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So We'll Go No More A-Roving, for Fear of Furry Monsters

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by newsmanfan, Sep 12, 2011.

  1. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifty (I)

    Things shifted in the shadows of the attic. Robin hung back, clinging to his uncle’s hand, aware that none of the spooky stuff was real but feeling a little jangled after an entire bag of candy corn weevils and what seemed like a dozen things jumping out to scare him already. Kermit tried putting up a brave front, but in truth, the attic was the darkest, creepiest, cobwebbiest part of the whole hotel. “Hey, ah...good thing we came here first!” he said, sounding a lot more cheerful than he felt. “The rest of the place won’t seem so bad after this, huh?”

    “One side, green stuff,” Piggy muttered, stalking past her hubby to glare into the dark corners. She took off her headlamp, glaring at it as well. “Is this thing even on? Sheesh...some help.”

    “Uh, I think the red light is so everything looks scarier, Aunt Piggy,” Robin suggested.

    “It probably has something to do with how Bunsen and Beaker are filming this, too,” Kermit said. It felt more reassuring to think about special effects film techniques when all he could see was a few inches of grimy, dusty floorboard ahead.

    “Well, I stepped on something that moved back on that second stairway! I’m done with groping around in the dark!” Piggy growled, digging through her chic little red purse for something.

    “Hey Uncle Kermit, does it feel like the...the air is moving more up here?”

    Kermit agreed. “Must be a hole in the insulation. Well, we are right under the roof, and this place is pretty old...” A gust rippled the front of his tee-shirt, making him shiver. “And full of holes.”

    Cautiously, Robin stepped closer to one pitch-black corner. Something rustled. He paused, and exchanged a look with Kermit. Stiffening his spine and nodding firmly at his nephew, Kermit advanced with him, and they both slowly leaned forward, shining their headlamps into the corner where...a small roach stopped to look up at them. Kermit blinked. Robin started to giggle. Then the roach held up a paper sign on a stick: BOO!

    The frogs broke into relieved laughter. Annoyed, the roach skittered off into the shadows. Piggy finally located the mini LED flashlight she knew she’d kept in this purse. “Oh, gosh, that was bad!” Robin laughed. “Here we were expecting something to jump out at us, and it was just a bug!”

    “Hmm. I wouldn’t mind a snack,” Kermit mused, looking around to see if he could find the roach again.

    “There!” Piggy switched the flashlight on triumphantly. “Hah! I bet this’ll give us an advantage over...” More rustling and now small squeaking noises sounded. As one, the Frogs looked at one another, then craned their heads back and up. “Everyone...else...” Piggy finished.

    The entirety of the attic rafters were covered in hundreds of bats.

    Very large bats.

    One of them looked hungrily at little Robin, who cringed closer to Kermit. “U-uncle Kermit?”

    “Maybe we should just...” Kermit began, taking a hesitant step toward the stairs.

    With a whoosh of wings, every bat took off, swooping crazily, and in seconds the attic was a tornado of bats. Two of them dive-bombed Robin, who yelped and leapt for the stairs. “Aaaaagh!” Piggy cried, swatting at the ones zooming too close to her sensitive ears. Kermit ducked her head, trying to protect her, but more bats crazily dove at him. Just as Robin reached the opening to the stairs, a dozen bats lifted the open trapdoor and slammed it shut. Irritated, Piggy shook off her husband and tried to swat at any flying mammal which came close. “Dang it! A little help here?”

    “B-but Aunt Piggy, they’re bats!” Robin cried, darting all around the attic, frantically trying to keep away from the swarm.

    “Yeah, yeah, I shouldn’t have shined the light up, I get it, okay? They’re just bats!” She smacked one out of the air; it crashed into a rafter and lay on the floor, stunned. “Just...ungh!...stupid...pesky...smelly...bats...arrrrgh!”

    “Honey!” Kermit yelped, panic rising as he tried to smack away the two or three dozen bats all swooping at him continually. “Bats eat frogs!”

    Piggy stared at him, absently thwacking another flying threat into a third. “Oh...crap.”

    The amphibious members of the team bounced all over the attic, yelping every time a bat managed to land a claw on them. Piggy’s eyes narrowed. She shoved up the sleeves of the cute little jacket she’d put on over the ugly orange tee. “Oh I don’t think so,” she muttered, and waded into the screeching, flapping morass. “Hiiiiii-yaaaahh!”

    Camilla fluttered along the second-floor south corridor. So far the silly scares had annoyed her more than startled her, and she was wondering where her Whatever could be. Even though the daredevil reality show was now over (for once, she appreciated the ridiculously abbreviated “seasons” new television shows seemed to favor), Gonzo still hadn’t come home. Where could he be? He sang those songs for me, just me...but his eye has wandered before... Although she hadn’t noticed any particularly leggy poultry on that MMN channel, that didn’t quite rule out some fancy little Guinea hen throwing herself at Gonzo’s bandy feet. Why isn’t he home yet? He didn’t show up here either, even though that same station is presenting this silly haunted house. Could something else have happened? Uneasily, she thought about all the monsters she’d seen during the live shows of ‘Break a Leg.’ Monsters, she well knew, tended to be a little too casual about their dinner preferences. Could one of them have...No. Surely not! My weirdo’s not at all tasty-looking to them...is he? Not even the notoriously hungry Gorgon Heap had ever tried to gulp Gonzo, though he’d taste-tested most of the other members of the Muppet Show cast, including – almost – Camilla herself. If he hadn’t sprayed that expanding insulation foam down Gorgon’s gullet, that brute would have really mussed my feathers!

    Beauregard paused at the next door along this side of the creaky hallway. So far, they’d opened and at least looked into three different rooms. The last one had been especially annoying to Camilla, as a soundtrack of screeches and yowls accompanied the stuffed black cats which pounced at them from atop the moldy bed. She sighed, holding her light up for Beau to see as he turned the knob. He stopped, looking down at the chicken. “Hey, maybe you’d better stand back a little, just to be safe,” he cautioned her. With a roll of her pretty blue eyes and a shrug, she stepped aside. Beau opened the door slowly. “Oh...oh...oh!” he gulped, trembling. “Oh no! That’s awful!”

    Curious, Camilla peered around his stocky legs, but saw only a broom closet. Dirty shelves and random bottles of gunk long caked-onto their final resting ledges seemed frightening only for the spiderwebs draped from them. Allergic to spider bites, Camilla leaned away from them, shining her lamp at the other wall of the closet. Beau, one hand to his mouth as though he was nervous enough to bite his nails, slowly reached in with the other mitt and withdrew a tattered dustmop. He stared at it in horror, then let it drop to the floor. Camilla peered at it, wondering if perhaps there was fake blood on it, or if it would animate like that water pitcher had a couple rooms back.

    “That’s a Jonny-Kleen 1922 Floor Polisher!” Beau gasped. “And...and...they just left it here to rot!”

    “Bawk bawk, bawk,” Camilla clucked at him irritably.

    Beau turned wide eyes to her. “I can see that – of course it’s dead!” With a half-choked sob, he raised the stick with a bit of gray, mummified fluff on one end reverently to his shoulder. “We...we should give it a proper burial. Otherwise...” His voice dropped to a thick whisper. “Otherwise, it might haunt us!”

    Camilla stared at him a minute, then began flapping her wings and squawking at him, all her pent-up worry blasting out. Before she’d thwapped his head more than once, a cold wind swept along the hallway, accompanied by a low, growling, terrible roar. “Aaah! You see? You see? Ohhhhh forgive me Jonny-Kleen!” Beau cried, dropping the wretched stick and pounding heavy feet toward the turn of the hallway. Alarmed, Camilla hurried after him, her squawks turning from anger to fear.

    At the north end of the second floor, Floyd shook his head as Animal finally completed his massive belch, eyes drooping, content. “Dang, man! I told you not to eat so much trick-or-treat stuff before we left!” Floyd scolded the drummer.

    “Sahhh-reee,” Animal muttered.

    Dr Teeth chuckled. “At least he was butterin’ his dental implementations with the candy instead of the trick-or-treaters!”

    Janice nodded. “Like, that one kid totally looked like a sno-cone. I thought fer sure he was a goner...”

    Animal perked. “Sno-cone! Sno-cone!” He turned to the nearest door and charged through it, taking down the door and the confetti-dumping trap wired over it as well. Dr Teeth shook his head as the drummer hopped around in the center of the decrepit hotel room, frantically trying to catch and eat the floating bits of bright orange sparkly foil. “Aaaaaahhh ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

    In the hallway, Zoot paused, ears cocked toward the ceiling. “Hey, uh...anyone else hear a lotta squeaking, man?”

    The others stopped to listen for a moment. “Like, no, dude, sorry,” Janice murmured.

    Floyd shook his head. “Must be your shoes on this fine parquet, man!” With a raspy laugh, he tugged on Animal’s chain. “Animal! Come on, man! It’s only gonna give you gas!”

    Puzzled, Zoot shrugged, and trailed after the others as they went on to the next abandoned room. He clutched his sax, wondering when the gig was going to start. Somehow this whole wandering-around-corridors thing was starting to remind him of a movie...something about tapping spines... With a weary step, he plodded along, somehow managing not to bump into the walls with his shades on.

    A shaking, nervous rat peered slowly around the bottom of the first landing balustrade. Suddenly a brash shrimp in a pirate’s hat with an orange tee-shirt shoved him aside to jump in a manly fashion into the center of the landing. “Hah hahh!” he exclaimed, wielding his tiny sword aloft to challenge the darkness.

    Rizzo blew out a breath and collapsed against the thick wooden post marking the turn of the stairs. “Sheesh! Do ya hafta keep doing dat?”

    Pepe shrugged. “Hey, one of us has to be the brave one, amigo.”

    “Brave my butt,” Rizzo muttered, cautiously advancing and looking up and around, but nothing else jumped out. “You just wanna rush through this so you can get to your fancy parties.”

    Pepe tossed his antennae cavalierly. “Jou are just jealous because the Olsen twins did not ask jou to come shake your bon-bons at their party, okay.”

    Rizzo scoffed, checking out the stairs going up. “As what? Da appetizer?” He put a paw out to stop Pepe from starting up the next flight. “Waitaminute, Prawn Cracker. Ya might trigger anuddah scary gag.” As the last ones to go up the stairs except for a still-sniveling Link Hogthrob, they’d seen every other group set off things that dropped, screamed, blew air cannons at them, or sprang up from holes in the crumbling staircase.

    Pepe laughed. “Jou are a chicken, okay? This is all just silly tricks! There is no such thing as a haunted hotel already!”

    “Dat ain’t what Rick Steves says!” Rizzo argued. “Tell ya what; you’re so big and fierce, you go foist from here on up!”

    The prawn paused, glancing nervously up into the darkness; the screams and yells of their comrades carried down faintly on a chill breeze. He shivered, swallowed, and thrust out his prawnly chest. “Fine! I will prove to jou that jou are being a big wussy! Hmf!” So stating, he grabbed the first stair of the next run and hauled himself up.

    “WoooooOOOOOOoooo!” wailed a giant orange spider, dropping suddenly from a hidden web above. Rat and prawn both shrieked like little girls, clutching at one another. The spider swayed slowly, chuckling at them.

    Rizzo smacked Pepe. “Will you get off me, you lousy coward? Who’s da wussy chicken now, huh?”

    Disgruntled, Pepe shoved Rizzo away. “What are jou talking about? Jou grabbed me! Quit being such a bambino!”

    “Who’s a bambino?” Rizzo exclaimed, thrusting his nose into the shrimp’s flat face.

    They continued to posture and argue a few minutes. The spider slowly came to a dead halt, hanging upside-down, watching them with eight blinking eyes. When a glob of drool hit Rizzo’s whiskers, he sputtered and wiped angrily. “Hey! Say it, don’t spray it, you uncivilized heat’n!”

    “Who are jou calling a heater?” Pepe snapped. Another drop of sticky drool splatted over his sword, oozing down the handle. Disgusted, he dropped the weapon. “Eeeuugh! Where does jou come off, accusing me of spitting, when jou...” Realizing he’d been looking right at Rizzo, and the rat hadn’t spat, he slowly trailed off, turning his gaze upward. Rizzo did the same.

    The spider slowly grinned at them. “Duhh, huh, huh,” it chuckled. “Is you guys crunchy or squishy?”

    Rat and shrimp stared up in horror a moment, then as one screamed and ran back the way they’d come. A sticky web shot out, tripping them both, and suddenly Rizzo and Pepe were yanked off their feet and into the spider’s grasp. He held them by their ankles in two sharp-toed feet, looked from one to the other hungrily, and muttered, “Maybe two in one bite? Crunchy and squishy good!” A river of drool ran from his enormous multiple jaws.

    Pepe and Rizzo shrieked only a split second before the spider shot up along his line of silk, carrying them with him into the black recesses of the upper floors.

    Lewis Kazagger hadn’t been this grumpy since the Beijing Olympics Committee refused to allow Muppets a travel visa for the games. He tried to straighten his toupee and craned his neck to peer around the crowd rubbernecking the craziness going on inside O’Malley’s Pub in the Bowery. The slow-moving sloth finally gave him a thumbs-up, camera at the ready, and Kazagger cleared his throat and began his live report. “Hello again sports fa—er, everyone! This is Lewis Kazagger, yet again coming to you live from the scene of yet another bizarre riot, the latest in a seemingly endless stream of them breaking out all over the city tonight! I’m here at O’Malley’s, where moments ago police arrived to crush what one onlooker described as ‘the worst carnage he’d seen since the last Mets game’.” He gestured behind him at the bar windows as someone came crashing through, rolled to the sidewalk, and sprang up gibbering about pumpkin pie seconds before two policemen wrenched him into the back of a paddywagon. “No one seems to know what occasioned the all-out free-for-all, but it appears both benches have been cleared and there’s blood on the ice! Perhaps someone decided to slip a little wildwood weed into the free peanuts!” Kazagger dodged another crazed patron running from the pub, who jerked away from the cops, turned in circles a few times, and then smacked face-first into a nearby light pole.

    Kazagger shook his head. “Has this whole city gone crazy? I’m going to see if I can get any closer to the action!” He darted to the side of the door, his parsnip of a nose whipping back and forth as he watched cops storm the bar and patrons come hurtling out the window. “Folks, this is absolute mayhem, and I don’t mean the last hit concert LP by the famous Muppet band!” He peered uncertainly inside. “Oh no! Now it seems the police have caught whatever crazybug is going around tonight!” A riot cop tore off his bulletproof vest and began beating his partner over the head with it. The other man seemed not to notice, too busy cringing and bowing obeisance to the draft beer taps. Several television screens showed some sort of reality ghost-hunter show; Kazagger was surprised to recognize Kermit the Frog writhing and yelling as what looked like twenty huge bats flew down a stairwell carrying him. “I don’t recognize that movie...but it’s not nearly as horrible as the show going on all around me!” Turning to face the camera again, he noticed the sloth twitching and jerking, droopy eyes wide. “Hey, you haven’t been nipping the brandy again, have ya? Can you at least keep me in focus?” Dismayed, Kazagger could only stare, mouth agape, as the sloth suddenly threw down the camera and climbed the light pole.

