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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. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Oooh! Lots to comment on! The girl time was just great! Leave it to Piggy to have all the fashionable eateries wrapped around her little gloved finger. And I loved the variety of foods--yum! (Drinking tea with milk and eggnog in it right now!) It is amazing how much males of all species seem to have in common...especially from a female point of view! But here's hoping that Camilla gets her eggs before Gonzo is all cracked up!

    I am glad that Newsie accidentally brought back evidence--he's in much the same boat that Big Bird was in for a long time with his friend Snuffy. Nobody wanting to be rude, but nobody quite on hand to witness what he sees. It's a good thing that the Con-Ed guy was really a Con-Ed guy and not some imposter.

    Now our intrepid investigators will have to create a plan of action to deal with the monsters that are there below the city! I'd loan Newsie my galoshes but they have little Kermit's on them....
  2. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ---------------------
    Hey, ANY galoshes that will actually stay on his toes are good! Thanks! :)

    Oh...DUH :o *facepalm* -- "IT!" Of course! Geez...been a long time since I've read that. I was actually planning on using a joke ref to that later, but had forgot the character names! Good one Ed!

    MST Hint: Go check out the amazing Peter Graves episodes; it's in one of them. So are postcards pretending to be actual scenery!
    ------------------------
  3. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    You mean... Tonight, on Biography?
    *Remembers to keep all alcohol away from Peter Graves in case he forgets his engagement to Mr./Ms. B. Natural and starts hitting on Jan in the Pan.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  4. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ----------------
    LOL...but you're thinking of Jack Perkins, the OTHER A&E staple psuedoceleb!

    ------------------
  5. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Rully? Hmm. *Travels down the umbilipod linking the S.O.L. to Deep 13 to join the feast. :hungry:
  6. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I don't get to say thing often, so I'm going to say it now: I am apparently not nerdy enough for this conversation!!!!
    The Count and newsmanfan like this.
  7. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Is sokay Aunt Ru. Just hope your roomies have a good meal since we heard Piggy doesn't like to spend holidays at the swamp from the interview with Jimmy Kimmel.
  8. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Well, the swamp sort of grows on you (which is actually one of the reasons Piggy visits sparingly!
  9. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Either that or it's give the frog a reason to stay with her instead.
    BTW: Did you watch the SNL stuff from last night? Besides the bit at the end of the monologue, I had my fan's mentality working—probably influenced by some fic or other—when Kermit admitted he'd be in trouble later for making a pork-related joke.

    *Nice to muffin a thread with friends until it gets back on track. :)
  10. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Well, where do we HOPE Kermit goes at night? Home to a lonely apartment? Or home to the arms of the gorgeous sow who loves him? I'm TIRED of lonely heroes....

    Sorry for muffining so much but friends DO gather at all the interesting muppet spots....
  11. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    --------------
    "Why is there a show all about MUFFINS? What kind of show is that??"

    Gimme a break...I can't sit still long enough to write more than a paragraph right now! Bouncing off walls.
    :halo: MID-NIGHT MOVIE! MID-NIGHT MOVIE!

    :news: Uh...what he said!
    -----------------------
    The Count likes this.
  12. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    ;): It's not the Muffin Show... It's the Muppet Show.
    Ooooh. Never mind.

    Waiting till tomorrow to phone my local cinema chain to find out the showing hours and if there'll be a midnight premiere. If not, then it's noontime on Wednesday, so expect me to be not here if my name gets called for anything then. :crazy:
  13. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fifteen

    “Hey! Welcome to Swift Wits, the fastest game show on TV! I’m your host, Snookie Blyer! Our contestant this time is Melba Terst, from the Upper East Side! So Melba, I understand you collect rare butterflies!”

