. He *thinks* he will only be destroying it. But he doesn't know about the rats...

What will actually happen is that the particle accelerator will explode in a blaze of atomic hellfire, ending all life within a twenty-mile radius. Ha ha ha ha ha. Twenty miles will be sufficient to take out the MIT students and faculty, and therefore all of the truly smart people in the world. No human then left alive will have the brainpower to find a counter to my vicious hordes of evil, which shall descent upon the earth like a wolf upon the fold.

I will laugh in glee as human resistance is crushed! I shall chortle with mirth as I torture Sunday school teachers! I shall howl with delight as my reign of terror casts a pall over the planet, commencing the Age of Eternal Darkness!!!

(Long pause)

Only they can stop me.


(Snarling) And I know just what to do about them.

December 23, 1995

10:22 AM - Infinite Corridor

Alyssa P. Hacker strode down the Infinite Corridor at her usual staccato pace. Her normally brisk demeanor was, however, tempered by a look of concern on her face. She turned off the corridor into the Building 11 Athena cluster and logged in, anxiously drumming her fingers as she waited for her mail to come in. She had only one message:

From: bdiddler@MIT.EDU (Ben Bitdiddle)
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 95 23:42:07 -0400
To: aphacker@MIT.EDU
Subject: Goodbye

Dearest Alyssa,

I'm afraid I'm at a loss for words.

I don't know exactly what to say to you. I've always tried to live up to my expectations, to help people in need, to be kind and caring, but I know that sometimes, after staying up for weeks, my disposition has not always been the best. For this, I ask your forgiveness.

I am still amazed that you would even be willing to associate with a failure like me. Benjamin B. Bitdiddle -- loner, socially inept, and now getting these horrible grades. Those damn professors! I pleaded with them for hours not to give me those A-'s. They just looked at me like I was crazy. I suppose I am, in a way -- crazy to think I could survive at an elite place like MIT, crazy to think I had a promising future, crazy to think I had any future at all. But I was never crazy enough to think I was worthy of you.

Alyssa, the times we've had were very special. While the span of my existence is drawing to a close, I will cherish you for all the time left that I have. I know you will go on to make some other man happy, Alyssa. I want you to be happy. All I ask is that you remember me and all the good times we've had together.

You will be a success, Alyssa, unlike me. I've recommended you to replace me as head of the particle accelerator laboratory -- hell, you've been running the place for me for the last three months. You might as well get paid for it. Don't forget to use what I gave you in case you ever need it.

Farewell, and always remember 6.001.


An Athena staff member shook Alyssa roughly.

"Ma'am? Ma'am? I'm sorry, but I'll have to ask you to stop crying so much on the keyboard. They cost us $ 140 each to replace, you know, and they cost *you* lost workstation time--"

Alyssa screamed and cut his words short with a roundhouse punch that broke his nose. Sobbing, she ran from the room.

2:42 PM - Planet X

"My Lord, they have found the body."

"Ha ha ha ha ha. Excellent. My brilliantly evil plan is working perfectly. Are Duckworth-Fowler and the rats both ready to go?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Send them in at midnight tonight. I will take care of them myself."

"It shall be done, my Lord."

4:10 PM

Adams House, Harvard University

"Who is it?"

"Never fear, for I am here. / It is I, so open wide." The goon shuddered at being forced to utter *this* code phrase.

Birdbrain Duckworth-Fowler IV opened the door wide. "Pleasure to see you, old man, what? Hope you like the poetry; it's culturally enlightening for you, old chap."

The goon tried unsuccessfully to conceal another shudder. He looked around the doom room: a mauve bedspread set off by puce wallpaper, a Farsi-Sanskrit dictionary, and an autographed copy of an economics treatise were some of the more atrocious items that caught his eye. He winced.

Duckworth-Fowler saw the wince and misinterpreted it. Smiling, he walked over to the economics treatise. "Cost me $ 100,000, old man, but well worth it." He pointed proudly to the notarized signature: "John Maynard Keynes."

The goon cleared his throat and coughed loudly. He growled, "Here's yer instructions. Follow them exactly, EXACTLY, youse understand? Do it right and therz a million dollars in youse bank tomorrow."

This time Duckworth-Fowler's smile was not quite so friendly. "What say, I could use that money to redecorate my room." He rubbed his hands together gleefully. "And I'd like to give those people in the Admissions Office what for. Rejecting me, ME, Birdbrain Duckworth-Fowler -- the FOURTH!! They shall atone for their little faux pas, n'est-ce pas?"