    Kazagger approached the grounded camera, seeing the flashing green light indicating it was still broadcasting. Frustrated, he picked it up and set it atop the hood of a cop car, and nearly fell blindsided by a screaming maniac hurtling past him. The young man was waving what looked like a fairy wand, wearing a tutu, and howling something indistinct. Kazagger frowned. “What’s that you’re trying to say, buddy? The funsters are near?” The man paused long enough to moan something, and ran off in wide loops down the street. A flash of movement at the corner of his vision made Lewis turn. Two rats in a red kids’ wagon slowed their racing dog long enough for the smaller blonde rat to wave her arms at him and yell something. “The muffins are all a stranger? What?” he repeated, puzzled and growing more irritated by the minute. The rat shook her head, trying again, but still made no sense. “Bet to the show ‘n’ tell? Huh?” Lewis asked, confused, and the rat threw her paws in the air, rolled her eyes, and said something to the larger rat watching all this bemusedly. He cracked the reins, and the dog took off at a gallop again.

    Kazagger sighed, turning once again to the lens. “Well, since nobody seems to be speaking English anywhere around here tonight, guess I’ll just go catch the Rangers game. For KRAK, this has been Lewis Kazagger.” He didn’t know how to turn off the signal, so he left the camera there, pointing at the bar and its continued carnage, throwing a disgusted look at the cowering sloth sucking his thumb atop the light pole before tromping off in search of a bar which actually kept their televisions turned up properly. He’d been dragged out here at the last minute when nobody else had shown up for work at the station, and he’d forgot to put his hearing aids in before running out the door. Shaking his head, Lewis sighed. “What the hey has gotten into everyone tonight? Reminds me of the ‘Frisco World Series earthquake—it’s like deja vu all over again!”

    Grumbling to himself, he stalked along the street, while behind him, the screams of the bar patrons and the panicked police didn’t quite drown out the signal feeding from the TVs tuned to MMN through the KRAK live feed. If anyone at the station remained who could cut to commercial, they had long since abandoned their post in favor of throwing themselves out windows which didn’t open...or trying to, at least. Repeatedly.
  2. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifty (II)

    The corridor seemed deserted. The Newsman checked left and right once more before carefully tiptoeing down the center, noting empty, grimy prison cells all along it. He’d barely managed to duck into this area of the tunnels when a crowd of frightened creatures had rushed past, herded by several snarling monsters with pitchforks, stone clubs, or giant pixy stix. They seem to be taking all the prisoners somewhere else, he realized. Could Gina be among them? Not going to get far like this. I need another disguise! They know what I’m wearing! Desperate, he glanced into each abandoned cell as he walked along, wondering if he would get far at all just following that cattle drive as he was, or whether, if he were caught, they might throw him in with Gina...or just eat him outright. Something glittery caught his eye.

    Piles of trunks and boxes littered one cell and part of the corridor in front of it. Newsie frowned, thinking one of the stickers proudly emblazoned on a trunk looked familiar. Clicking his flashlight on for a better look than the glowworms could provide, he leaned closer, startled to read: THE GREAT GONZO –PLUMBER EXTRORDINAIRE & ALL-PURPOSE DRAIN CLEANER!

    Gonzo? What the hey?! Newsie flung open the trunk, half-expecting to find the weirdo crouched inside it. A horned thing leered at him. “Gaahhh!” Newsie cried out, then clamped a hand over his mouth, terrified he’d alerted the monsters to his location. He looked around feverishly, but the corridor remained silent. Exhaling slowly, he turned to the thing in the trunk, and realized after a moment’s study it was some sort of costume. A long green rubber nose attached to fake glasses, green horns, and a moustache lay atop a folded sparkly green jumpsuit. More costumes, capes, and props lay below, thrown every which way but organized. This is Gonzo’s performance stuff, Newsie thought, worried. He wouldn’t just leave things like this! He may be crazy but he’s no slob. So...where is he?

    Uneasily, he checked the contents of the other boxes and steamer trunks. Most held weird props and things he couldn’t identify; one seemed to be full of those horrible lollipops with bugs embedded within the hard candy. Newie opened the lid to one that seemed wedged shut and then froze. Oh...frog. Any idiot would recognize the round, red sticks of dynamite, bright and cartoonish...but Newsie saw condensation droplets on the wrappers from the damp air down here. He swallowed hard, and very, very slowly, opened the lid all the way, not daring to let it rest again on the explosives sticking half-out of the trunk. Holy cow. What was he thinki--never mind, we ARE talking about Gonzo...

    He regarded the equipment a moment in silence, pondering the possibilities. Noise from down the corridor made up his mind. Quickly Newsie stripped out of the raven costume, shivering as the cool air brushed his felt, hoping some goblin didn’t come around the corner to catch him in his skivvies. The green spangly coverall fit well enough; he wasn’t sure whether it was a flattering thing that his legs and Gonzo’s were apparently the same diameter of skinny, but that was the least of his current issues. Carefully, he wrapped a cape around three sticks of the dynamite, and tucked them into his knapsack, hardly daring to breathe until they were secure. When a Frackle with a yellow nose wandered into the corridor, Newsie looked up blurrily from behind the fake glasses. He hadn’t had time to adjust the nosepiece, and so a green wobbly thing bounced atop his own long golden nose. He scowled at the confused Frackle. “What?” he demanded, trying to make his voice sound more hoarse than normal.

    The monster regarded him dubiously. “Uh...why ain’t you helpin’ to get the food to the kitchen?”

    “Special assignment from the Underlord,” Newsie growled. He bustled out of the cell and only then realized he was still holding the raven costume in one fist. He looked down at it, horrified; so did the Frackle. The monster’s eyes narrowed. Newsie quickly thrust the costume at the Frackle. “That Muppet’s changed clothes! I tracked him to here, but now look!” He shook the feathers in the startled monster’s long face. “I want this cell tossed! Search every one of these boxes! Get a team down here now!”

    “Er...but...but the prisoners...”

    “Did I ask about the prisoners?” Newsie roared, gaining more confidence in his impromptu role; perhaps hanging around the theatre all these decades hadn’t been as much a waste as his mother had thought after all. “The Underlord wants that Muppet found and found now! Are you gonna go tell him you’re too busy to pitch in? Huh?”

    The Frackle backed away, putting his hands up in a weak protest. “N-no, of course not, heh heh, let me just, ah, I’ll get some guys, uh, right away sir!”

    Newsie sighed, relieved, as the patter of footsteps died away, the Frackle hurrying to find more of its kind to toss the cell for evidence. With any luck, they’ll set off the explosives. He tried to get the rubber nose to fit over his much larger proboscis, with no luck. He straightened up, startled, as almost immediately a whole gaggle of Frackles returned. The yellow-beaked one saluted. “One search team reporting for duty Mr TwoNose sir!” it barked at him.

    Newsie started, then made himself focus. “Well! Uh...good! Now all of you had better tear every single inch of this cell apart!” Getting into it, he strode importantly up and down along the assembled line of monsters. “We can’t very well have a Muppet running around here loose with such important doings still to come tonight—it would be an outrage and an insult! An insult, I tell you! Harrumph!”

    “Harrumph!” the Frackles chorused, trembling in a line before him.

    Newsie paused, poking a green-gloved finger at the biggest, slowest-looking monster. “I didn’t get a harrumph out of this guy!”

    The yellow-beaked one whirled angrily on the laggard. “You! Give Mr TwoNose a harrumph!”

    “Harrumph!” the Frackle gulped anxiously.

    Newsie scowled. “You watch your tail.” He lifted his chin, glaring down both his real and the fake nose at the first Frackle. “Report whatever you find to that lizardy dog thing! Get to it!”

    “Yes sir!” they growled, and dove into the trunks at once. Newsie hurried out of the way, putting his fingers to his ears, wincing as the first boom echoed down the corridor.

    At a junction of tunnels, he stopped, feeling lost. I don’t remember this intersection...have I been here before? He looked right, but nothing he could see seemed at all familiar. The cells all looked exactly the same with their occupants gone. He turned left and halted, flinching. The shaggy, green-furred thing he’d nearly run into blinked huge pop-eyes at him from atop its domed head. “Say, uh...think you’re heading the wrong way, pal,” it rumbled.

    “Oh, uh...right! Which way is it to the prisoners’ holding area?” Newsie asked, keeping his voice gruff.

    The monster cocked its head sideways, blinking at him again. Newsie noticed the thing’s eyes glowed in the dark like large candles. “Down to the kitchens...but hey, if ya got a minute, I could use a hand,” it said, and dragged a large walrus forward with one hand and a lavender Whatnot with a fringe of brown hair in the other. “This pile of blubber is all I can really manage, and the round guy keeps wiggling something awful! These two are muffins or somethin’, so they go upstairs. Think ya can take one of ‘em?”

    “Uh...sure!” Newsie said, and the relieved furry ogre practically threw the Whatnot at him. At least he didn’t toss the walrus. Newsie cleared his throat anxiously, and as the monster resumed dragging the blubbering walrus along by his fat tail, Newsie steered the unhappy man in a dark suit after them.

    “Yeesh,” the Whatnot muttered, trudging glumly as though he realized he was now outnumbered and had better come along...but he didn’t want to do so quietly. “I think you must be the ugliest monster I’ve seen yet! What happened, did your mother smoke uncured Red Lake No. 5 before she laid your egg or something?”

    “Puh-pleeeeeze don’t let them eat me,” the walrus whined, beseeching Newsie; the ogre dragging him ignored him. “I’ll cut back on my oatmeal, I promise! I’ll...I’ll never try to sabotage a cooking show again!”

    Unnerved, Newsie fell back a step. When the Whatnot looked at him warily, Newsie whispered to him, “I remember the food-coloring baby-food poison scandal of Nineteen-eighty-two...I covered the story for my TV station! Who are you?”

    “Huh?” The Whatnot frowned. “Why do you care who I am? You’re just going to eat me anyway. I know what goes on down here, and believe you me, when this all gets back to the Health Department brass, you guys are soooo gonna be fined into the middle of next year!”

    “Health Department?”

    “Murrow, DHMS,” the Whatnot said proudly, and when Newsie stopped completely, staring at him, he explained with more than a trace of smugness in his voice, “Department of Health and Muppet Services.”

    “You’re joking,” Newsie said.

    “Trust me, DHMS doesn’t hire people for their sense of humor.”

    Newsie felt a laugh building in his throat, though he tried to restrain it. “There really is an Inspector Murrow?”

    The Whatnot frowned again. “That’s Chief Sectional Inspector Murrow to you!”

    Newsie lifted his fake nose-and-glasses briefly. “The Newsman, KRAK...er...well, I used to be with that station, anyway. Listen, we need to warn the rest of the Muppets! They’re in terrible danger! These brutes plan to—“

    “Sacrifice us all to some kind of evil ultradimensional portal of doom, yeah,” Murrow said, his contempt turning to surprise. “What are you doing down here in that ridiculous get-up?”

    “Long story,” Newsie said, but the ogre called over one shoulder, interrupting.

    “Hey, pick it up, little dude! We gotta have any muffiny prisoners up to the ballroom pronto! Boss wants as many as possible killed all at once and that’ll be easier if we got ‘em all in one spot!”

    Newsie grabbed Murrow’s arm again, marching him after the ogre and the whimpering walrus now frantically digging his front claws into the rocky floor, to no avail. They started up a narrow, spiraling stairway of slippery stone. “I have to find my girlfriend; she’s trapped down here somewhere,” Newsie whispered. “Do you think you can make a break for it and warn everyone?”

    “Are you kidding?” Murrow hissed. “Point me at an exit and I’ll have the EPA down here faster than you can say ‘multiple waste storage and consumption violations’!” He paused, lagging behind a little, while the walrus scrabbled at every single step going up, his fat belly bumping and bouncing. “I saw a lot of girls a few hours ago...saw what they did to ‘em, too. What does your girl look like?”

    Chilled, Newsie had to find his voice again. “She...she has long dark red hair, and light gray eyes, and she’s very tall and fit and, um, curvy in places...”

    “Oh dear.” Murrow sighed. Newsie froze, only moving reluctantly upward again when the ogre checked behind to make sure the two were following still. “I...I’m sorry, Newsman. It may be too late.”

    “Too late? No...no! What do you mean, too late?” Newsie breathed, every muscle tense as he climbed the treacherous steps.

    “They...they took all the girls to some reality-show taping. I was in the audience, stuck inside the gullet of some big furry thing at the time...he’d eaten too many sheep and at least one cow, and his belly was so crowded my head stuck out of his mouth. I couldn’t believe the oral hygiene standards, I’m telling you...I don’t think these guys have ever heard of flossing!”

    “The girls – what happened to them?” Newsie demanded, struggling to stay quiet.

    Murrow scrunched his weary face. “They were all forced to compete on some kind of dating show. And this...this very questionably licensed doctor had given them something that turned them all...well, it wasn’t pretty, let me tell you. And I’m almost certain he was using illegally obtained genetic samples in those completely uncontrolled substances!”

    “Gina...” Newsie groaned. They reached a landing, and he stopped, feeling sick.

    The ogre paused, looking back again. “Aw, too heavy for you, huh? Okay, dude...ya know, if ya put as much effort into working out your other muscles as ya do those two noses, maybe you could haul as much as I do!” With a guffaw, the monster hefted the walrus higher over its shoulder. “Well, come on soon as you get your breath back!” Cheerfully the ogre continued up the next run of stairs.

    “Look...she may still be alive, but I don’t know that what they’ve done to her is sanitary,” Murrow cautioned. “You may want to wear gloves and nasal protection.”

    “I need to find her,” Newsie said, raising his head to give Murrow an impassioned stare. “Tell me where you saw this!”

    “Down there...second level, in the studio where they’re filming the dating show. It was called...uh...’I Married a Blob,’ I think.”

    Newsie bit back the curses wanting to well up his throat. He looked around in a nauseous daze, desperate to find some kind of hope, some kind of way out of this nightmare. He suddenly realized the landing looked familiar: besides the stairways going up and down, there was a closed red door, and opposite that, something darker. He dug out his flashlight and checked. From a rough opening in the wall, a brick tunnel ran perpendicular to the landing and the stairways. Swinging around again, Newsie’s eyes widened in surprise. That...that’s the lab I found Deadly in! And there...that’s the Prohibition tunnel! That goes back to Nofrisko! Excitedly he pointed the tunnel out to Murrow. “I know where that goes! It leads to a secret door in the Nofrisko corporate offices!”

    Murrow wrinkled his purple nose. “Those cheating artificial-color snack-cake-makers? Hah. Busted them last year for calling Mauve No. 8 ‘Surprise Violet’. They insisted they weren’t trying to get around the ban on cephalapod-derived additives and it had been an honest mistake...”

    “The tunnel’s blocked,” Newsie remembered.