    Snookie paused only a couple of seconds, more than ready to move on and get this farce over with. The hesitant Mrs Terst looked around at the neon black-and-blue set with distaste, but finally replied, “That is correct. You see, my darling late Herbert used to capture –“

    “That’s lovely!” Snookie interrupted, and indicated the happy and sad faces on his metal podium. “If you answer correctly, you will go home with this exquisitely rare jeweled Mediterranean swallowtail!” One of the two panels behind Mrs Terst slid open to reveal a tiny, breathtakingly multicolored butterfly; it slowly opened and closed its splendid wings, resting on an orchid branch in a small screened terrarium. As Mrs Terst leaned closer, using a pair of opera glasses to view the wings, Snookie continued, “But in the event you should answer incorrectly, the last of this particular species will be eaten by Carl, the Big Mean Bunny!”

    The second panel shot open, and Carl, grinning around his fat pink nose, waved cheerfully. “Hi!”

    “But – but this is an endangered species!” Mrs Terst said, shocked by Carl’s aggressively happy stare. Or perhaps it was the large drop of drool he casually wiped with the back of one furry hand which discomfited her.

    “Those taste the best!” Carl assured her.

    “Okay! Let’s give our home audience the answer,” Snookie said, and started in surprise when the announcer’s voice said distinctly in the studio: “The answer is…salamander.”

    “Hey, wait a minute! That’s not supposed to—what the frog am I saying? Let’s go! You have ten seconds!” Snookie cried, a desperate joy rising in his chest at the producers’ mistake. They’d said the answer aloud! This was an educated woman, not like those morons they usually—

    “You cannot possibly destroy the last butterfly of its kind! It’s ghastly to even joke about it!” Mrs Terst scolded Carl.

    “Uh, dear, all you have to do is say the answer, they just gave it to you!” Snookie pointed out, but the enraged matron shook a thin finger at an unmoved Carl instead.

    “I shall report you to the Sierra Club, you awful beast!”

    “Just say the word! Say ‘salamander!’ Please! Just say it!” Snookie begged, but the old lady snatched the terrarium from its niche.

    “Well I won’t allow it! I won’t!” she cried, protectively curling one arm around the baffled butterfly in its tiny cage. The buzzer sounded.

    Snookie dragged his fingers roughly through his hair. “Why? Why am I being tormented like this? If this is about me pulling Mindy Argyle’s braids in third grade, I’m sorry, okay?” he shouted at the ceiling. Carl reached out to grab the butterfly, but when a yelling, slapping Mrs Terst refused to let go of the cage, Carl shrugged, picked her up by her skinny, varicose-veined ankles, and stuffed her into his black maw headfirst. Snookie pounded his podium, anguished. It wasn’t as though this was a new experience, but of late he’d been feeling a great deal more pressure. Too many shows in a day, every day; too many memos from below which he had to obey or suffer even worse humiliations; too little food and fresh air and too many dratted monsters! Too much, in short; simply too much. Snookie didn’t watch Carl snarfling down the rest of Mrs Terst, even as she yelled expletives no society matron should know in regards to Carl’s ancestors. Weary, Snookie shoved away from his podium and walked out of the studio, ignoring the escort of a fat puce beast with large feathery ears and numerous yellow teeth.

    When does it end? Where does it stop? How do I get out of here? Am I doomed to grow old down here, until I’m so gray they use ME as the bait for ‘Monster Hunters: Urban Edition’? Despairing, Snookie trudged along the corridor, head down. He was positive that no one from the outside world remembered him anymore; if anyone ever saw one of these horrid wastes of videotape, they likely only laughed at him. Snookie Blyer was no longer a byword in the entertainment business, a staple of popular daytime television…no, if anything, now he could only claim to be a staple of a certain monstrous bunny’s diet. How did I wind up here? Why didn’t I read the small print, and refuse the host position? If it hadn’t been for that imprisonment clause in that blasted contract, I would have been up there still, free, having an assistant open all my fan mail from gorgeous young co-eds, making special appearances at awards, heck, the Emmys, the Oscars, even the Dorothy Parker Awards for Superfluous Sarcasm! But nooo, you just had to sign up for more game shows! Now Drew Carey has ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ and you have ‘Let’s Bake a Snail’! His fury with himself passed quickly; he was the only real friend he had down here.