The goon growled, "Just make sure youse do it right. Don't screw up, or it's youse head on a platter."

Duckworth-Fowler smiled his nasty smile again. "No need to get hostile, old chap. You can have every confidence in my technical abilities."

7:39 PM

Alyssa's apartment

Alyssa awoke from a dreamless slumber to the harsh, jangling sound of her ringing phone. She remembered and tears streamed down her face. She made no move toward the phone, and her answering machine promptly responded. She listened dully as the brisk, cheerful message played and shuddered at the incongruity of it. The machine beeped.

"Alyssa? Alyssa? This is Walt. Listen, I heard what happened to Ben, and I'm really sorry. Unfortunately, I have an urgent message for you --"

Alyssa shut off the machine, disconnected the phone, and went back to sleep.

8:02 PM

Adams House, Harvard University

Duckworth-Fowler read the instructions for the eleventh time. His gleeful mood had long since evaporated.

"Increase particle emissions by five orders of magnitude while adjusting frequency wavelength to 100 M-H-z." He scratched his head and consulted his trusty dictionary, reading every definition it had for "order" and "magnitude" out loud for the third time. No combination seemed to make sense. Enraged, he crossed out "by five orders of magnitude" and wrote in "fivefold."

8:21 PM

Alyssa's apartment

Alyssa awoke to the sound of persistent rapping on her door.

"Alyssa! This is Walt. Open up, I know you're in there; you shut off the machine on me."

She did not move. The knocking resumed.

"Alyssa! I'm not going to go away. I'm going to stay here at your door and keep knocking! I'm going to keep knocking and knocking and knocking and knocking until it drives you bats and you get up and open the door!! I repeat, I'm just going to keep knocking and knocking --"

Enraged, Alyssa got up and strode towards the door.

"-- and knocking and knocking and knocking until --"

As Alyssa's hand touched the doorknob, the landlady emerged into the hallway through a side door and unslung her purse. "You should be ashamed of yourself, young man! Badgering a sweet girl like that, it's no wonder she doesn't want to go out with you! Out! Out!"

Alyssa listened, astonished, as the sound of heavy blows falling came from the hallway. She just stood there, her hand on the doorknob, as the furor diminshed in volume and died away. Then she began to giggle, and proceeded to roar with laughter.

9:30 PM

SIPB office

Most of the SIPB hackers had left for the Christmas vacation, but a group of six remained, determined to stay until the morning of Christmas Eve. They had scheduled their flights home for as late as possible to take advantage of the opportunity to hack on the system when nobody else was around.

"Wow!" said one. "This is exhausting but exhilirating. Luxembourg Relief is going to have the best homepage on the entire Web!"

"A commendable effort," said another. "However, I think my barrage of newsgroup posts encouraging people to donate to the Antarctica Hunger Action Group will have a more practical impact."

"Both of you are indeed making a positive impact on your community," commented a third. "However, I am creating high-quality software programs that will bring in millions of dollars in revenue when sold commercially. I could make myself rich, but being a selfless individual, I will instead donate the programs to the Sicilian Snail-Farmers Fund. They need the money so badly. Imagine, these poor snail farmers have been so hard-hit by the worldwide recession that they are being forced to eat their product just to survive!!"

The six gasped as one. "Horrifying," croaked a fourth. "We must redouble our efforts to create a perfect world!"

The six turned their attention back to their terminals with renewed zeal.

11:30 PM

Alyssa's apartment

Alyssa heard a knocking at her door, this time so quiet she barely heard it even though she was fully awake.

"Alyssa?" came the whisper. "Alyssa, this is Walt. Please let me in. I think your landlady's asleep, but I'm not sure and I really really don't want her to find me again. I think she gave me a concussion earlier. Please, please let me in."

Alyssa pondered, decided that he sounded suitably obsequious, and admitted him. He was holding two icepacks to his forehead. She was not sympathetic.

"After what happened to Ben today, what is so important that you just HAD to reach me know?" she snapped.

Walt said, "Well, the particle accelerator won't shut off."

"Won't shut off?"

"Well, it's been giving some really weird results lately. At first, we thought that we'd discovered a new particle, but we've re-examined the data and found them to be inconsistent.

"And then yesterday afternoon, we finished an experiment and tried to shut the machine off, but it wouldn't. We think there's internal wiring problems."

Alyssa frowned. "I still don't understand why you can't shut it off. Cut power to the building or something."

"Well that's the really strange part. We called the custodians and they threw the circuit breaker to the building, but the power stayed on. They don't know why."

