Philosophus Stone, known to his friends and family simply as 'Phil', stepped out into the glaring sunlight of his backyard and stared disapprovingly around.

The sun was too bright, the flower gardens too cheerful, and the sprinkler in the neighbor's yard much too lighthearted. This was no setting for an adventure. It was too mundane, to familiar, and, more than anything else, played out. This was where he had battled the evil Dr. Syringe (played by his friend Arty) in the battle for the Moon, where he had discovered the bones of the largest dinosaur ever to have walked the Earth (the dread Philosophisaurous), and the location of his jungle hideout, where adventurers could rest after a harrowing day of adventures and enjoy a sandwich while perusing the latest comic books.

All great fun, at the time, but Phil was feeling the need for a particularly adventurous type of adventure today. With Arty away at camp and his parents convinced that the daytime radio soaps were no fit entertainment for a growing boy, he found little to distract him in his familiar stomping grounds. Hence, his carefully selected pack of adventurer's provisions, his dashing trench coat, and a sophisticated greasepaint goatee adorning his chin. He was ready for a grand expedition, missing only a grand destination.

It was one of the major downsides to living in a small town. There was so little evil that he was reduced to cultivating it himself just to get it to the point that it was worth battling. He needed a call to adventure, a great cause, a...

A raven swept down out of the sky with a screech, snatched his cap off his head, and flew off over the town.

"That'll do," thought Phil.

The crow's flight is well known for its directness, but it has nothing on the determined child's steeplechase. No sooner had the crow landed at the mouth to a cave in a small clearing in a dark wood in a darker swamp behind the old bottling plant, than Phil was there, panting and covered in debris, just in time to see an elderly bearded and man trade the raven his cap for a dead chipmunk before scuttling into the darkness.

This was so perfect.

Phil stealthily shadowed the mysterious hat-thief into the depths of his lair, although the depths proved to be only few disappointing yards. The villain, completely disregarding the dictates of villainous endeavor, had ignored the conveniently located cave and had constructed a sort of makeshift lean-to of out old metal sheeting, open on one side to the elements, and containing nothing but a a small table covered with books and old tin cans. Phil watched discontentedly as the man placed his hat into an old coffee tin, and poured something unpleasant from one of the smaller cans over it.

"Stop, fiend!" cried Phil, a moment too late to save his cap.

"Oh... hi there. I... um... was that yours?" The man tried to look apologetic while simultaneously glancing past Phil to look for possible adult backup and pouring another splash of something sulfuric into the coffee tin.

"Yes! Why did your crow take my hat, and what are you doing with it, and give it back!" demanded Phil.

"Calm down, boy, it's nothing sinister. Certainly nothing illegal! No need to involve parents or animal control." Seeing that Phil was not satisfied with this, he elaborated, "I simply needed a hair from a young person, for within is contained the essence of life, a quality I call 'deoxyribonucleic spirits'!"

"Wait, what?" said Phil.

"I shall use this to infuse dead flesh with the core nature of your being, populating the existing cell nuclei with your DNAS!"

"But is it a clone, or a homunculus, or what?", asked Phil, "Because those are entirely different things."

"Your petty labels mean nothing -- this is simply a matter of raising the dead, through viral propagation of vital spirits via chemical manipulation of the four humors."

"You're mixing idioms", growled Phil, "you can't be a evil mad scientist sorcerer, you have to pick one or the other!"

"I am neither evil nor mad! My ideas are just too advanced for those uneducated in the ways of the mysticological arts to understand! But fear not, I mean you no harm."

"Stealing people's... parts is unethical and creepy", said Phil firmly, "and creating new life without going through an ethics review thingee is probably evil."

"I'll tell you what, young man," said the mysticologist kindly, "if you can answer my riddle, I'll give you your hat back; that's fair, isn't it? A battle of wits with the spoils to the victor."

"What are you talking about?! This isn't how bad guys are supposed to act. This isn't even how adults are supposed to act"

"You may ask two questions; for one question, I will tell only the truth, and the other, only a lie. You must ask your questions-"

"No. That's dumb," said Phil.

"My intelligence may not be apparent to one so young as-"

"People don't go on adventures to do stupid puzzles," said Phil, "they do it so that they can beat up bad guys."

"Well, if my methods are too-"

"Like this," said Philosophus Stone, throwing a brick at his face.

"By node! You'fe broden by node!", screamed the sorcerer, bleeding fantastically over his robes.

Phil grabbed the coffee can and ran.

Later that afternoon, after carefully burying the ruined cap in the back garden and constructing a surprisingly terrifying scarecrow to stand over the burial site, Phil retired to his jungle hideout with a plate of cookies and a bottle of lemonade. Overall, he thought, he was not disappointed with the day's work, although he was certainly disappointed in his goofball foe. You expected better from a fully grown villain. It really brought home the fact that archaeological professors, if they were truly to be prepared for any adventure that their explorations uncovered, needed to be ready to deal with those misguided individuals who would break established social and narrative norms in their decent into supervillainy.

"I think," he said reflectively, "That when I grow up I would like to be a professor and a police man."


SciFiQuest 3021: The Quest From the Black Lagoon