    He used to have friends. Heck, in the frat house, his brothers hadn’t even noticed how much shorter he was; he’d been the wiseacre of the group, always ready to plan a surprise party or emcee a talent show (well knowing a good emcee would go home with ten times the sweeties any individual contestant might garner during the night). No one had commented on his being a Muppet, which he’d always been a little ashamed of: Muppets, if they achieved fame at all, were known for singing and dancing and other frivolous pursuits. Muppets were not highly regarded as millionaires, or sharp dealers, or candidates for the Senate…dreams Snookie had carried since he was a tiny bit of felt back on the Muppabean farm. And his family was no better: their highest aspirations all revolved around a good season’s crop, or winning the most votes at the church bake sale for a Seven-up pudding cake. No imagination, no ambition! And yet look where all his driving thirst for public acclaim had landed him…an unwilling participant in some of the worst programming the world had seen since QVC and ‘America’s Lamest Five Seconds of Fame Video Smorgasbored!’ Disgusted though it made him, Snookie had to admit he would probably have been better off running for county coroner back in Wisconsin…maybe then, at least, he might have had his own forensics reality show…

    “Where are we going?” he asked the monster pacing him.

    “Blugh,” it muttered, checking a clipboard with Snookie’s day itinerary. “Blugh blugh blugh.”

    “For crying out loud, can’t they even give me a guard who speaks Frackle? That’d be comprehensible at least!” Snookie complained, but the monster only stared implacably at him. Snookie sighed. “Great. Yeah. Fish. Whatever.”

    He trudged without any enthusiasm into the enormous studio. The black, deep tank was half-full of spectators swimming around and gabbing, waiting for the taping to start. Snookie pulled on a lifejacket and climbed the rickety stairs up to the equally rickety dock, stepped carefully into an inflatable kayak, signaled to the director he was ready, and paddled to the center of the tank. Excitedly the alligators, sharks, grizzlies, and assorted pescavores settled in the half-submerged bleachers provided for them, and the opening music cued up. Snookie stared toward the tiny green light of the main camera, automatically smiling for the presumed viewers at home (he presumed someone, somewhere, would be unable to change the channel to something worth watching, anyway), and listened to the watery brass band mangling a cheerful Sousa march into a dread-inspiring garble of tuba-based noise.

    “Are you craving a crustacean? Are you cuckoo for conch bites? Then this is the show for you!” he shouted, smiling maniacally. “Welcome to – You Win a Fish!” The studio audience cheered, slapped fins against their seats, and churned that end of the tank into a roiling maelstrom of water. “Today’s contestants, ready and willing to devour each other if need be to win, are Rupert the Other Psychic Octopus…” Snookie read off his cue card, not letting his smile falter although he wanted to sneer at the egotism of the participants, “and Jürgens Jorgmann, the Ginormous Squid!” He paused, glancing over at the squid, and bit back a comment about ‘ginormous’ not being an actual word. That thing looked big enough to bite him in two without batting either of its fiesta-platter-sized eyes. “O-kay! Cephalopods, are you ready?” Both waved tentacles eagerly. “Then let’s play!”

    The crowd hushed expectantly and the lights swung down, bathing the octopus and squid in unearthly green neon and himself in stark, bright yellow. He supposed he should be pleased they’d chosen a color that flattered his felt, but it was impossible to get enthused over anything today. “Your first question, for a tin of sardines, is…” Suddenly Snookie felt like rebelling. Ignoring his cards, he asked the first thing which popped into his head: “What sport did the actually accurate psychic octopus predict winning teams in?”

    Both contestants paused, taken aback. Just before the time buzzer sounded, the octopus rattled his cuttlefish. He gurbled, and the raspy voice of the translator muttered in Snookie’s earpiece: “Wimbledon? Tennis?”

    “Oh no I’m sorry! The answer is soccer – the World Cup!” Snookie beamed, perversely pleased at the disgruntled tentacle-wiggling the octopus did. He only knew the answer himself because for weeks the monsters had been running around startling one another with those African horns. “That’s one strike for Rupert! Next question, for the prize of a package of frozen fishsticks: what gamefish was featured in the 1980s horror-comedy House?”