"What the hell is this? The best EE school in the world and nobody can figure out how to turn the power OFF to a piece of equipment??"

Walt looked embarrassed. "Well, yes, that's the current state of affairs. What with the situation with Ben, it's been extremely chaotic. We need you to come down and get things organized."

Alyssa simmered. "OK, but I'm personally going to kill the idiot who screwed it up. I hope it wasn't you." She smiled sweetly.

December 24, 1995

12:04 AM

Particle Accelerator Lab, MIT

Alyssa and Walt walked into the empty lab. Walt was still clutching the icepacks to his head. He shouted, "Guys? Where is everybody?"

Alyssa walked over to the particle accelerator, which was emitting an ominous hum. "Doesn't look like they got it shut off. Where are they?" She hit the SHUTDOWN button. There was no response, but she heard a rustling noise from inside the machine.

"What's that?" Walt asked.

"It sure isn't the machine shutting off." Alyssa opened an access panel and dropped it in shock. Inside, teams of five rodents each were busily chewing on designated wires.

Walt laughed. "Well, there's our wiring problem."

Alyssa frowned. "No this is eerie ... they seem to be working in unison. I can't tell offhand what their objective ... No ... No, that couldn't be possible..."


"Wait ... no ... omigod. Omigod."

"What? What??"

"They seem to be connecting power to ground ... and ... my god, do you see those brown stains around their mouths? Do you see what that is? Do you??? IT'S THAT DISGUSTING VEGETARIAN CHILI ARA USED TO SERVE ALL THE TIME!! These rats have been drugged!! I detect a sinister plot underway here! But that means ... the people that were working here ..."

"Have been removed, what?"

Both whirled around to the sight of Birdbrain Duckworth-Fowler IV holding a gun in his hand.

Walt said, "You're right, Alyssa. It's a plot."

Duckworth-Fowler grinned nastily. "Brilliant deductive logic, old bean, what? By the way, old chaps, I could use your help in following these instructions." He threw over the page to Alyssa.

Alyssa picked it up, read it, and dropped it in horror. "If you follow these instructions, the particle accelerator will explode, ending all life within a twenty-mile radius!"

Duckworth-Fowler sneered. "The instructions don't say anything about an explosion, what? Don't try to fool me, old bean. This will only burn out the accelerator's circuitry, I was told so."

Alyssa said frantically, "Normally yes, but with the rewiring inside the accelerator --"

Duckworth-Fowler waved an imperious dismissal. "The instructions don't say anything about rewiring, what? You techies think you're so smart, but you can't fool me. Get to work." He gestured to Alyssa with the gun.

At that point Alyssa remembered the item Ben had given her several months ago, when she was just starting out work on the accelerator. Ben had said: "If you ever run into trouble with the accelerator, Alyssa -- and you'll know it if you do -- just hit this button and help will come."

Alyssa bent down to pick up the instruction sheet. As she did so, she surreptitiously pressed a button strategically placed on the heel of her left sneaker.

12:20 AM

SIPB office

An obnoxious six-beep melody emerged from six terminals simultaneously, and six zephyrs popped up.

"What's this?" said one. "'Emergency at the particle accelerator; shut it down immediately.' Ridiculous! Who'd be there on Christmas Eve?"

"I know this is alpha software and we should expect bugs, but really!" chimed in another. "Which one of us wrote this program, anyway?" No one spoke up.

"I still haven't found any snail gifs," mourned a third.

"And I haven't been able to find any population data for Antarctica," said a fourth. "I propose we ignore this and get back to our more urgent business."

The six nodded as one and turned back to their terminals.

12:30 AM

Particle Accelerator Lab

The accelerator's hum was beginning to acquire apocalyptic overtones.

"OK, old chaps." Duckworth-Fowler beamed. "Now increase particle emissions by five orders of magnitude."

Alyssa almost fainted. This would do it...

"That means fivefold, what?"

Alyssa gobbled but quickly recovered. "Yes, yes, definitely, of course."

Duckworth-Fowler had an unhealthy glint in his eye. "Do it."

She complied. The hum sounded more frantic, but Alyssa knew it could have been much, much worse.

"OK, now increase the frequency to 100 M-H-z." Duckworth-Fowler said the letters with relish. Alyssa moaned as she twisted the dial and the hum began to swell...

"Wait a minute," Walt broke in. "Did you mean millihertz or megahertz?"

Duckworth-Fowler looked puzzled. "M-H-z."

"Big 'M' or small 'm'?"