    Murrow sighed. “Well, forget that, then. Look, nice of you to want to get me out of here, but I think maybe we’re stuck now...I heard the big lug saying earlier that there wasn’t any point in trying to get out of the hotel, ‘cause not only is the whole place crawling with buggy things, but they have someone called Mortimer outside to make sure no one gets out! So we may as well go on up...”

    If only the city had started their demolition of the entrance already! Newsie scowled, thinking. They just HAD to drag their feet, and there’s no way past that concrete without blasting...it... He blinked. He turned to Murrow. “You know anything about explosives?”

    The Whatnot stared at him as though he’d just grown a third nose.

    Within five minutes, one lavender health inspector was hurrying – carefully – along the disused speakeasy tunnel holding a wrapped bundle of sweating dynamite, and the Newsman was bounding downstairs so fast he slipped and skidded on his back to the bottom. He didn’t care. Picking himself up, he ran to the end of the corridor, found the stairs to the next lower level, and with a grimly set jaw, headed for the taping studios.

    Beaker checked the readouts again, his gaze flicking from one to another in quick succession. Some very odd things had started showing up on the equipment; twice now he’d heard screams and then silence from mic feeds, but when he cut the live view over to those locations, no one could be seen. A couple of the teams had started out promising enough, tramping up and down stairs and along the musty hallways of the hotel, but now their sensor signals seemed to be all over the place. He looked at the PKE meter again. “Mee mee meeeee!” he exclaimed.

    Bunsen didn’t look up, playing a keyboard which directed the jerky movements of a giant spider puppet which was currently harassing Wanda and Walter on the second floor, though Lew only threw fish at it, chortling. “What is it now, Beaker?” the scientist sighed.

    “Meee mee me me me meep, meep mee!”

    “And is it over the limit we spoke of yet?”

    Beaker looked again at the readout, which now said one-point-seven. “Mo,” he admitted, but then argued, “Mo moo mee mee mee meep memee!”

    “And I think you’re paying too much attention to that silly psychokinetic number when you ought to be focusing on our guests!” Bunsen snapped, turning rapidly to check the pneumatics on the evil-clown-in-a-box which didn’t seem to be jumping out quite high enough from the bed in room two-thirteen...although Link was howling and fleeing anyway, with a glum Strangepork trailing after him yet again. “Beaker, could you please just worry about the cameras? I have enough to deal with, trying to keep everyone scared!” He noticed a sensor registering the triggering of the headless-chicken illusion in room three-forty, making the Chef wave his cleaver in astonishment while Sam threw his wings over his scandalized eyes. “Good, at least that one’s working right...” He sighed. “Honestly, I had no idea that keeping up with so many things all at once would be so taxing for you, Beaker! Now come on, let’s give it the ol’ college try, shall we? Just like Professor Boxheavie’s Thursday petrochemical lab, right?”

    Shaking his head, Beaker fell silent. Bunsen clearly wasn’t concerned about the anomalies they kept running into: tricks working oddly, people winding up somewhere other than where they’d last been seen on-camera, mics cutting off for no apparent reason. He noticed a flickering bunch of lights on his sensor readouts, and tapped the screen, frowning. All of the sensors registered to the Electric Mayhem suddenly winked out.

    Startled, Beaker flashed through various camera feeds, trying to locate them. They’d last been marked on the running timecode for the digital feeds right outside the third-floor ballroom, but the cameras inside that room didn’t respond to Beaker’s repeated attempts to bring them up onscreen. He tried the hall outside the ballroom, but the place appeared empty. “Meeee! Meep meepmee mee...”

    With a groan of frustration, Bunsen whirled in his swivel chair and pushed his glasses up his nose. “For goodness’ sake, Beaker! What is the matter?”

    Beaker pointed out the Mayhem’s sensors...which suddenly all flickered back on. Astonished, he leaned over, peering at the readout’s GPS positioning for the group. Second-floor south wing? How’d they get down there so fast? Didn’t they already cover that section?

    Bunsen shook his head. “You see? Just a minor glitch. I told you we should’ve run a more thorough test of the fear-o-sensor tabs!” Beaker stared at him, jaw dropped at this shameless blame-projection. Honeydew shrugged. “See? Just try to keep up with everyone, all right? We want to make this a show everyone will remember for months! Scooter said that the more remarkable the whole night, the more everyone will want to see the new scary movie!” He turned back to his traps and tricks, and giggled at the blinking light which signaled that the collapsing-stair gag had just caught the stage manager and his wife as they tried to climb to the attic. “Ho ho ho ho! Speak of the devil! I dare say he’ll remember that for a while!”

    Beaker sighed, and switched the live feed to the cameras on the hall where the Mayhem were. He frowned. He checked the readout, checked the camera number list, and frowned again, peering at the screen. Nothing moved in the darkness...yet the sensors indicated the whole group was walking along that very corridor. Worried, Beaker looked at the PKE meter again. One-point-eight. And climbing.

    He squinted at the screen. Remembering the joystick controls, he maneuvered the lead camera for two-south, panning it slowly to see the whole dark hallway. Nothing at all showed up besides closed doors and tattered webs waving in a small breeze. He couldn’t even see anyone’s headlamp in the gloom. Beaker shivered, hesitating. Maybe it is just a glitch...maybe the sensors need to be recalibrated?

    He didn’t really believe that, much as he wanted to.

    In the south wing of the second floor of the Happy Lotus Hotel, the floorboards lay silent and untrod...while along the dark ceiling, a troop of oversized centipedes and biter beetles crawled steadily along, each wearing the little orange sensor still transmitting their signals back to the control room. In the ballroom on the third floor, indistinct figures wriggled uselessly in a giant web, eight feet off the claw-marked parquet.

    Floyd Pepper’s mouth hadn’t quite been smothered in dirty gray silk. He blinked into the darkness. Next to him, he heard Animal chewing on the webbing, apparently without success.

    “What a drag, man,” he sighed.

    “Whooooaaa sparky!” Bubba shouted, digging in his heels and tugging on the reins. Panting, the cocker spaniel slowed to a halt.

    Rhonda dared to open her eyes again. The last few minutes she’d been positive she’d be jolted from the wagon at any moment. “Why are we stopping?”’

    Bubba nodded ahead at a solemn, pockmarked, familiar hulk of a building just past the crooked angle of the street. Neon lights advertising restaurants and souvenir stands provided just enough gaudy light to see the once-formal entry to the hotel. “’Cause I t’ink we’re here. Plus...” He looked back, grimacing. “We seem ta have picked the only dog in town belongin’ to an octageneric marathon runner.” A dowager in a hiked-up dress slowed at the last corner, panting, but when she spotted the dog and wagon, she lifted a finger and shook it threateningly at them.

    “Mr Puffies! Bad, bad puppy! You get away from those nasty rodents! They’ll give you fleas!”

    “Hey, you ain’t no Springtime Barbie yourself, lady!” Bubba yelled back. He hopped from the wagon, offering Rhonda a paw as she gingerly climbed down to the sidewalk. Bubba slapped the rump of the dog, and with a whimper, he trotted toward his mistress. “Sheesh. Thought he was havin’ da time of his life, and looka dat. Runnin’ back to dat old dame like we wasn’t any fun at all.”

    Rhonda saw a vast shadow overwhelming the dim illumination of the shop signs, spreading across the middle of the narrow street. A puddle in the gutter held some muddy water yet, runoff from the melted snow which hadn’t actually reached the storm drain, blocked by a mass of trash and plastic bags at the curb. She stared at the ripples on its previously still surface as a low boom sounded.

    Bubba paused, looking around. “What da hey? Sounded like an explosion...”

    “I don’t think so,” Rhonda gulped as another tremor shook the concrete, sending wild ripples across the puddle. She raised her eyes slowly to the massive thing striding around the side of the hotel. She grabbed Bubba’s elbow. “Uh...much as I really do appreciate how far your machismo has got us tonight...” He looked at her quizzically, and she pointed up, and up, and up... “I think we really oughta run now.”

    With another booming footstep, the biggest troll either rat had ever seen hove into full view, his shadow blotting the very moon as he loomed over the old hotel. Yellow eyes the size of bulldozer wheels gleamed brighter than neon, and slowly the ugly lips stretched into a hungry smile.
  3. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Oh wow... Updates to Kermie's Girl and Fear of Monsters, both in one same calendar day?! *Is tickled fright. *Appreciates all the subtleties in the double-dipper. Bats swarming the The Frogs and the spider ensnaring the Mayhem plus Rizzo and Pepe, so the auspicious assembly has begun. Bunsen beleagueredly brainstorming bugaboos in the bowel of the manager's office while Beaker bewares the beeping of a PKE meter. Then there's Lewis forgetting his hearing aid so he's currently immune to the MMN signal feed, Tommy the camerasloth, not so much. *Applauds at Mr. Two-Noses, er Newsie's liberation of the real Inspector Murrow Les Mis style. Go on and storm the Bastille boys! :crazy: blasts through.

    And there's Rhonda too, arriving at the scene with Bubba outside the hotel... Hi Mortimer. Hmm, so that huge oversized onyx-furred orc's Mortimer.

    Thank you, hope you have a frightful weekend, or whatever's left of it. :scary:
  4. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    *laughing at Ed's liberal little alliteration*

    Almost there...whew...
  5. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I dare those bats to mess with the two most important frogs in Piggy's life! You get 'em, girl!

    I LOVED that Newsie is getting so heroic and brave. I knew he had it in him. And I have a feeling that our official little inspector will prove useful. I liked that Newsie used Murrow as a last name because of its significance to newcasting. But I love that there really WAS an Inspector Murrow. Nice, clever wordplay.

    Speaking of nice and clever, I like that Camilla is keeping her wits about her. She is thinking things through, and I know that her reflection is going to pay off when her wayward, worrisome weirdo finally makes it home. Here's hoping that everybody makes it with a minimum of a permanent scarring.

    Speaking of permanent scarring...I'm beginning to think that Bunsen ought to be closer to Van Neuter whenever something awful happens to him. I'm getting very tired of his obtuseness. Plus, he's a man of science, a muppet of facts, so he needs to muppet up already and take responsibility for his role in what's going wrong. Beakie--revolt already!
    Rizzo: I thought he was already pretty revolting!
    Ru: What? You! Get! Get out! Either help or get moving!
    Rizzo: Hey! Watch it there. I'm already moving. I'm currently being carried off by some big icky spider along with that stinkin' little Prawn wannabe, so don't lecture me! Do you even know how hard it is to get spider silk out of my back molars?
    Ru: (uncertainly) Uh, no.
    Rizzo: Well then!
    Ru: (gulping) Um, sorry, but I still think we need some reinforcements for OUR guys.
    Rizzo: Don't get your pa...um, don't bust a vein, okay? She's gettin' there, okay? Working up to a big finale and everything. So chill.
    Ru: But what about Deadly? The theater won't be the same without him!
    Rizzo: Got it covered.
    Ru: And Gonzo--he's going to be okay, too?
    Rizzo: Are you kidding me? You couldn't BLOW the furry guy up, and believe me, it's been tried--by HIM!
    Ru: And Robin? And Kermit? I'm not worried about Piggy or Gina--they'll take the fight to the monsters.
    Rizzo: (tapping his foot) I noticed you don't ask about me? What am I--chopped liver?
    Ru: (Uncomfortably) Um, no. Of course not.
    Rizzo: Good!
    Ru: More like spider chow....
    Rizzo: What?
    Ru: Nothing. Nevermind....
    Rizzo: What was that supposed to mean?
    Ru: My, my. Just look at the time. I really must be going....
    Rizzo: Hey--come back here.....
    newsmanfan and The Count like this.
  6. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm, she must have booked an early flight on the 10 PM broomstick.

    Er, Deadly's already dead, so anything less than a containment field which he's already gotten out of, I doubt he'll be phased by much more.

    Speaking of revolts and ladies who can hold their own, I wonder if Gina might end up unionizing the other unfortunate females on the bachelor pad scene.

    Those bats aren't hurting the frogs, they're on capture detail just like the spider. Sure, they may drool while dreaming up dishes, but they know these Muppety morsels are off-limits, reserved for the skeremony at the pumpkin hour of 10:31 PM.

    And hey, if anything really icky bad happens to Van Neuter like you've been lobbying for chapters now, then who'll turn Gina back to normal huh? Or any of the other captured women?
    But you are a fellow fic reader and I love reading your stuff Aunt Ru. *Leaves a few pumpkin cookies :hungry: made.
  7. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys! Yes...vee haff plans, zuch vunderbar plans...mwah ha ha ha ha ha!

    *bluffing while frantically digging self out of holes*

    More soon. And as for Zoot, well, maybe...he's one of those guys I don't feel I wholly understand enough, and I've already done a one-shot about him for Effie. If I get inspired, will do. :news:

    Yep. Knew I had to have a real Inspector Murrow. I've always liked Euro farce, and that was one of those Have to Do It things. So brace yourselves, 'cos the foam is about to hit the fan...almost done!
  8. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    (Auth. note: I really, really intended to unleash ALL the finale stuff as one superlong chapter...but I'm struggling to find time for this! So here's at least an update for you. More fur-hitting-the-fan to come!)

    Part Fifty-One

    Uncle Deadly trod warily, silently, as he walked down the center aisle of the cavern amphitheatre. The screen at the back was pale and blank, and only a few bits of wounded popbugs trying to drag themselves across the rough floor gave any indication of the rally which had taken place earlier. Deadly peered into the dark corners at the edges of the room. “You idiots...have you never seen a film? That screen isn’t the actual megalomaniac we seek, merely a projection of him! – and one with inferior sound editing, at that!”

    A raggedly pink thing peeked out from over Deadly’s left shoulder. “Awwwaww,” it murmured, googly eyes swinging in every direction. When it shoved its antennae in Deadly’s face, he snarled and pushed it away. It hopped and shuffled jerkily along the floor, soon joined by its blue twin. “Mm. Aww. Boss in con-trol.”

    “Con-trol. Con-trol. Yip yip yip yip yip con-trol,” the blue one agreed.

    Deadly halted by the screen, glaring around in disgust. “I bloody well know he’s in charge of this whole sordid mess, you fools! What I want to know is where the great coward is currently hiding!”

    “Con-trol,” Pink repeated, his tentacles scratching at the edge of the screen. “Awww, yip yip yip, in con-trol.”

    Deadly passed a cold hand slowly down his snout, struggling for patience. “I said I know that, you sorry excuse for a dishrag! Now help me find him, or so help me I’ll—“

    Blue went to aid his friend, and together they tugged the edge of the huge flexible screen away from the narrow tunnel it had partially concealed. “Mn. Aww. Boss in con-trol, there, yiiiiip yip yip yip yip yip!”

    Deadly nodded, grasping what they’d been trying to explain. “In...control. Yessss...a secret lair from which he spreads his sickening influence over this whole domain! Of course!” The Martians shied away from him as he strode toward the tunnel entrance. He paused, and then slowly petted the pink one atop its bulbous eyes. “Good boy.” Pink raised himself higher, inexpressibly proud, and fell in step eagerly behind the spectral dragon. Blue bounced along behind, hoping to be recognized too. The two of them shoved each other jealously, and crashed into Deadly’s thick spiked tail when he stopped. Green glowing eyes fixed them in a cold glare, and they froze. “Shhhhhh!”

    Cautiously, the expeditionary force advanced down the slickly-moldy, musty-smelling tunnel. Blue tripped on his tentacles, and angrily shoved Pink. “Aw! Move! Yip yip yip!”

    Pink shoved back. “You move! Awwwwwwwyip yip yip yip!”

    A long snarling snout thrust between them shut both of them up abruptly. “Quiet, you imbeciles! Harken...” The dragon swept one languorous arm ahead, where the tunnel opened into a dark space, with hundreds of tiny LED indicators blinking or glowing. “See there: our quarry naps, unaware of the doom about to befall him!” Deadly chuckled quietly, and the Yipyips shivered and fell back a respectful step, mouths clamped shut and eyes wide. In the center of the room ahead, a giant command chair held a slumped, dark figure, his outline barely visible against the rows of television monitors all showing some sort of Muppet haunted-house film. “Let me handle this, boys. This is a task for a phantom, mwah ha ha ha!”

    The raggedy creatures peeked from the edge of the tunnel opening as Deadly slunk across the cold concrete floor, claws at the ready, eyes glowing in anticipation. Suddenly he sprang up, leaping in front of the still figure, cape spread wide and a triumphant cackle bursting from that chillingly mellifluous throat. “Ha ha hah! Your reign of horror is at an end, you fiend!” Deadly’s clawed feet thumped onto the generous lap of the motionless figure in the chair, and he gestured grandly, chin held high. “I, Uncle Deadly, the scariest Muppet of them all, have come to call you to account for your misguided and really quite badly done hysterical-dictator routine, and...” He halted, frowning. The Underlord hadn’t so much as twitched. Deadly was accustomed to more histrionic reactions from his prey; why, once, an entire busload of Japanese tourists had run out of the theatre so fast they’d forgotten their digital cameras! He peered closely at the thing beneath him. “I say, old bean, are you getting any of this? Should I speak up?”

    The Martians looked at one another, confused. They crept into the room, careening at odd angles all over the banks of controls and long shelves of server racks, wriggling among cables, until they could see what Deadly was now scowling at. The dragon lifted one limp arm from the side of the chair and let it drop in contempt. “I don’t believe it. A fat suit? Really? How very crass.”

    Pink scuttled closer, daring a poke at the thickset leg swathed in black cloth, then scurried back, but the thing in the chair didn’t move. Emboldened, Blue jumped up and poked its shoulder; the lumpy, blank-faced head lolled, its red eyesockets dull and lifeless. Deadly reached down, seeing a small switch, and flicked it; the whole black mass of fabric and foam quivered, and the eyes lit up, piercing red beams shooting across the room. The Martians gulped their lower jaws over their eyeballs in fear, but Deadly merely snorted, and then turned the thing back off. When Blue dared to peek, Deadly was standing in front of the chair, thoughtfully stroking his whiskers. “Hmm. A fat suit with electric eyes...empty.” He picked up a flap of shapeless stuff from the enormous belly and flipped it open to reveal a hollow shell, big enough to seat the larger Muppets comfortably. Deadly turned, his sharp eyes taking in the web camera pointed at the chair, the banks of switches and keyboards. “In control, indeed. Controlling their perception of himself, it would seem!” He snorted again, then noticed the monitors. Except for one which seemed to be tuned to some sort of monster talk show with a rowdy audience, all the rest showed various views of a large, mostly-empty building, with long dark corridors, web-dusted rooms, and here and there one of the performers from the Muppet Theatre reacting to some jiggered trap or trick. Deadly’s gaze flicked from one to another of these views, slowly understanding what was taking place.

    Blue and Pink exchanged a worried look. “Erp. Mm. Dead-ly in con-trol?” Pink suggested, and Blue backed him up timidly: “Con-trol? Yip?”

    The dragon looked at them with a growing evil smile. “Oh yes, my faithful little dishrags. I am, interestingly enough, and now I believe I shall do something about it.” He studied the controls a while longer, very glad for once that Scooter had insisted on leaving an old computer around the prop room turned on overnight in case the phantom had wanted to play with it; though he didn’t at all care for the way modern technology had ruined classic film techniques, at the moment he was fully appreciative of the phrase “ghost in the machine.” He looked at one screen which said BROADCASTING SIGNAL STRENGTH, with a continual image of a radio tower sending forth tiny waves. Another tiny gauge below that was labeled FEAR SIGNAL, and the needle twitching on it was in the peak range. Deadly cracked his knuckles, wriggled his fingers delightedly, and ceremoniously pressed the OFF button on them both. “While the maniac’s away, the spooks shall play,” he chuckled. “That takes care of that, at least...now...” He frowned, looking at the screens showing the Muppet pigs running from a clown jack-in-the-box which began hopping after them, and Wanda suddenly vanishing behind a revolving panel as a large horned thing leaned out, grabbed her, and closed them both inside a wall, leaving Walter staring around in fright.

    Deadly shook his head. “This is not good. We must find this hideous leader and stop whatever it is he’s planning.” With a deep frown and a flourish, he swept from the room, heading back along the slippery tunnel. “Whatever he truly is, I think he’s pulled the wool over the monsters’ eyes long enough! Time to end this masquerade!”

    The Yipyips scurried after him, perplexed. “Boss...sheep?” Blue asked.

    Disgusted, Deadly merely shook his head, striding along without looking back. Pink tentacled his ignorant friend, rolling his eyes. “Nope! Nope nope nope! Boss – cow!”

    The argument continued until Deadly whirled on them both, his tail smacking them. A cold glare and a baring of fangs served to quiet the restless things, and then they hurried on, seeking the Underlord of this strange production studio.

    Eustace did his best not to comment on the oddity of the shroud-wrapped entity crawling slowly up the vertical rock shaft above him. Seeing the Underlord divest himself of his cocoon of flesh had been unnerving enough earlier; having to climb this dusty tunnel with his eyes averted and still keep his ears alert to the reports coming in over his headset was struggle enough for now without dwelling on the shock of his master’s grim unveiling. Above them both, the white-furred giant caterpillar writhed and crawled, clearing away any lingering webs or lesser bugs for the dark lord’s passage. His whiskers hadn’t grown back enough to warn him when the Underlord suddenly halted, and Eustace nearly ran into the rag-wrapped, thick legs braced against the rough walls. Frightened, the doglizard scrambled back, ending up clutching frantically at what clawholds he could get; tiny pebbles and dust fell silently past him down the long shaft. Eustace heard the rocks patter far, far below, and gulped; he’d never particularly enjoyed heights.

    The Underlord’s voice was harsh and out-of-breath. “Eustace...what word on our friends’ progress in the hotel?”

    “A-a moment, my liege,” Eustace gasped, and adjusted the headset. “Flunky! Your Underlord requessstsss a report! How many Muppetsss are now in our grasssp?”

    A confused, mellow voice came back over the open channel. “Oh! Uh, sorry, almost kinda forgot you guys were listening in, huh huh...”

    Eustace grimaced. The Frackle on the other end had claimed to have worked as a production assistant before, which garnered him this position tonight, but Eustace wished now he’d picked some other monster...someone with more brains and less mouth. “How many Muppetsss are in the ballroom, you garrolousss imbesssile?”

    “Oh, uhhmmmm...” Eustace waited impatiently. Above him, he heard the Underlord panting; this was surely the most activity the corpulent boss had managed in over a year. Eustace thought of the weird fleshy cocoon abandoned in the control room, and shuddered; in his awfulest nightmares, even he had never considered his master might have some sort of insectoid physiognomy. Swathed as he now was in dirty rags, it was impossible to tell just what he might have evolved into...and the transformation of the Grand Ascension was yet to come tonight... Static crackled in Eustace’s tender ear, making him wince and then growl. “Uh, heh heh, sorry, uh, well, I had to go ask Clarence about that, and he had to check with Steve, y’know, and Steve was kinda busy doing that whole wrapping-up-a-snack thing, you know how he is; and so Clarence had to yell at him to save the cookies for later, and Steve whined a lot, heh heh, and meanwhile –“

    “Jussst tell me how many Muppetsss are tied up in the ballroom now, you idiot!” Eustace snarled. Sensing eyes upon him, he glanced up, saw the dark shape of the Underlord waiting above him, and flinched, immediately averting his gaze. “Hisss magnifisssenssse is en route to the ballroom and wisssshessss a ssstatussss report!”

    “Oh! Wow! Uh, okay, hey, hey you guys!” Eustace winced at the Frackle on the other end yelling with his mouthpiece still in place. “Uh, the boss is on his way up, so look sharp, okay!” The voice dropped back to a droning level. “Okay, uh, well, lemme see here...according to the figures I have so far, which, ya gotta remember, are kind of in flux, so to speak, see, because the prisoners are still being Muppetnapped and dragged in here as we speak, so technically –“

    “How. Many. Muppetsss?” Eustace barked.

    “Uhhhhhhhhhh...eleven so far are here, and then my understanding is, which as you know I can’t actually confirm yet, but it was reported to me a little while ago, that Carl had two ready, and there’s at least a couple more being brought up from the dungeons, or at least that’s what they tell me, but ya know you really never should take anything these guys say without a grain of sand, heh heh, oh, no, wait, that’s not the right saying, is it? I mean, a grain of sand, wait, isn’t that from that ‘Time in a Bubble’ song or something...man, Jim Croce’s dead, did you know that? What a bummer, right? Oh, but back to what I was saying: uh...oh, right, grain of sand, right right...”

    Disgusted, Eustace turned down the volume. The droning continued unabated just below the level of comprehensive speech. “Well?” The Underlord’s quiet tone bore a definite contempt. Eustace squirmed, trying not to dislodge himself from the perilous shaft.

    “Ah, your ineffable sssliminesss, it sssseemsss that only thirteen of the Muppetsss are ready for the sssacrifissse thusss far.”

    Coldness radiated down the tunnel. “Tell them to hurry. My hour of triumph approaches, Eustace, and I will not be denied my rightful glory because some moron finds the task I have set him too difficult!”

    “Yesss my lord, of courssse my lord,” the doglizard whined, hating the sound of fear in his own voice. He couldn’t keep his tail from twitching. Turning the headset back up, he roared over it, interrupting the still-rambling production monster: “Tell everyone to get their tailssss in gear and move!”

    “Oh! Uh – right! Sure! On it! Right away!” the Frackle responded, startled, and then yelled at the top of his considerable lungs: “Hey you lazy cows! The boss says move it or lose it already! And I don’t think I have to tell you what you’ll be losing if – oh, what? I do? Oh. Well, okay, see, ya know, it’s really sort of a pretty common expression, and...huh...wow, how about that, heh heh, ya know, I’m not really sure what it actually means... You ever think about stuff like that? Huh? Yeah, I mean, sometimes, this stuff really gets to me; I mean some nights I just lay awake in my bunk and think about stuff, ya know? Well, really deep stuff, like, uh...like, what was the Brain actually pondering all those times, ya know? Like he always had to be so mysterious about it, right?”

    Eustace gritted his teeth. The caterpillar clicked and squeaked something, and the Underlord rumbled, “Indeed. Onward. If anything should go ill tonight, Eustace, I am holding you responsible; you assigned these fools their posts.” He paused; then, as he braced his legs and reached upward, added, “And find Van Neuter for me. I want him present at the Ascension.”

    “Yesss my heart-ssstopping horror, sssir,” Eustace hissed, giving his lord a moment to resume the climb before he tried to find the next clawhold up. He half-listened to the idiot on the other end of the headset going on, and on, and on, about nothing at all, and decided when he reached the top, his first order of business would be to shred the monster’s tongue from his beak.

    Phil Van Neuter was at that moment hurrying along a studio corridor, an anxious Thatch McGurk trailing after. “Oh honestly! I was right in the middle of tying my bow tie for the big thing tonight! How am I supposed to attend a black-rot affair looking like—“ A crash and a howl from a room at the end of the hall made him stop; Thatch bumped into him, and the doctor whirled to glare. “Thatch! Look where you’re going, you bumbling bacterium-brain!”

    Before either of them could go on, silence suddenly fell, and the abrupt peace in the corridor was more unnerving than the commotion had been. Thatch clasped his paws together, blinking around Van Neuter’s skinny frame. The vet hesitated. “Oh. Well. Guess they sorted it all out, heh heh...well! No need for me to keep—“

    A bloodcurdling scream and a very loud clang echoed down the hall; Muppet and monster cringed. “What on earth?” Van Neuter wondered. Warily, he advanced to the door, one of many in this wing which housed simple bunks for the monsters not on-duty to catch a few winks. He reached for the doorknob, but a ragged howl sounded from just beyond. Van Neuter grabbed his assistant by the scruff of his neck and dragged him around in front. “See what the heck all that ruckus is!”

    Unhappily, the three-eyed monster glared at his boss, but slowly his fingers closed around the knob and turned it. The door swung open with a slow creak. One purple monster and one spindly mad scientist blinked in stunned silence. Within the bunkroom, a large blue ogre with bright orange hair trembled, stuffed underneath the lowest flat bed. Panting and brandishing two fistfuls of orange fur, the half-dressed blonde woman in the center of the room sensed company, and slowly turned. As Van Neuter and Thatch stared at her, jaws slack, she snarled, and her mouth suddenly sprouted tusks.

    The monster under the bed gasped at them, “Help...me...”

    With a wild shriek, the blonde launched herself forward – then straight up. Van Neuter’s head wobbled as he jerked his gaze to the ceiling. The blonde now had multiple legs clutching the stubby stalactites, and she bared dripping fangs at the intruders. “Huzza wuzza,” Thatch breathed in astonishment.

    “She’s...she’s unstable,” Van Neuter said. “It’s one of the Susans! But...but she shouldn’t still be changing back and forth like that! Oh no. Oh dearie dearie. The serum must be breaking down somehow!” He put his head in his hands. “How could this be? I tested and retested that formula!” He grabbed Thatch by his sloped shoulders. “You didn’t substitute any of the ingredients, did you? Tell me you didn’t do that!”

    Thatch winced. “Uh...ah digga doo zzat.” He gave Van Neuter his most apologetic look; after all, he hadn’t seen what difference it would make to use brown giant caterpillar goop instead of yellow...

    Van Neuter grimaced. “Oh, drat it all! Thatch, if you make me stain my nice clean lab coat, you’re going to pay for the drycleaning again!” He fished in the voluminous pockets until he found what he wanted, and pulled out a capped syringe with a wickedly long needle. “Here we go; this should calm her down, at least, and hold her until I can get back to the lab and mix up a quick stabilizing agent...”

    Susan (or whatever she previously went by) spied the needle and dropped on the doctor before he could uncap it. “Graaaaaagh!” she yelled, and proceeded to pummel the vet’s bouncy head with fists of hard chitin.

    “Aaaagh! Ow ow ow ow ow stoooop!” Van Neuter shrieked. He thrust his skinny head out the doorway. “Security! Ow! Haaaaalllp! Securiteeeee!”

    He was doing his best to block the blows with upraised arms when he heard an eloquent grumble behind him. “Right, what’s all this then?”

    “Oh thank heavens,” Van Neuter gasped, freeing himself momentarily from the enraged Susan by tugging the surprised ogre out from under the bed and putting him in her path and her wrath, which at least bought him time enough to turn around and address the guard. “Restrain this creature! She’s gone completely berzerk! She—“ He choked to a halt, seeing the glare the guard was giving him over a beaky nose and long, dragging mustaches...and yellow-spotted purple fur...and crows’ feet.

    Geoff Fauxworthy grinned nastily. “Hello, old sport, remember me?”

    He whacked Van Neuter over the head with one huge bat-wing at the exact same moment that Susan tossed the wailing ogre across the barracks and set upon the hapless vet from the rear.

    Several minutes, a lot of screaming, and one completely shredded lab coat later, the vet managed to escape by throwing Thatch at the both of them and running for his life. Knowing the smaller monster wouldn’t last long enough to buy him more than a few seconds, Van Neuter took multiple twists and abrupt turns until he could no longer hear even distantly the shrieking of his assistant. He slowed, wheezing, eyes fixed wide and fingers trembling. “Oh my stars...oh my saintly Aunt Buxom...what has that idiot done? Oh, oh, I’ll have to fix this immediately...what if the other Susans are...oh no. Oh no no no. This is terrible!” Trying to catch his breath, he picked a direction at random in the next intersection of tunnels, and hurried along it, thinking aloud. “Which is worse: all the Susans going ballistic, or not turning up on time in a nice coat and tie? Well, hm, from a strictly statistical standpoint, maybe the Susans are worse...all that screaming might interfere with the show tapings...but His Dark Underwearness did sound very firm about me attending tonight, oh – what if he’s going to give me an award? Oooh! On national TV! Me! ‘To Doctor Phil Van Neuter, for Excellence in the Field of Trans-Species Transitional Transmogrification, with a Side of Transparent Troglyditery!’ Well, certainly I wouldn’t want to miss that! Still...it is very odd that the Susans are all experiencing substantial cellular fluctuations...y’know, I really should check and make sure that they—whoah!”

    The vet pinwheeled his arms a moment, startled into a full stop by the greenish, demonic-looking two-nosed thing in front of him. “Well, for goodness’ sakes, would you watch where you’re going? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a ‘Beautiful Mind’ rant here?”

    The green monster stared at him through thick glasses; Van Neuter, puzzled, realized the thing was wearing two pairs of spectacles, one glassy pair underneath plastic lenses which seemed somehow attached to one of the noses and a green mustache. “Dr Van Neuter? What the hey are you doing down here?” a gruff voice asked.

    Van Neuter frowned, studying the odd creature. “Have we met?”

    To his surprise, the monster yanked off his face. Van Neuter shrieked and covered his eyes, then slowly peeked out between his fingers as the monster barked at him, “Yes we have, and frankly I’m not shocked to learn you’re in league with the horrible weirdoes down here!”

    Van Neuter pulled his hands away and stared directly at a scowling, yellow-nosed Muppet in a green sparkly coverall. The Newsman pointed an accusing finger. “So you’re behind the awful things going on down here!”

    “Don’t be ridiculous,” the vet snapped, “I’m not behind anything! I’m on the leading edge of transmogrificational cross-species genetic splicing as transmitted through an intravenous unstable solution!”

    Newsie gaped at him. “You...what?”

    Van Neuter sighed, shaking his head. “Don’t you keep up with the leading cryptobiological newsletters? I don’t run this ridiculous maze of crawling little creatures, I see to it that everything that gets dragged down here winds up sprouting appendages they never knew they needed and now can’t live without! Literally, can’t live without them, the changes are wonderfully permanent.” He frowned. “Well, or they will be, anyway, soon as I figure out what went wrong with my serum...”

    He started when the Newsman let out a cry of anguish and grabbed his arm. “No! That’s insane! That’s – that’s hideous!”

    “Er, well, I try,” Van Neuter said, too pleased to offer more than false modesty.

    “The girls!” Newsie snapped, shaking Van Neuter’s arm roughly. “What have you done to them? Where are they? You have my girlfriend down here, d—it, and I want her back – just like she was!”

    The vet’s eyes narrowed behind his lab goggles. “Well, don’t be so snooty about it. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, you know...maybe you should just broaden your standards more!”

    To his utter shock, the innocuous-looking Muppet suddenly twisted his arm behind his back. Hard. “You’re going to take me to Gina,” he growled, “and undo whatever you’ve done, or else!”

    “Ack! All right, all right, no need for physical confrontations of any sort, sheesh!” Van Neuter complained. When he felt the Newsman hesitate, Van Neuter jabbed at him with the syringe still in his hand. “Hah! Sleep with the centipedes, you busybodied bignose! You...ah...” He fell silent, staring, realizing at the same moment Newsie did that the cap was still on the needle.

    They lurched apart. Van Neuter grabbed the cap and frantically tried to undo it and bare the sedative he’d meant for Susan; Newsie flung his knapsack around and thrust a hand inside, desperate for some sort of weapon, but he’d given the dynamite to Murrow. With a cry of triumph, the vet popped the rubber cap off the needle and swung it at the Newsman. “Hah hahh *snap* owwwwww! Owie owie owie!” He jumped wildly, shaking his hand, fingers trapped smartly by the sprung mousetrap now clipping them painfully shut.

    Newsie blinked; he’d been thinking of hurling the marbles at the skinny vet’s noggin, but when Van Neuter had jabbed, he’d countered simply by thrusting the open knapsack at him...with a result unexpected but workable. “And there’s more where that came from!” he blustered. He grabbed the vet’s trapped hand, yanked the syringe loose, and smashed it against the rock wall of the tunnel. “Tall redhead, name of Gina! Take me to her now or this’ll be the least of your injuries, you crackpot!”

    Reluctantly, Van Neuter hobbled along, failing to retrieve his hand as the Newsman jerked him mercilessly ahead. “Ow...okay! Okay! Just stop pulling on it! She’s...I think that Susan wound up with the bachelor blob...”

    “The what?” Horrified, Newsie yanked even harder on the trap, making Van Neuter yelp. “Take me to her! Now!”

    Thatch McGurk, sans the feathers atop his head and with the leftmost eye squinched shut, slammed the door behind him, panting deeply. He’d no sooner extricated himself from the beatdown in Dumbo Barracks when he was set upon by two more of the Susans, shifting wildly between girls and monsters and really unreasonably displeased about such a simple thing...

    A low growl from behind the door startled him. With a stifled yelp, Thatch backed away, watching the metal-barred oaken door bow and shake under the heavy blows now accompanying the snarling. He thought he heard that failed experiment Fauxworthy yell, “Get a crowbar!” Terrified, Thatch whirled, ready to bolt, and nearly fell over when he saw who was standing a foot away from him.

    “Tagga!” yelled the pink-furred, three-eyed monster.

    “Razza!” Thatch cried, surprised.

    The brothers pounded one another on the back, at least until Thatch groaned and pulled away, holding his aching spine as best he could. He noticed a sleepy-eyed, scrawny blue thing watching their reunion. Thatch peered curiously at it; he’d thought at first it was a Frackle, but on closer inspection... “Razza? Thazza Muppah!”

    Rosie glanced back. Gonzo half-raised a hand. “Uh, hi there. Gonzo the Great.”

    Thatch started to raise a brow at his brother, but his head hurt too much. “Ow. Razza, whazza gibba?”

    Hurriedly Rosie explained their plight. “Gazza rubba saggafice fah Undahlabbaraggabagga, buh nabba wanna! Gagga gebbowddaheeg!”

    “Ohhh.” Thatch considered this. After what he’d just been through, he wasn’t feeling particularly loyal to anyone. This was his little brother, though, and if this freaky Whatever was his friend... Thatch nodded. “Azza razzah. Uhhhmmm...wabba gedda doo hoggell, eh ruzza skape?”

    Rosie shivered, looking up, imagining the awful carnage no doubt taking place right this minute a few floors up. “Egga hobell? Roo zerrous?”

    Gonzo interrupted. “Uh, nice to meet you and all, but I think maybe we should continue this discussion somewhere there isn’t a door about to be busted down by the hordes of Hades?”

    The brothers looked at him, looked at the creaking, bending door about to pop off its hinges, and heard the sawing, pounding, jackhammering sounds emanating scarily from the other side. “Goog ibbeah!” they chorused. Thatch gestured at a side tunnel, and the three headed through it and out of sight before the door crashed open.

    Geoff Fauxworthy stuck his head through, brandishing the jackhammer, then let it drop with a crunch to the rock floor when no one presented themselves for more tender mercies. “Bloody frog,” he cursed softly. He turned to the three Susans all peering through the settling cloud of dust. “Seems they’ve scarpered...well. How do you ladies feel about tea?”

    They murmured and shrugged. The half-monster, half-Muppet put his wings around two of them and took the third by a paw. “I just happen to know the most delightful little Russian tea-room a few blocks up...if we take the underground, we can be there by supper...”

    Running through the corridors, Gonzo tried to orient himself, but every rough-walled tunnel looked like every other hard-carved passageway. “Uh...are we going the right way?”



    “So are you guys really brothers?” Gonzo asked when they paused, checking around a corner before proceeding. They turned to him, yellowish and pinkish eyes staring, tongues sticking out past mouthfuls of teeth, yellowed horns perked.

    Rosie studied his older brother a moment, then laughed. “Ahhh...haw haw haw! Gazza, hibba eyebahh gabba pokey!” Thatch scowled a moment, then poked Rosie’s leftmost eyeball with a clawed finger. “Yaaaahhhgg!” Rosie yelped.

    Gonzo nodded, illumination in his expression finally. “Oh yeah! Yeah, now I see the resemblance.” The brothers glared at each other, then checked the side openings to other tunnels as they crept quietly along. Gonzo walked after them, unconcerned. “So, uh...this means we’re gonna miss the party, huh?” They stopped, staring at him. Gonzo blinked from one to the other. “Er...never mind. Right. Carry on.”

    When they reached a spiraling staircase of slippery gray rock, foot traffic picked up. The monsters hung back as an enormous, lumbering greenish-gray thing with a scaly tail and gills hauled itself up the stairs one at a time, followed by a much more impatient purple-shagged monster with a drooling mouth and leonine nose beneath cowlike horns. “Move it, move it!” the shaggy thing urged, earning a backward scowl from the scaly thing.

    “Hold your horns! I’m goin’ as fast as I can...man...” the green, gilled thing wheezed. “Did they put in more stairs? Always seems that way...” Suddenly he spotted the brothers creeping out from the shadows. “Hey, what’re you guys doing here? Come for the party?”

    Rosie and Thatch glanced at one another, worried. Gonzo pushed in between them to wave at the larger monsters. “Hey! We didn’t miss the cake yet, did we?”

    The scaly thing laughed, surprised. “Naw, ya didn’t miss nothin’! Good job, guys, fetchin’ him along! Boss wants him upstairs with th’ rest of ‘em!” He looked uncertainly at the two black eyes, one each on the brothers McGurk. “And don’t you two look like a coupla’ fashion plates. Way to dress up.”

    The shaggy thing began drooling more copiously, and wiped his wide mouth with a hand, then absently began chewing his own fingers. “Um...num num...plates...”

    “Knock it off, Lunchy.”

    Shrugging, Rosie started up the stairs. Gonzo followed, and Thatch brought up the rear of the freak train. Gonzo nodded to himself, pleased that he recalled the way out although it had been a month since he’d seen it, oh, that seemingly long-ago day when he bravely entered a decrepit old wreck in Chinatown with the goal of doing something really impressive for his chickie-girl! Sobered immediately, Gonzo wondered where she was right now. Didn’t that doggy guy say she’d be at some charity thing tonight? Where the big gate-to-heck-opening ceremony is also taking place? Wait. I can’t leave yet – I need to find Camilla! He tugged at Rosie’s inch-thick fur; it was still sort of patchy across his back, and the monster jumped at the unexpected pull. “Rosie!” Gonzo whispered, “What about Camilla? If she’s gonna be at this party, I need to find her before we can leave!”

    Rosie shook his head. “Nabba! Nabba weyba, Gazza! Effa soobysigh!”

    “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of soobysighdal tendencies,” Gonzo said with a shrug. “C’mon, you gotta get me in there! What if...what if the Underlord isn’t only planning to sacrifice regular Muppets...what if...oh, the horror! The sheer hair-curling ignominy of it!” The brothers paused, bewildered, and Gonzo burst out in a wail: “What if they’re gonna sacrifice chicken Muppets?”

    Ahead of them, Luncheon Counter Monster chuckled raspily. “Sounds good...can I get a glass of water with that?”

    The scaly thing laughed wetly, his wide hips jiggling as he slowly climbed the stairs. “Yeah, yeah, an’ a piece of dry white toast! Now come on...best not keep the Bossmonster waiting...”

    Gonzo pushed past Rosie, rushing up. “Camilla! Sweetie! Your hero will save you!” he yelled – but as he leaped onto a narrow landing of stone and concrete, a distant boom echoed through the underground, and the walls trembled. Gonzo paused, confused, as did all of the monsters. A low cracking, splitting noise approached them. All of them stared, dumbfounded, at a slit of a crack splitting the landing, traveling from out of a dark brick tunnel leading away from the landing. Gonzo blinked, intrigued. “Hey, that sounded like Golden Age nitroglycerin!” He turned to Thatch familiarly. “You can always tell. The sweat on the old stuff makes a slightly lower boom-and-crack sound. C-four, now, ha ha ha! That gives you a really neat explosion, with multiple dust-throwing angles, but really, come to think of it, I’m not sure which would be better for this act I’ve been considering. See, it starts with a full orchestra and a bras band all playing ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ but in slightly different time signatures, so you get sort of this staggered sound effect! And then—“

    “Go see what the heck that was!” the scaly thing ordered, shoving Lunchy toward the side passage.

    Luncheon Counter Monster sniffed the dust deeply. “Oooohhh...cement powder!” he exclaimed happily, and took off at a fast waddle.

    Rosie, seeing a chance for them to break past the slower scaly thing, grabbed Gonzo by the waist and tossed him up the next flight of steps. He beckoned to Thatch. “Comma abba! Rugga!” Thatch needed no further encouragement, though he panted and held his kidneys as they pounded up the stairs. It had been a rough night already.

    They popped up behind a once-stately and now chokingly dusty formal staircase. Gonzo looked around as Rosie was trying to drag him toward the front door. “Hey, the hotel again! Cool! D’you think Camilla would want to pose atop the water-tower cupola when I start the demolition process? I think watching this place come down floor by floor as the music reaches that amazing crescendo –“

    “Gazza, rugga!” Rosie scolded, pushing his friend across the lobby.

    An olive-felted Whatnot in a slim-line suit put up a hand and the escape skidded to a halt. “Wait, wait, you can’t leave the contest without surrendering your tracking doohickeys! Come on now...it’s only fair if everyone plays by the same rules.”

    Gonzo looked from the dark green hair to the shiny shoes. “Uh...sorry, what?”

    The young lawyer sighed, holding out his hand. “You know, the stuff that scientist fellow assigned you at the beginning. Our sponsors paid good money for all the equipment, and it’s my job to ensure everything runs according to the rules, to uphold the good name of Bland and Blander.”

    Rosie tugged at an immovable Gonzo frantically, seeing Big Timmy the gilled green hulk lumbering across the floor after them. They could outrun him easily, if Gonzo would only move! “Tagga, hebba! Gazza, gabba goh!”

    “Just a sec, Rosie,” Gonzo said; the panicked monster began tearing out the rest of his hairfeathers, staring back at the relentlessly slow, gaping creature taking another flatfooted step toward them...another... Thatch inserted himself between his brother and the approaching doom-on-flippers, trying to strike up an impromptu argument about how poorly the Monster United team had performed in the International Ugby Tournament last month.

    Gonzo heard screams and eerie moans drifting from other rooms, other floors of the hotel. “Hey, is this the charity thing?”

    Miles Blandish rolled his eyes tiredly. “Are you ‘pro Muppets’ all so clueless? Honestly, I don’t see why you guys get the sweet marketing deal and we tireless civil servants toil away unnoticed... I could be on a lunchbox, don’t you think?” He struck a lawyerly pose, one hand on his chest, one finger of the other hand upraised as if to make a point before a jury.

    Gonzo stared at him. “Uh...if you can do that in a cape, sure. Look, I just need to know, is Camilla the Chicken here tonight?”

    “Er...” Blandish consulted the Official Clipboard. “Why, so she is. I suppose that must have been the poultry I saw earlier. Funny...she seemed less chicken than that hog guy...”

    Timmy advanced, slowly lifting heavy arms. Thatch backed away before him, still gabbling about penalty shots and vuvuzelas. Rosie tugged at Gonzo’s arm again, desperate enough to try hefting him bodily through the door, although after his earlier run for the gold he was feeling weak and dizzy. Should’ve had another energy drink with all those fried worms...

    Gonzo heard a chilling laugh from somewhere above, followed by the unmistakable sound of Beauregard challenging it to a battle of wits: “Oh yeah? Well you can say that to my face, mister! ...Uh... Well I didn’t mean right in my face...gee, you really should use those white-strips; your fangs look a little reddish...” And then a loud clucking made every curly hair on Gonzo’s body stand on end.

    “Camilla!” he shouted, scrambling around a startled Rosie and completely ignoring the slow swipe of webbed claws from Timmy. The daredevil leapt up the hole-ridden wooden stairs with a joyous heart. “I’m comin’ babyyyy!” he howled, and in a second had vanished.

    Rosie looked, frightened, at Thatch. Thatch looked at Timmy. Timmy realized his target was gone, and turned to a slowly-reacting Blandish instead. Thatch headed for the door. “Eggazzoh!” he cried, but his brother hesitated. Thatch gestured impatiently, eager to leave the dullard lawyer to his fate as he attempted to lecture the encroaching monster from the green lagoon about proper contest etiquette. But Rosie set his toothy jaw, shook his head, and pointed at the stairs.

    “Tagga...ezz mah fendah.” Thatch paused, horns drooping, and Rosie emphasized, “Magga bebba fendah!”

    Thatch sighed. Well, he’d always admired the kid’s ability to hold true to his ideals, no matter how twisted... “Ahzzay,” he grumbled, and started up the stairs after an eager Rosie. “Buh izza bezzah be gwick. Izza tebba nah!”

    Rosie gave a solemn nod to show he understood the lateness of the hour. Together the brothers went after a wayward Whatever. In the lobby, Miles Blandish’s loud remonstrations went largely ignored: “Hey, you can’t eat me! I’m a junior partner in the most prestigious all-Muppet law firm in the world! Hey! H—“ He was cut off by a loud, wet gulp.

    Timmy continued his purposeful waddle toward the stairs, though it seemed doubtful they’d hold his weight. The boss had specified all Muppets be brought to the ballroom; he hadn’t specified how they be transported...
    (Bonus muffins to anyone who recognizes the cameo character from The Muppets!) ------------
  9. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Too tired... Been cleaning and commenting on KG all day. But know this, I deeply thank you for updating one of my favoritest fics with returning cameos by all manner of monsters.

    Uncle D was spot on, and the Martians make me laugh as usual.

    A fat suit? *Gasp. Oh no, don't tell me the villain's just like the evil boss and his pet vulture from the All-American Rabbit animated special that used to air on Disney.

    Well, I suppose Aunt Ru will be satisfied with what happened to Van Neuter, both at the hands or multiple appendiges of multiple Susans and Newsie afterwards.

    Gonzo and the McGerk Brothers escape attempts proved to drive the plot along, until the whatever tromped off to rescue his chicky-poo.

    BTW: As for that bonus cameo, you're going to have to tell us where to look to spot it.
    And on that note, good night to you, whatever you are.
    *Collapses into coffin bed.
  10. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I am somewhat mollified by Van Neuter's sound thrashing, but I'd still rather see HIM stuck on "I Married A Monster" or slowly digested onstage. Oh well...at least he's on the run. Yay for Newsie pinning his arm behind his back and making him lead the way to his lady love. (I'm too tired to do the quote properly, but I can't help but think of the third Teenage Ninja Turtle Movie, when April says, "This is the worst rescue EVER!"

    I'm glad the "fear" button is off, so at least our guys will have a fighting (felting?) chance. I also keep thinking of that Goosebumps story where a bunch of monsters take over an amusement park, but the story resolves very satisfactorily when the humans notice all the "No Pinching" signs around the park--and figure out why. I hope it goes without saying that I'm ready for Kermit and Scooter and Rizzo to rumble with these nasty creatures and come out on top (instead of out the bottom, so to speak).

    Deadly was wonderful, wasn't he, Ed? Sweetie--if you get tired of haunting the muppet theater you can come and bust a move at my old colonial house anytime. Such nice manners, for a monster....

    Kris, dearest, Please let the muses of creativity whack you about the head and shoulders to speed you on your way to finishing this magnificent, mangled, monstrously morbid muppet myth! (Would a, um, monster energy drink help?)
    newsmanfan likes this.
  11. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, I too have found this fic reminding me of Goosebumps' One Day at Horrorland. Of course, I should say that I've gone with the two-part hourlong TV episode over the years instead of the book form, and there, things don't end so well for the Morris Family. And then there's the first story arc of the subseries of books titled Goosebumps Horrorland which kind of attempted to stitch together different characters from their universe.

    Again, thanks for posting more of this, hoping and awaiting whatever last few gems you've got in that creative goldmine.
  12. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    The monster cameo is the guy on the other end of the headset with Eustace. (Think nap attacks. I just found the character too hilarious not to use. Again. ;))

    Goosebumps? Sheesh. Never read, never watched. Ditto TMNT3 (as a fan/collector of the original, much darker comics, I never liked any of the spinoffs; sorry guys). Although I am a bit disappointed you two DIDN'T catch the other movie reference I tossed in there as a one-liner! (What? No Blues Bros fans?)

    Trying, trying! I REALLY am trying to finish this (at least the grand finale) by actual Halloween! But the evening shifts I've been working have wreaked havoc with my normal writing routine. I don't do so well in daylight. I promise another episode over the weekend, and I will ATTEMPT to finish off the grand climax by the Witching Hour next week...but no promises...my head hurts... (Well, y'know, they say "write what you know," so I invited a couple of Frackles with Whiffle bats over and...)
  13. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    You mean J. G.?
    When we found that was his name, we had to fire him from the Bat, Bolt & Skull. It's okay though, we ended up hiring Mrs. Plum from the Land of the Dead to replace the Frackle.

    They air Goosebumps, along with R. L. Stine's new series The Haunting Hour over on the Hub if you get a chance to tune in.

    At least you have another seven days left to post.
    Mayor: Only seven... *Checks watch, almost six days until Halloween! Where's Jack? Everything will go wrong without him!
    Sheesh, someone should calm the dude down.

    Actually, Drtooth's the TMNT fan at MC. Me, not so much.

    Frackles with whiffle bats... You want I should call in Louis to do the play-by-play now that the rioting rowdies out in the streets have quieted down after Uncle D shut off the fear signal?
    *Leaves some fresh pumpkin cookies :hungry: made for us to share.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  14. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Ding ding ding!

    *Guy Smiley comes out and waves his arms wildly*

    Guy: All right! Wonderful! Wow! We have a winner, folks! Right here, on this very sta-- *WHACK*

    :grr: *whistles cheerfully as he drags one unconscious host away*

    Er...yeah. Here, Ed, you win a muffin! You pick, I have pumpkin cranberry, pumpkin chocolate, pumpkin ginger, and pumpkin pumpkin.

    :shifty: Seriously?

    Pumpkin icing. Yeah. Seriously.

    Wrote today. Homage to the best bit in "Aliens" included in next segment (man, I've been waiting WEEKS to do this joke...)
    The Count likes this.
  15. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Aw, you shoulda told me I had a choice before tossing them about over in KG.
    UD: Mmm, I'll take a pumpkin ginger if you don't mind.
    No pumpkin Mary Anne?
    UD: Cute, cute joke.
    Thanks, I try.
    *Noshes on the pumpcran one snagged earlier.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  16. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifty-Two

    Bunsen seemed oblivious to the sight of an enormous scaly amphibious thing gulping down a young Whatnot lawyer, but Beaker cried out in terror, eyes bulging. Bunsen swung around in his swivel chair, his shoulders slowly receding from his ears. “Beaker! How many times have I said this? I can’t concentrate when you’re screaming like that!”

    The frantic carrot-topped scientist jabbed his fingers at the screen as the green thing lumbered out-of-frame. “Meeeee! Mee mo mo mo mee meemee mo mo!”

    “Well, no, I don’t recall us agreeing on a ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ animatronic,” Bunsen said, puzzled. He turned to view the monitor showing an empty lobby. “Beaker, you’re imagining things again!” He frowned at his assistant’s gaping jaw. “How many of those little packets of candy corn have you had tonight? You know one of them has enough sugar to send a hamster into a diabetic coma!”

    Beaker, flustered, scanned through the remaining camera views. A disturbing number of them had mysteriously stopped working. Honeydew tapped one of the readouts, which seemed to have flatlined. “Now would you look at that! It would appear that somehow we’ve stopped transmitting over the TV station! Tsk, tsk...well, we must shoulder on until they’ve fixed it, I suppose. Is the online signal at least going out?”

    Beaker looked at their web-TV streaming signal. “Mou mo meer,” he assured Bunsen, but then worriedly flicked through all the cameras. The ones which still worked showed empty hallways and silent rooms. He quickly checked the sensor gauges; oddly, every single one of them seemed to be moving downward or toward the lobby, although even in the corridors, stairs, or rooms which should have been transmitting a live camera feed back to base, Beaker could see only gloom. He tweaked up the master sound feed for all the mics, and heard only wind...and an odd rustling. “Mee mo mee meep meep!” he exclaimed, shivering.

    “Really, Beakie, it’s supposed to look abandoned and spooky! Now let me get back to the task of scaring the pants off those of our friends who actually wear...them...” Bunsen scratched his head, scanning through all his scare-control monitors. He took off his glasses, polished them briefly with Muppet Labs Cleanse-o-Wipes, and reset them above his right-angled nose. “That’s very strange...I don’t seem to be able to pinpoint exactly where our comrades in terror are right this instant...do you see any of them, Beaker?”

    “Mo,” Beaker whispered, suddenly feeling very alone.

    Bunsen scooted over, peering at the sensor-tracker. “Oh, you sillyfoam! Look, there’s Kermit and Piggy and...Lew?” Well, perhaps our little spookhouse has split up and rearranged some of the groups. Bunsen checked the monitor for the lobby, where that bunch of Muppets registered, but saw absolutely nothing. “That can’t be right! Beaker, what have you done to the location calibration? That’s supposed to be GPS-specific within two-tenths of a meter!” Beaker meeped a protest, gesturing wildly at all the equipment. Puzzled, Bunsen looked at all of it, then reached for the camera joystick. “Well, perhaps the focus is simply a bit off...there...let’s just...Ah! There we are! See? I told you to stop fidgeting so much, you’d knock the settings out of...align...ment...”

    He trailed off, staring. Beaker’s hair stood up straight, and he let out a long gasp. On the monitor, the lobby camera now tilted almost straight down, two enormous pillbugs with antlers and some kind of bright green-glowing millipede crawled steadily toward the hidden office, orange sensor dots visible on their backs. Beaker let out a shriek, leaping to his feet.

    “Oh heavens! Not deerbugs! Oh heavens! Those things terrified me as a young boy,” Bunsen confessed. When Beaker stared at him, Bunsen wrung his hands. “And they still do! Beakie! Quick! Block the door!”

    Agreeing wholefeltedly, Beaker grabbed one of the server racks, straining to move it. Even with wheels under it, the wobbling tower of electronics creaked only an inch toward the door. “Ack! No, no, here, the desk!” Bunsen cried, making no move himself to help as Beaker got behind the heavy pine furniture and grunted and shoved and slowly pushed it across the crowded office to the sliding panel which separated them from the crawling horrors outside. He wedged it in such a way that the panel wouldn’t open, and backed off, panting.

    Bunsen checked the sensor gauge. “Oh, my dear Uncle Mellon! They’re everywhere!” He rapidly jockeyed one after another of the working cameras to show bugs of all species, few identifiable, wearing sensors which had been taken from the frighteningly absent Muppets. All of them seemed to be heading the scientists’ way. “Beaker! Why didn’t you tell me this building was infested with overgrown insects!”

    Before he could recall how to work his jaw to get a meep out in his own defense, Beaker heard a scratching sound at the panel door. Quivering, he backed away, suddenly realizing that millipede had some fearsome-looking jaws. Biology had never been his area of interest, but hadn’t he read somewhere that ordinary millipedes traveled through roots and dirt by...by chewing their way through? “Mohhhhh,” he groaned, grabbing one of the servers to steady himself. It wobbled alarmingly, but then Bunsen snapped at him.

    “Beaker, keep track of these things! I’m going to try to rig up an electromagnetic high-frequency drone signal to drive them off!” Now that actually sounded practical. With a fierce nod and a meep, Beaker hastened back to his chair and checked the positions of every single blinking light on a wide-range scan of the fear-o-sensors. Honeydew’s sausage-like fingers moved more nimbly than Beaker had ever seen before, dancing across a keyboard as he attempted to figure out a way to switch the mics set in every room and hallway to transmit rather than receive, and simultaneously calculated the exact hertz needed to repel the advancing bugs. “Let’s see, if I reverse the polarity of the neutron flow so, and then set all emitters to four-hundred-and-fifty-three cycles per second, that might just—“

    “Meeeee!” Beaker cut him off, reading aloud a group of the sensor readings. “Mee mo mo moo meep meemers!”

    “You’re reading it wrong,” Bunsen said, irritated. “Those creepy-crawlies are certainly closer than ten meters on the other side of that door, Beaker!”

    Beaker gestured impatiently; no, not THOSE! The signal he was looking at, a large glob of several sensors grouped and moving almost as one, steadily advanced closer and closer to them from a slightly different direction. “Mate meemers!”

    “Just let me get this signal working, and they’ll all go away!” Bunsen said, trying to return his focus to their only salvation through science, but Beaker, in growing panic, kept reading off the sensor tracking.

    “Mebben meemers! Meex meemers!”

    “Not helping!” Bunsen complained.

    “Mibe meemers!...Mour meemers!”

    “If I can just...ah! There! Got the mics all responding! Now to transmit the high-pitched frequency which should jam all their ucky little antennae worse than the JFK on a holiday weekend...”

    “Moo meemers!” Beaker cried. Bunsen, about to turn the knobs all to eleven and overwhelm all the buggy senses outside, paused, confused.

    “Two meters?” he repeated. “That can’t be right!”

    “Moo meemers...moon meemer...” Beaker gasped, as the blinking dots all converged on the center of the scanner.

    Bunsen protested, “But – that’s inside the room!”

    Nothing stirred around them. The same thought hitting the scientists as one, both of them slowly turned their eyes upward.

    The slavering, twitching horde of enormous, many-legged things and slimy slugs spread out from the old chimney flue on the ceiling. There was a space of a single second when they all just stared at each other...and then the bugs dropped, filling the tiny office with Muppety screams...and the powerful crash of the server rack tower falling over.

    “Well well what have we here?”

    Snookie froze. Constanza jerked her head back to see a grinning, furry horned monster striding confidently toward them. He grabbed a novelty apron from a stagefrackle, dropping the neck of it over his own thick throat without missing a beat. Carl chuckled. “Looks like our pie filling was trying to walk out the back door! All right, you two, fun’s over...for you!” The audience roared with laughter, watching all this on the screen over the show’s set while Carl wrangled the two hapless Muppets behind the scenes. “I never cared much for four-and-twenty blackbirds; they’re so bony...but you two have lots of chewy foam to nosh on!”

    Snookie wasn’t planning on resisting, conditioned from years of such abuse...but then he looked at the blue-felted, pink-splotched girl struggling like a wildcat in Carl’s other hand, and something deep within him snapped. He pulled back a foot and kicked Carl in the stomach as hard as he could, making the startled monster drop him. Instead of running, Snookie raised trembling yellow fists. “Put her down, you drooling deviant!” he barked, sounding more aggressive than he felt.

    Carl blinked huge round eyes at him. “Seriously?”

    “Y-yes! You let her go right this instant or I’ll...I’ll...”

    Five stagefrackles tackled him. Carl tittered. “You’ll wind up back in the pie anyway. C’mon blueberry, time to join your loverboy!” He hauled Constanza toward the massive pie crust, ignoring her attempts to swing herself free; when she tried to bite his fingers, he swatted her nearly unconscious. “Stop that! Well folks, hope you like your pumpkin pie with a little bite to it, heh heh!” He grinned, tossing the floppy Whatnot into the pie alongside a still-struggling Snookie Blyer. “Here’s the spice ta go with you, sugar!” he crooned, and grinned at the sound of his audience howling with mirth.

    “Carl, I am begging you, don’t do this,” Snookie wheezed, trying to breathe around the rain of cinnamon the monster was now grating fresh over the restrained Muppets. “At least – at least let her go! You said you weren’t going to eat your sous-chef!” Carl simply grinned wider, moving on to a nutmeg the size of a football and using his No.-thirty-seven heavy-duty grater from Grillems-Groanmoana.

    “Sorry Snookums...but I hear our boss is very fond of pumpkin Muppet pie, and you know me, always the brown-noser!” Carl chortled. He paused to rub his enormous schnozz. “Well, pink-noser, anyway, but you get the idea!” He gestured to the Frackles, and four of them, straining, trundled over a huge cauldron of raw mashed pumpkins, rinds chunked into the mix. “Now for the actual vegetable part...Ya know, I’m a Muppavore at heart, but Mom always did say to eat my veggies. When you cook ‘em like this, that’s too tasty to say no, isn’t it?” he appealed, and the audience let out whoops and catcalls and suggestions for honey instead of brown sugar.

    Constanza choked and spat, and weakly raised a hand to block the ton of smashed pumpkin glopping onto her. Angrily, Snookie tried to fight free of the monsters holding him down in the crust, only to wind up pulling one of them in under the filling while weighed down too much to move himself. Carl giggled. “Whoopsie! Eh, well, I don’t guess a little extra fur will ruin the taste that much!” The audience laughed, and Carl grabbed the top crust like a thick blanket and pulled it over the protesting pie filling. “Sweet dreams, guys! Hope they’re extra good, ‘cause they’ll be the last ones you ever have! Next up, the oven, and after that... Oh, I’m sorry, did I say this was a pumpkin pie? I should’ve said...mincemeat!”

    He pointed happily at the ceiling. Through a vent in the crust, Snookie could just make out some sort of contraption lowering from the ceiling. It had numerous wicked blades, and on cue, they whirred into life, snicking and snarking around one another so closely that it was clear nothing which came under them would remain in one piece for long...or twenty pieces, for that matter. Snookie tried to scream, but the pumpkin rind stuffed in his mouth only allowed a gurgle. Carl grinned at the backstage camera. “Now back to the fun upstairs, but stay tuned, folks! You won’t wanna miss this tasting kitchen!”

    No, no, frog no, get me out, get me OUT, Snookie cried in his head, struggling uselessly. Beside him in the dark pie, he could hear and feel Constanza’s fight for life as she too slowly submerged further in the goopy, sticky pumpkin innards. He gasped, gulped, wished the girl dying with him to have a happy afterlife as he was pretty sure they weren’t going to wind up in the same place – and then the dough lifted from his face, and he took a deep, groaning breath. He blinked up at a grim-faced gray-green monster.

    “You still alive?” Carl muttered.

    Snookie glared at him, unable to remove the stringy goop from his right eyelid. “Sorry to disappoint,” he snapped. He heard Constanza choking, and turned to her, but couldn’t raise his arms out of the muck. “Constanza!” he said, heard her gurbled response, and frantically tried to reach her.

    Carl plunged both paws into the pie and lifted the girl from the sucking sweetness. He whacked her once between the shoulderblades, and she coughed up a stem, and then took a long breath of real air. Relieved, Snookie subsisted, sinking again, his nose and eyes barely above the filling, cinnamon making his eyes water. At least she’ll stay alive. Maybe she’ll think well of me...maybe that’ll make some kind of difference when I get to wherever I’m going... To his shock, Carl dropped Constanza on the floor outside the crust and grabbed him, hefting him with a grunt out of the sticky goop. When Snookie hit the floor, he gaped at the monster, dumbfounded further by what Carl did next. Two stagefrackles had been watching all this in confusion; Carl grabbed one each in his broad paws and stuffed them under the filling so fast they never had a chance to squeak a protest. He turned to the remaining Frackles standing nearest the pie. Their eyes widened, and they skittered backward, but with a sudden lunge Carl snatched them up and stuffed them in the pie as well. He stood a moment, looking from the startled Muppets to the squirming pie goop, squinting one eye shut as he judged relative mass.

    “H-hey, what are you doing?” gulped the goblin who was serving as stage left assistant manager. “You can’t do that! It was supposed to be a Muppet pie!” He made the mistake of stepping closer.

    Carl stuffed him down his throat faster than a cute little puppy, and whirled, looking for any other witnesses. The camerafrackle had abandoned his post backstage to watch around the corner, where the big screen over the late-night talk show set showed a round-headed bald Muppet and a skinny screaming one being pinched, bitten, trussed up and dragged up the walls by a horde of mutant bugs. The Frackle laughed along with the audience. Carl nodded, turning back to Snookie and Constanza. “Simplistic morons. Okay, listen hard, you two, ‘cause I’m only gonna say this once: run.”

    Snookie stared at him. A piece of pumpkin slid down his round nose and glopped on his shoe. Constanza froze only a second, then grabbed Snookie’s hand. “Move it!”

    “But...but...” Snookie looked at a scowling, anxious Carl, then at the pie where a blob of orange stuff moved; muffled noises came from under the filling.

    “Are you a freaking foamhead?” Constanza hissed. “Don’t make me slap you into your senses!”

    Snookie looked at all of them – Carl, girl, pie – once more before shutting his mouth and taking to his heels. The two orange-coated Muppets quickly vanished through the studio’s back exit. With a sigh, Carl gently smoothed the top crust down over the struggling filling, and opened the giant oven. “Hey, you! Are you being paid to watch the show or film it?” he snarled at the camerafrackle, who hastily took up his post once more and aimed the lens at Carl. With a grin more cheerful than the monster felt right now, he shoved the pie into the oven. “In we go! Set at four-hundred-degrees for a quick bake – that really retains more of the natural juices, ya know – and in,” he checked the backstage clock, “about eighteen minutes, it’s pie for everyone! Bone appetite!” Carl quipped, and slammed the oven door with a flourish. He signaled a cut to the camerafrackle, and his neck slumped.

    Drat. I really wanted to know how he’d taste with fresh nutmeg, too...ah well. At least this way he’ll be around for the eating again, someday, somewhere... He felt a sniffle trying to come out his thick nose, and wiped it with his apron. He walked to the edge of the set, and gazed out upon the multitudes hooting and jeering at the monsteriffic commercials now showing. THEY won’t even be able to tell the difference! And when the pie’s all sliced to bitty bits, the camera won’t, either... Carl sighed again, feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days when he could prepare Snookums boiled, Snookums fried, Snookums sautéed with raw garlic cloves, Snookums glazed with honey and whiskey...

    On the overhead screen, a monster with walrus tusks and tiny pink eyes wolfed down a hamsterburger, as the announcer proclaimed it was “preferred two to one by monsters who could taste anything other than raw sewage” over gerbil Ruebens. Carl snorted.

    “Philistines,” he grumbled, and slung his apron aside so hard it thwapped a small goblin right off the set.

    Pew couldn’t see the action as well as he would’ve liked, but he could definitely hear everything. With the side of his head pressed against the thin three-paneled screen separating the taping equipment from the lush bedroom set of ‘I Married a Monster!’, he quivered in excitement at the next crash which sounded.

    Gustav whined plaintively, “Aw, sweetie, mushkins, you don’t have to play hard-to-get anymore, the cameras are off!”

    “Zat’s what zey sink,” Pew mumbled, toothy snout all agrin. What amazing ratings zis weel garnier when we show it on ze pay-per-view! he thought happily.

    “For the last time,” the red-furred, feline monster yowled, “You are hideous and I do not want to be absorbed!”

    The blob squelched around the other side of the king-sized bed, ducking too slowly to avoid being hit by the remains of the ceramic pot which had held a decorative fake palm. Gustar blinked, and gradually began sucking the shards into his pliable, jellylike form. “But that’s the only way we can be together forever!” he argued. “Isn’t that what true love is all about?”

    “No!” Gina shouted, bounding across the bed when a psuedopod swiped at her. The blob had managed to hug her earlier, and her fur was still coated with the slimy stuff; it had taken every ounce of strength she possessed in the grip of absolute panic to free herself. Winning the bride-challenge had proved to be a very bad idea, as her claws had gone right through the blob harmlessly, and then he’d begun trying to engulf her in earnest. Should’ve taken my chances with one of the creeps in the audience! She looked around worriedly. The door she’d been dumped through to this elaborate bedroom was locked behind her, but she hadn’t explored all of the room yet. Seeing movement behind a decorative screen in one corner, she leaped for it.

    Gustar shot upward, trying to intercept her. With a squeal of fright, Gina wrenched herself sideways midair, managing somehow to land on her feet. She didn’t get a second to catch her breath despite aching ribs; the blob rippled toward her relentlessly. She jumped atop a large entertainment center, knocking off some brass knickknacks. The blob winced when they pounded what should have been his head, but then she saw the objects sinking slowly into him, tiny bubbles forming around the metal as the acidic interior of the monster began dissolving them. She shuddered. “Look, go find some other blob to make you happy! I don’t want to meld with you!”

    Gustar seemed unhappy. “But I already did that,” he moped, surging against the shelves like a tide of Jell-o, unable to climb. “I already am all the other blobs!”

    “Oh god,” Gina gulped. She looked around again, desperate for some escape route, and this time saw that skanky host crouched behind the panels, listening in. Her pupils narrowed, and she aimed her next jump for him. Pew screeched when she caught him squarely atop his hunched back.

    “You!” Gina hissed, claws bared an inch from the monster’s nose. “Get me out of here!”

    Pew recovered immediately, his smelly arms going around her middle. “Hah hah! Ah knew zhou would not be able to resist mah charms!”

    Gustar knocked over the paneled screen, dismayed at seeing the show host hugging his prize. “Awww, hey, no fair! Pew, you said I won her! Go get your own Susan!”

    Pew chuckled; Gina moved to swing the idiot between herself and Gustar. “Ah, mon frere, what can ah say? Ah have always had a soft spot for ze lovely leetle kittehs!” He leered at her. “And a not-zo-soft spot, heh heh heh...”

    “Ugh!” Gina braced her feet and shoved hard. Pew, surprised, careened into Gustar. Blob and blind monster flailed angrily at one another, and it was hard to tell which of them looked more ridiculous, with ragged limbs sticking pell-mell out of a wobbling round gelatin. “Go to ****, both of you!” She bolted for the door she spotted at the back of the room, pausing only a second when she saw monitors and mixing boards tracking all the action in the wrecked bedroom. He was FILMING this? Ugh, ugh, ugh! Disgusted, she looked back once. Pew had managed to find his cane and was attempting to whack Gustar over the head with it; although Gustar frowned and tried to suck Pew inside him farther, the cane kept hitting the brass knickknacks and bouncing off them back out of the blob. Disgusting freaks! But as her hand closed over the doorknob, she shuddered. Reddish fur still covered her head to toe, and the image the mirror in the bedroom had shown her minutes ago had been nothing short of horrible. Have to get out of here, find that creepy doctor, demand an antidote! No way could she allow her Newsie to ever know what had happened here; better if she could work out a solution on her own, and escape this awful dungeon complex, and only then— She yanked open the door.

    A baffled-looking, tall-headed Muppet in the scraps of a lab coat stood on the other side...and right beside him, in a silly green coverall, stood the short, yellow-felted love of her life.

    Gina slammed the door.

    She stood still, panting, panicked. Behind her, Gustar was gaining the upper...appendage...against Pew, and surging forward like a wave of processed offal in a compost factory. The ragged monster cursed and thwacked randomly with his cane, but was dragged slowly along as the blob headed for Gina, triumph in his gooey eyes. Gina took a deep breath, put one hand up to shield her face, and opened the door again.

    “Excuse me, I thought this was—“ Van Neuter began timidly.

    “’Scuse me,” Gina mumbled, trying to shoulder past him. A hand caught her wrist. She turned swiftly, about to claw the doctor out of reflex, her mind in too much anguish to think about anything but escape from the whole terrible situation, but the hand didn’t belong to the vet. Soft-scratchy yellow felt rubbed against her fuzzy wrist. Gina choked up, unable to meet the searching gaze behind hornrimmed specs.

    “There you go,” Van Neuter said amiably. “That’s her. Well! Mission accomplished! I’ll just be on my—erk!”

    “Stay put,” Newsie growled at him. The reporter stared at Gina; humiliated, she looked away, out of breath, feeling angry tears trying to start. His gruff voice turned hesitant: “Gina...? Is that...is that really...”

    “I couldn’t stop it,” she groaned. “Newsie, I tried! They...they did something to me...I couldn’t stop them...I tried...” She heaved a breath, fighting not to burst into furious sobs. Helplessness and fury at what had been done to her overwhelmed her; shame competed with a burning outrage. “You shouldn’t be here!”

    Baffled, alarmed, he looked her up and down. “Wha...I...oh, Gina...”

    She felt his hands gently take hers, and curled her fingers inward, hating the claws, the whole hideous change. How can he even look at me now? He HATES monsters, and I’m...I’m...oh, god, this is so wrong! She did start crying then, turning her head away.

    “Oh, Gina,” Newsie whispered, horrified. “What have they done to you?”

    Van Neuter heard a low rumble underfoot. Nervously he glanced into the studio, where a strange mix of blob and monster seemed to be heading for the corridor, legs kicking and a pirate hat bobbing atop a roiling mass of jelly. “How strange,” the vet mused aloud. “I wonder if he can actually digest something that stinky?” Deciding perhaps it would be best to wait until the meal had been absorbed and the blob felt too full to consider him as a second course, Van Neuter shut the door and turned the bolt on the outside.

    Suddenly sharp claws appeared under his chin, grazing his skinny throat, and a sharp pain in his still-trapped hand made him realize the nerves there had not, in fact, gone completely dead yet. “Yowch! Hey, what’s the big—“

    “Fix this!” the red-furred feline thing snarled.

    “This is your fault!” the Newsman yelled.

    Van Neuter looked from a pair of narrowed gray, catlike eyes to a scowl so deep the eyes were almost hidden behind thick glasses, and backed away slowly. “Oh, uh, well, heh heh, what...what seems to be the issue? Does she need a bath?”

    “Don’t look, sweetie,” the cat-thing growled. “This is going to get bloody.”

    “Not until he fixes you,” Newsie corrected, wedging his shorter body between Van Neuter and his girl.

    The vet offered a hesitant smile. “Oh! Well, sure! I wouldn’t have thought you’d want that, she being your girlfriend and all, but certainly I can perform a—“

    “Bloody,” Gina snarled, her claws piercing the vet’s felt around his bobbing Henson’s apple. “Very bloody.”

    Another rumble sounded, and this time Van Neuter felt the ground of the tunnel tremble. Newsie said, worried, “Your necklace!”

    Gina growled low, shaking her head. “They took it off. Idiots.”

    “Turn her back the way she was!” Newsie ordered Van Neuter, poking his mousetrap-enclosed fingers, making the vet yelp. “And fast, or you’re going to be dealing with more chaos than even you can handle!”

    “Why does everyone assume I enjoy chaos?” Van Neuter complained. “Just because I thought Jeff Goldblum looked rather smart in black leather pants, that doesn’t mean I—“

    With a crunch, a chunk of the rock ceiling fell on the vet’s head. His eyes rolled up, his legs crumpled down, and the Muppet became a limp pile of lab-coated foam on the rough floor.

    Gina grimaced. “D—it! Now what?” She saw her Newsman gazing unhappily at her, and winced. “Newsie...I’m sorry... You...you should just get out of here! The whole place is probably going to come down now...our energies are combining dangerously again, without the necklace holding it back; and I’m a freak, and I can’t even bear for you to look at me like this, and...and...” She gulped. “Just go! You shouldn’t even be down here, it’s not safe! Just get out while you can!”

    But his arms wrapped around her; startled, she froze. “I love you,” he said, his voice deep and thick with emotion. “You’re...you’re my girl, no matter what! I came down here to rescue you, and that’s what I’m going to do!”

    Gina shook her head, unable to stop the tears flowing now. She wanted so badly to hug him back, but with her arms all fuzzy...the claws...no, no! She choked out, “I can’t...can’t be with you like this. I just can’t. I’m hideous! And if this creep can’t fix it, I...I... Just go, my love!” Another threatening shudder from the floor made them both grab one another for balance, but she tried to push him away when it passed. “Just go!”

    To her shock, her Newsman stood on tiptoe, took her cheeks in his hands, and pulled her into a deep kiss. Groaning, Gina sank to her knees, aching for his touch more than she was repulsed by how she now felt. “Oh Newsie,” she sighed, her eyes closed, both relieved and dismayed at the feel of his soft fingers stroking the tears from her cheeks. “What are we going to do?”

    The Newsman gazed at his beloved, hating her grief, wanting more than anything to be able to make everything better. So many times she’d been there for him, comforting him, strengthening his will and his confidence – why now, when she needed him, was he so powerless? If only I’d gone into chemistry, or become a doctor, or...or... He grabbed her shoulders tight, startled, when a louder quake swept through the corridor. Gina pressed her face against his shoulder, too ashamed to look at him. He clasped her to him, his own anguish as great, feeling like a horrible failure for not having the skills to...to...

    Newsie looked up at the quivering ceiling. Even the glow-worms were trying to crawl away from the epicenter of what seemed like a nasty fault zone. Energy! Yes! He forced himself to organize his thoughts, wondering if he needed an actual news feed to pull it off properly. He unlocked the studio door and swung it open. The blobby thing he’d glimpsed earlier was nowhere in sight; apparently the quake now constantly shaking the whole corridor had driven it to seek safer quarters. Newsie took Gina’s hand in his, tugging her up and after him. “Come on! In here!” he barked; confused as much by the authoritative tone in her Muppet’s voice as by his intent, she stumbled along with him. Newsie spotted what he’d been hoping for, grabbed one of the mics sticking out of a potted plant in the bedroom set, and turned to face a wall camera with a steady power indicator showing it was recording. He took a deep breath, mustered as much steadiness as he could manage in his voice, and began the most important story of his life.

    “Here is a Muppet News Flash! All around the MMN broadcasting complex, unstable geological and biochemical conditions have caused an irreversible change in some of the female monsters!” He glanced at a surprised Gina, holding onto the wall by the door as the whole room shook dangerously, dust and small pebbles sifting from the ceiling. “All of the ladies who had taken part on the recent monster ‘Bachelor’ ripoff –“

    “I Married a Monster,” Gina supplied, hope firing in those pretty eyes.

    Newsie nodded, gruffly repeating the odious title. “—Have all experienced an unexpected transformation back to the species they previously were! This reversion naturally makes them all completely unsuitable for any show on MMN, and all will be returning to the surface and to whatever home they left!” Realizing she might suddenly disappear, he hastily added, “Except for Gina Broucek, who was last seen once again a natural woman and in the company of her partner, the Muppet Newsman. Stay tuned for more on this breaking Halloween story of unusual transformations!”

    With a fearsome crumbling sound, the ceiling gave way, rock and dirt spewing over the bedroom set. Newsie covered his head with one hand and ran for it, linking his arm through Gina’s as he went. They ran until the shaking stopped, and finally halted, out of breath and leaning against one another. Newsie tried to squint up at his beloved, but couldn’t make out her features in the near-darkness of the collapsed hallway. He found his flashlight, and with a trembling hand slowly lifted the light to her face.

    She was heaving for breath, coughing at the dust swirling thickly in the close air, and her hair was mussed and tangled falling over her shoulders. Dust coated her skin and the skimpy, frilly babydoll dress she still wore, but the light picked up some of the freckles over her cheeks and nose, and her eyes didn’t slit closed when she winced and put up a slender-fingered hand to block the beam. With a choked cry of relief, Newsie flung his arms around her.

    “Agh! Newsie...? Are you...” Gina paused, noticing her hands. She stared at them, then grabbed the flashlight from him and shone it up and down her body, from bare toes to barely-concealed cleavage. “Oh Newsie!” she gasped, hugging him tight, lifting his feet from the floor to kiss him. “Oh my love – my sweetie – you did it! You did it! I love you so much!”

    He kissed back fervently, his vision blurred, not caring. He could feel her soft, smooth skin just fine. Eventually, panting, both slumped against the wall, holding one another tight. “We...we should get out of here,” Newsie suggested.

    Gina agreed, and released him enough for him to pull off his glasses and find a relatively clean section of her skirt to wipe them free of dust and tear-streaks. “Just a sec,” she said breathlessly, “I want to check something.”

    Puzzled, he followed her, keeping hold of her hand, as she returned to the cave-in and rolled aside a few small stones with her feet. “Did you lose something?” Newsie asked.

    “Just a thought...” Gina uncovered a pale felt hand. “Aha. Help me dig him out.”

    Newsie was deeply tempted to just leave the vet buried under a half-ton of rock, but realized the Muppety thing to do would be to turn him over to the proper authorities, and reluctantly knelt to assist his love in freeing the unconscious Van Neuter. However, what he found when they dragged him loose was enough to make him forget how to speak. “He...wha...huh?”

    Gina grinned. “It did work both ways!” She turned that wicked gleam of a gray eye to Newsie. “I wished for him to experience what I’ve been going through.”

    “Oh.” That seemed perfectly fair. However, the vet didn’t look so much like a monster as... Newsie peered at him from a few different angles. “Is that a raccoon?”

    “No...I think that’s a ‘possum,” Gina replied.

    Van Neuter groaned, slowly sitting up. “Oooh my aching noggin! What happened?”

    Remembering the term Dr Honeydew had used, Newsie replied, and Gina chimed in: “A manifestational psychokinetic transformative energy event!”

    The vet blinked tiny black eyes at them, his small pointed ears perked and whiskers twitching. “A what? Oh don’t be ridiculous, there’s no such thing!” He levered himself to unsteady feet, dusting off his rags feebly as though they were still legitimate clothing. “Fine, you’ve got your girl back, and—“ He stopped, staring at Gina. “Oh dear. She’s reversed! This is terrible! Wait, just let me get my serum recalculated and I’ll...” He trailed off, staring at his hands. Grayish fur now coated the backs of them, and slowly he lifted them to his face, then patted his cheeks. “Oh no. Oh no! What have you done to me!”

    “But...why an opossum?” Newsie wondered.

    “An opossum! Where? I hate those filthy creatures!” Van Neuter cried, whirling to look around.

    “Oh,” Newsie murmured, nodding.

    “I thought he hated rats,” Gina said, frowning.

    “No, I have learned to love my little rodent friends! But an opossum is a filthy, thieving, germ-carrying little marsupial! Oh! Oh! What have you done to me!” Van Neuter moaned, his hands slapping his face all over and then jerking away as he felt the thick fur and shrunken state of his formerly tall and wobbly head. “I can’t live like this! Oh this is hideous! Aaaaaaaaaggghhh!” Shrieking, he bowled past them, running wildly down the open end of the hall, smacking into the walls in his fright as his new tail tried to curl around his legs.

    Newsie looked up at Gina again. She had a dark, deeply satisfied smile on her face. He hugged her, and she turned those soft gray eyes on him, and stroked his hair gently. Newsie sighed, his whole face upturned in a wide smile. “Okay,” she murmured, and kissed the top of his head, heedless of the dust in his hair. “Now we can go.”

    Newsie sobered, turning his eyes to the ceiling. Somewhere above, his friends were still in danger...who knows what awful things they might be suffering, this very second? He swallowed hard. “Gina...we have to stop this. All of it. The monsters are going to...”

    “Yeah. Doorway to heck and the big boss becoming the monster to end all monsters, I heard,” she replied, turning serious as well. She gazed tenderly at him. “I love you, my Aloysius.”

    “And I love you,” he gulped. “T-together?”

    She smiled. “Together.”

    Arm in arm, they headed for whatever exit they could find which led up.
  17. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Woo-hoo! All those knocks on the noggin didn't do any damage to Newsie's brains! You ROCK, Newsman! And while I actually LIKE possums, I'm beyond thrilled that Van Neuter has finally gotten a taste of his own ineptness. I'm not mourning Pew very much, either...he's become a sort of gooey, pirate-y snow-globe-ish thing, hasn't he?
    But how BRAVE of Newsie to search for Gina until he found her, and love her anyway no matter what had happened to her, and to REDEEM her in an imminently pragmatic way.
    Speaking of redemption, Awwwww. Carl's not so tough, you know? He may be mean and rotten and heartless and crude and disgusting--
    Carl: Ahem. I'm trusting there's a "But" coming up soon?
    Ru: Oh! Um, in a minute. And filthy, and smelly and an abuser of nutmeg when he thinks no-one is watching--
    Carl: (roaring) BUT!!?
    Ru: Oh! Ahem. But...his heart is, um, sort of, kind of, somewhat, um, okay.
    Carl: Okay? Okay? That's it? I'm "Okay"?
    Ru: Best I've got. Take it or leave it.
    Carl: (laughing) I'll take it! Want some pie?
    Ru: Er, no.
    Rizzo: Pie? Did I hear "pie"?
    Ru: (making a hasty retreat) Um, I'm out of here! Great job, Chica--now just bring the rest of our guys home! Woo-hoo! No foam lost on YOUR watch!
    (More, please!)
    Fragglemuppet and newsmanfan like this.
  18. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member


    You were expecting chickens? Heh heh heh!
    WebMistressGina and Ruahnna like this.
  19. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Hmm, didn't know Gina's eyes were gray. There was more I wanted to reply to in here, like some phrases, but I'm getting a stupid competing IP address message every few seconds so I'll make this short.

    BTW: Do you prefer to be brought in as Gina or as yourself for an appearance at the Bat, Bolt and Skull?
  20. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Okay, so after a second reading, I've found a few things to comment on.

    "Comrades in terror", nice line.
    Was the whole bit with the bugs of all non-descript closing in on Bunsen and Beaker inspired by the similar sequence from Jaws? You know, when Roy Schieder and Richard Dreyfuss are in that bigger boat they say they'll need.
    "Here's the spice ta go with you, sugar!" That's a wonderfully wicked line.
    You know, I don't think that's the fake-out most TV cooking shows use, switching a dish's main ingredients like that. Usually, they just replace the dish that'll take a long time baking in an oven with another identical one already made the day/night before.
    Also, 4 and 20 Blackbird Pie's not that great a recipe. Sure, it looks appetizing to a hungry monster... But once you slice it open the birds just fly away like all get out leaving you with an empty doughy shell.
    "the hope firing in those pretty eyes of Gina's", I like this line, and like I said, didn't know hers were gray.
    Yay for Newsie in putting those semi-phenomenal cosmic powers of mass distraction to good use in turning not only Gina but all the other female captives back to their normal selves.
    And now they're going up the only exit they can find up to attempt a bold half-Muppet rescue.

    I'd say have fun storming the castle, but I have a feeling there'll be more than just a storm ruining the heck out of the ol' hotel by the time this fic's finished.
    Thanks and have a happy Halloween whatever you may be out there.

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