    The squid blinked. The octopus writhed restlessly. Snookie waited, grinning, until the timer blared, then chuckled. “Well, looks like you two need to bone up on your cult classics – or at least get some bones! The answer is ‘a marlin,’ though I also would have accepted ‘sailfish’! Now, for the bounty of one fifty-pound albacore, your next question: what actor stubbornly refused to be eaten in the legendary film Jaws?”

    In the control booth, Snookie could see the writers frantically tugging at the director’s fins. He knew he’d pay a price for being this far off the reservation, but at this point he found it hard to care; they’d figure out a way to eat him regardless. It seemed lately like his life was all about other creatures’ digestive tracts, and he was sick of it. Might as well earn it, he thought with a particular grim joy. The squid buzzed in.

    “That’s right – Roy Schieder! You win that fish!” Snookie felt first relief, then annoyance, when the gilled director seemed to decide it had been a fair question because the squid knew the answer, and shrugged off the protesting crawfish scripters. Ignoring the part of his brain which was yelping in terror at his boldness, Snookie thought up another gem for the contestants. “Now the stakes get a little higher! The prize this time is an entire school of krill! For the krill, you two bottom feeders: what kind of creature is depicted in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride at Disneyworld attacking the submarine Nautilus?”

    Both deepwater denizens buzzed in, but Jürgens was slightly quicker. He blurbled sharply, and the translator hissed, “A squid!”

    “No that’s incorrect! Rupert?”

    The octopus blurted out, predictably, “octopus.” Snookie grinned. “Still wrong! Boy, you two really have been stuck under a rock all your lives, huh? The correct answer is a kraken! We’re going to go to a commercial now, but when we return, more of this epic battle of the beak-brained! The score so far has the squid up by a tuna, and strikes for both sides –“

    “A kraken is an octopus!” Rupert snarled through the translator, but Jürgens snapped back even before the translator could catch up, apparently fluent in octopus as well:

    “Idiot! A kraken is a squid! You tiny-tentacled creeps never get anything right!”

    “Guys, guys,” Snookie said, holding up both hands although he was enjoying the increasingly discontented contestants too much to actually sound placating, “Hey, we’re all just here for the halibut, right? Let’s calm down and—“

    “You think a squid could actually come to the surface and take down a ship? Pah! You cowards can’t even show your armtips above five thousand feet!” Rupert scoffed, coiling several of his arms around him and lifting his bulbous head higher out of the water as if to illustrate how at-the-surface his own species could be.

    “Octopi can’t contemplate anything deeper than their own beak-lint! Shallow, shallow, shallow! Why’dya think they named that human the octo-mom instead of squid-mom? You’d never catch one of us parading our offspring for tabloids instead of eating them!” Jorgmann returned haughtily; at least, the frothing water around those flailing tentacles looked haughty to Snookie.

    “Hey, now, let’s just play the game,” Snookie said, seeing the director signaling at him and the camera turning from red standby to greenlight. “Hey! We’re back! It’s a heated contest so far between our two players! Let’s find out a little more about—“

    But his usual light intro of the contestants sank immediately. Squid and octopus seemed more intent on insulting one another than focusing on anything else right now. “Oh yeah? Well you never hear National Geo talking about how smart a longbodied loser who gets snagged on a simple baitline is – giant sucker!”

    “Sucker! Who you calling a sucker, you—you—you squishy-headed, clamsucking, camouflaged coward of the reef!” Outraged, the squid slapped the water with two flat-ended tentacles, nearly upsetting Snookie’s kayak. He grabbed the sides, ducking, wondering if baiting these two antagonists had really been his smartest career move.

    “Guys? Let’s get back to the game,” he suggested brightly, but the octopus glared, shaking his spongy head in barely restrained rage.

    “Clamsucking! At least I don’t have to scavenge through deepwater ‘snow’! You know what that stuff is? Guess that makes you a connoisseur of other fishes’ sh—“

    “And that’s all the time we have today!” Snookie announced, paddling hurriedly out of the way as the two enormous cephalopods lunged at one another, whipping the tank into a clash of waves and slapping tentacles. “Tune in next time, assuming we have a tank left, for another exciting episode of You Win a Fish!”

    He managed to reach the dock without capsizing, but the little boat was rocking so badly when he lashed it to the waterlogged pylons and flung himself onto relatively safe ground that Snookie cut his hand on the sharp encrustations of salt crystals covering the dock. He swore, then sucked on his cut finger, reflecting that this was probably more mineral content than he ever received in the bland mush they fed him. Leaving the chaos for the lagoony director to sort out, he hurried down the stairs outside of the tank and headed for the door, both pleased at having not been eaten by one of the deep-sea monsters and irritated that his day was far from over. “You know, this is all making me very hungry,” he told the monster trailing him. “What say we ditch this dump and go grab a T-bone together?”

    He grinned broadly, but the monster merely stared at him, uncomprehending. It tapped the schedule. “Blugh,” it reminded him.

    Snookie blew out a disgusted breath. “Humorless idiot! That’s called sarcasm, for your future reference. Not that you have much of a future down here…” He increased his pace angrily, striding down a side corridor toward the next show’s set, and suddenly heard a terrified scream from somewhere on the other side of the corridor wall, some harsh voice yelling a girl’s name: Jenny or Ginny or something. Snookie shook his head. “Poor bastich. You know, is it really to much to ask for better soundproofing down here? You think I feel more motivated by hearing other people being tortured and eaten? Huh? You get that from Trump’s book? Should I be eager to put my nose to the grindstone and my professional butt on the line after listening to everyone else being chomped, stomped, eaten and beaten? Does that make me want to work here?” He glared at the puzzled monster, then spat at it furiously, “No! It does not!”

    “Uh…blugh?” the monster asked, hesitantly indicating the direction it wanted Snookie to go. Snookie glared at it, breathing hard, realizing he was working himself up to no purpose. This cretin wouldn’t know a motivational tool if it was hit over the head with one…a likely enough technique down here.

    Snookie sighed deeply, wrested his despair under control, and shrugged. “As if you even understand a word I’m saying. It’s like talking to a picture of a wall. Come on, Blugh.” He resumed his march of gloom, wincing at the screams and shouts he could still hear on the other side of the dripping, slimy wall. “Come on, seriously! Would it kill you guys to put up some foam insulation at least?”

    “Blugh,” the monster said. It skulked along after the depressed host another minute in silence, then offered its opinion shyly: “Actually, I like ribeyes better.”

    Snookie stopped in his tracks, eyes wide. The monster blinked at him. “Blugh,” it repeated, prodding him into motion with one wide-splayed furry hand.

    Snookie started chuckling, then giggling, then laughing…then trying hard not to cry. Feeling weak, he trudged onward, listening vaguely to the sounds of pounding footsteps somewhere. At least, he thought morosely, that poor soul actually thinks he can run away. Snookie himself had given that up years ago. His own flat feet plodded over the rough ground, barely noticing the damp and the smelly goop coating the corridor, moving him toward frog only knew what fresh torment now.

    ----------------------------
    The sniffles and shivers had blossomed into a full-flowered head cold, and now not only could the Newsman not enjoy the spicy-sweet amber scent of his beloved, he was having trouble smelling anything at all. He’d cleaned his glasses so often after repeated sneezing fits that he’d simply removed them, and now huddled miserably in bed, squinting out the window at the gray, sulky clouds which refused to really rain and refused to go away, hovering over the city, echoing his current mood. When his symptoms worsened around noon, Gina had fixed him a lemony-orange tisane full of Echinacea to chase down the garlicky chicken broth and banished him to the bedroom for the afternoon. I can’t just sit here. There are monsters taking over the undercity! Restlessly he threw off the plush blanket draped over his shoulders, but a minute later was compelled to pull it back on, shivering.

    Gina came in, curling up gently on the bed next to him, and stroked his hair off his furrowed brow. “I know you hate this. I’m sorry,” she said, and kissed his forehead.
    Newsie sighed. “Cad I ad lead jud…go down amb get de dory on de air?” His nose was so clogged he sounded ridiculous, even to himself.

    “Go out in that? Not a good idea,” