This story is rated PG.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Simpsons.

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It was a bright, sunny day in Springfield. C. Montgomery Burns didn't have the ability to make the weather match his moods, but he was working on it.

A new obstacle had surfaced in the 82-year-old wraith's path to power. He sat in his fine Corinthian leather chair, glaring with disgust at the headline in the Springfield Times: DR. FRINK DEMONSTRATES PERPETUAL ENERGY MACHINE. IS FREE ENERGY FOR ALL AROUND THE CORNER?

Burns cursed mightily under his breath. He couldn't imagine how the words "free energy" had made it onto the front page of a newspaper he owned (and he owned every newspaper in the city). The very notion was dangerous—if the people began to question why they had to pay for energy, protests would surely follow, then riots, perhaps even global war. It would be extremely bad for business.

"Smithers!" he shrieked in a voice that could peel the skin from a potato. No answer came.

"Smithers!" he cried again, but his chief administrator failed to appear.

He glanced down at his desk, where a page button had been installed in the right front corner. "Blasted technology," he groused, reluctantly pushing the button. "Why can't my subordinates simply stand around and wait to be called upon?"

The crew-cut, bespectacled Waylon Smithers appeared promptly. "You groused, sir?"

"Look at this, Smithers," said Burns, clutching the newspaper in front of his lackey's face.

"Hmm," said Smithers with interest. "The Malibu Stacy Collector's Convention has been moved to Shelbyville?"

"Not that, you imbecile," Burns snarled. "The headline. Read the headline!"

Smithers quickly scanned the large print, then put on a solemn face. "But, sir, perpetual energy is a physical impossibility. To achieve it, you'd have to somehow draw power from another universe."

"Then do it!" Burns bellowed. "Er, I mean, yes, you're quite right, Smithers. I'm sure I have nothing to fear from this crackpot Frink. But just in case…"

"Should I have him killed, sir?" Smithers suggested.

"Certainly not," said Burns, shaking his head. "At my age, if I were to stoop so low, I'd never get back up again." He drummed his fingers and smiled. "Steal his device, and have him brutally beaten with rolled-up sleeping bags."

"Rolled-up sleeping bags, sir?"

"Very well," said Burns impatiently. "Unroll them, if you can't stomach it."

"You'll have the device in your hands by 0900 tomorrow," Smithers promised.

"Eeeexcellent," gloated Burns.

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At the Android's Dungeon Comics and Trading Cards store, Professor John Frink stood before the counter, holding a copy of Radioactive Man #1 in his hand.

"Ng'hey," he addressed the overweight, ponytailed proprietor. "I bought this comic book from you yesterday, but upon reading it, I found that it was defective. I'm returning it in good condition, and I believe I'm entitled to a full refund."

Comic Book Guy snatched the issue from his hand, and flipped through its pages dispassionately. "I see nothing wrong," he stated. "Why do you say it's defective?"

"The book itself isn't defective," said Frink. "However, the science inside of the book is invalid. Being exposed to a nuclear detonation turns you into a steaming pile of flesh, not a radioactive superbeing."

Comic Book Guy regarded the bushy-haired professor cynically. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he said, returning the book to Frink's hands. "Bring it back tomorrow, and I'll give you a replacement comic in which the scientific errors are corrected. It shall be called Steaming Pile of Flesh Man."

"That's very generous of you," said Frink with satisfaction. "Also, I suggest you check your other comics for similar errors. Many young people are inspired by comic books to become scientists, so it's important that they paint an accurate picture."

"I'll do so right away," Comic Book Guy pledged.

As his customer strolled away, the rotund collector plucked the latest issue of Futurama Comics from the rack, and opened it to a random page. "Geez, he's right," he marveled.

As Professor Frink pulled away from the curb in his hydrogen-powered convertible, a dark sedan driven by two burly men in black suits and sunglasses began to follow him.

Upon arriving in his secret laboratory at the State University of Springfield (motto: "In Pecunia Veritas"), Frink put away his comic book and entertained himself by playing with one of his recent inventions, bullseye-seeking darts. No matter how clumsily he threw one, it always made its way to the center of the dart board. "I'm in the zone," he congratulated himself.

A knock came at the door, and he answered it. "Welcome to my secret laboratory," he greeted the two muscular thugs. "Now that you've discovered it, I shall have to kill you. Won't you come in?"

Without warning, Crusher and Lowblow pulled sleeping bags from behind their backs and started to swat Frink repeatedly with them.

"Ow!" the professor complained. "What the glavin… That smarts!"

"We don't like it either," said Crusher, "but we have our orders."

"We want the perpetual energy device," said Lowblow. "Hand it over."

"Never!" cried Frink, trying uselessly to ward off the vinyl blows. "The device is extremely unstable. The slightest shock could open an interdimensional rift, allowing terrible and destructive forces from a parallel universe to pass into ours. For all we know, John Ashcroft may be the President there."

"This is getting us nowhere," Crusher remarked.

"Yeah," Lowblow agreed. "We shoulda used the down bags."

Shoving Frink aside, the two goons walked over to a metal table where a boxlike machine about the size of a personal computer lay. Numerous wires were attached to it, powering various surrounding devices—lamps, a microwave oven, stereo speakers. It had no visible connection to an electrical outlet.

"Stop!" Frink pleaded. "You fools! You'll disrupt the very fabric of time and fabric of very the disrupt you'll time and fools…"

It was too late—Crusher and Lowbrow had tried to lift the machine. As Frink watched in horror, both the perpetual energy device and the two would-be thieves winked out of existence in a flash of blinding emptiness.

At that moment, a station wagon was rolling down Evergreen Terrace. The driver, Homer Simpson, slammed on the brake upon seeing an amorphous cloud of shimmering light that covered most of the street.

"Stupid interdimensional rift," Homer grumbled, steering sharply to the left.

"Look out, Homer!" cried Marge from the passenger seat. In the back, Lisa and Bart gritted their teeth, and Maggie sucked more vigorously. Doom was approaching, in the form of an oncoming vehicle in the opposite traffic lane.

CRASH!

Alongside the mysterious glowing blob sat two shattered cars. Shocked and furious, Homer shoved his door open and leaped out, fists clenched. Upon arriving at the window of the other vehicle, he was startled to learn that the driver was none other than his neighbor, Ned Flanders.

He held on to his anger long enough to allow Ned to climb out; the man wore a smile as thick as his moustache. "You okay?" Homer asked calmly.

"Fit as a fid-diddly-iddle," was his neighbor's carefree reply. "And yourself?"

Homer looked over the crushed hood of his family's station wagon, then flew into a rage. "Stupid Flanders! Why don't you watch where you're driving? Who gave you your driver's license?"

"Why, it was your sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma," Ned replied with a chuckle.

"Stupid Patty and Selma!" Homer bellowed. "You're all in this together! You're out to get me! You want to make my life hell! HELL!"

As Marge was squeezing through the compacted passenger doorway, she was treated to a horrifying sight—Ned and Homer suddenly dissolved and vanished.

"Homie!" she screamed.

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to be continued