Duckworth-Fowler blinked. "Uh ... big 'M'."

"That means millihertz," Alyssa said instantly. "We've got to turn this down."

"Uh ... but the instructions say increase the frequency, what?"

"I know it's confusing," Walt said. "But even though the frequency is going down, the corresponding wavelength is going UP, right? So we say 'increasing the frequency' when we actually mean 'increasing the wavelength.'"

"Uh ... right, right, turn it down."

Alyssa did so with relief and the hum quieted to a more normal level. Duckworth-Fowler looked disappointed. Alyssa and Walt exchanged glances, and she sighed; she knew that as stupid as Duckworth-Fowler was, they couldn't keep him going much longer.

12:35 AM

SIPB office

A zephyr popped up on six terminals at once. "Ha ha ha ha ha."

"Uh oh," said one hacker. "It's from our arch-nemesis. Maybe that earlier zephyr wasn't a bug in the alpha software after all."

Another zephyr popped up on the terminals. "Ha ha ha ha ha. A Harvard student is currently sabotaging your particle accelerator. Unless you can shut it off, it will explode and end all life within a twenty-mile radius. Then all the smart people will die and my legions of evil will conquer the earth."

A hacker laughed and zephyred back, "Ridiculous! There's no way a Harvard student would know *how* to sabotage our accelerator."

"Ha ha ha ha ha," came the reply. "He is being ... shall we say ... assisted. And not by someone from Harvard."

The hacker's mouth formed an O. "This ... could be a problem."

"Wait," said another. "I'm confused about something." He zephyred, "If you hadn't told us, the accelerator would have exploded, you'd be rid of us, and your lifelong evil ambitions would have been realized. Why did you tell us?"

"Ha ha," came the reply. "Because that would have made it too easy! And I don't just want you to die. I want you to die *knowing* that you failed to save humanity! Ha ha ha! Nothing is as empty as the heart of Lord Empty Set!! Ha ha ha ha ha! This time I will DESTROY you all!! Farewell!"

"His nefarious scheme will never succeed!" cried one hacker. "Group cheer! Will his scheme succeed?"

Six voices cried out, "NO!"

"I said, will his scheme succeed?"

Six voices screamed, "NEVER!!"

"Why will his scheme never succeed?"

The six raised their fists in the air as one, and six voices shouted out. "Because we are the WORLDWIDE WEBBIN' SIPB RANGERS!!!"

The lead hacker went to the CD player in the corner, skipped to the track marked "Inspiring Music 1," hit play, and then stepped forward. "It's login time!"

"Netrek POWER!"


"Tetris POWER!"

"Anonymous ftp POWER!"

"rm -rf * POWER!"

"Almighty Indy workstation POWER!!" The leader hit a button, a bolt of lightning flashed across six screens, and a message popped up on each: "You now have superuser status."

The leader rubbed his hands together. "Let's get to work."

12:40 AM

Particle Accelerator Lab, MIT

Walt sat in the corner, the icepacks to his head. Alyssa looked over at him with concern; doubtless his headache had not been helped by the constant hum from the accelerator. Walt motioned her gaze away. She saw him fiddling with something in his hand and had a sudden burst of hope.

Duckworth-Fowler was paying no attention to Walt. All his rage was centered on Alyssa. "It isn't working, what?"

Alyssa had to agree that the accelerator had not yet blown up.

"But we've finished all the instructions, what? And you said they would do the trick!" He waved the gun menacingly. "I think you were fibbing about that M-H-z deal. I want you to turn the dial the other way. All the way, what?"

Alyssa hesitated and Duckworth-Fowler snarled. "Do it." His finger tightened on the trigger as she made no move toward the dial, and her life flashed before her eyes...

The hurtled icepacks knocked the gun away. Duckworth-Fowler leaped after it, only to discover the hard way that Alyssa had a sixth-degree black belt in tae kwon do.

12:55 AM

SIPB office

"Well, it seems like our superuser status is insufficient to penetrate the security locks around the particle accelerator's controls. As usual. It's time to unveil our ultimate weapon! We must attain the status of Athena administrators!"

This strong statement from the lead hacker met with general approval. One hacker, however, looked a bit puzzled.

"Why don't we just become Athena administrators in the first place?" he asked. "We could have shut down the accelerator immediately, but we've been futzing around trying to do it this way for almost half an hour."

"That's exactly the point," the leader replied. "We have to fill up the half hour somehow."

The other hacker looked puzzled but continued, "And why doesn't Lord Empty Set make his security locks impenetrable to Athena administrators? He knows what our ultimate weapon is, but he always fails to take it into account. So we always become Athena administrators and we always foil his evil plans, and then he always sends us that same nasty zephyr, 'You win this round, but I will get you next time!' And then the next time we do it to him again. He is the most evil being that has ever existed, but he is reasonably intelligent and you'd think he would learn after 223 times. It's almost as if he wants his plans to be foiled."

"That one I have never been quite able to figure out myself," the leader admitted. "But hey, who's complaining? OK, here we are, I've attained Athena administrator status. Bypassing the security locks now."

Suddenly, without warning, an unearthly laugh echoed throughout the room. "Ha ha ha ha ha. My contract with the network is finally up, and you don't get any freebies anymore. I'm tired of sequels and I'm tired of the same plot and I'm tired of losing the same way over and over and over again 223 times. This time, the 224th time, you will perish." All machines in the SIPB office rebooted.

The hackers just stood there, dumbfounded. The leader recovered first and dashed to the neighboring cluster to try to log in to a machine. He was greeted by a horrible sight: 131 machines simultaneously rebooting. He fainted.

1:02 AM

Particle Accelerator Lab, MIT

Duckworth-Fowler was straining to release his bonds. His face was purple. "Just you wait till I get loose!"

Alyssa looked at Walt. "How did you manage to tie him up so effectively?"

Walt laughed. "I guess I never told you, Alyssa -- I've been doing some research in knot theory."

Alyssa groaned. "Can it, Walt. We still haven't figured out how to turn the accelerator off."

"Ha ha ha ha ha. You can't."

Alyssa spun around to look at the suddenly menacing figure of Walt. She gasped as he picked up the gun that had been knocked from Duckworth-Fowler's hands, and pointed it at her.

"W.. Walt, what are you doing?"

"Ha ha ha ha ha. I am not Walt. You may refer to me as Lord Empty Set, or simply Set for short."

"B... but you look just like him!"

"Ha ha ha. Appearances can be deceiving. I use the very latest in holographic technology." He pushed a button on his belt and Walt's handsome features were replaced by ... something so grotesque that anyone but Alyssa would have run away screaming. She was consumed by a cold rage.

"Where is Walt?"

"As you know, he had a little run-in with your landlady this evening. He is currently in the hospital with a concussion. Ha ha. Too bad you weren't watching me too closely. You might have seen me arranging the destruction of my arch-enemies." He held up a small pocket computer.

"Why didn't you let that Harvard person finish your job?"

"Because I decided a bad guy as evil as I am should do the dirty work himself, not leave it to fools like him."

Duckworth-Fowler snapped, "I object to that nomenclature, what?"

Alyssa said, "Quiet, moron. Listen, Set, you're going to blow yourself up too, you know."

Set smiled. "Not so." He pressed another button on his belt. "You see this little gadget? It serves as a teleportation device and will automatically transport me to my secret hideout seconds before the explosion." He walked over to the control panel and turned the frequency dial all the way to the right. "Which should occur in about one minute."

Alyssa paled as the hum began to swell. "Well then, tell me one last thing. You could have used your teleporter to come in here after hours, turn on the machine, rig it to explode, beam back out, and your plan would have been infalliable. Why did you even bother with me at all?"

"Ha ha. Because all respectable villains have a weakness for the beautiful heroine."

Alyssa had thought she was beyond shock.

At that point, the electronic voice of the accelerator's warning system announced, "Warning. Particle frequency increasing to dangerous levels." The hum was deafening now.

Set smiled. "Ha ha. Any second now." He grinned at Alyssa as she prepared for the suicidal rush...

And then suddenly, the warning system announced, "Warning. Particle frequency exceeded specification tolerances. Initiating emergency shutdown."

"WHAAAAAAT?" Set screamed and lunged for the SHUTDOWN OVERRIDE button. Alyssa was three steps behind, too slow too slow too slow --

And then suddenly Set was gone and the hum was dying away. Lights in the building flickered off as all power was cut. Alyssa sat in the dark for five full minutes, listening to the scrabbling noises of the rats, before she realized that his automatic transporter had activated at the crucial moment. She mused. Saved by the warning system's robust design. Ben's design. She got up to go, but was stopped by a small, quavery voice.

"Please, please don't leave me here."

Alyssa was startled, then remembered Duckworth-Fowler was still tied up. "Why shouldn't I leave you here after what you tried to do?"

The answer came as a sob. "I'm afraid of the dark."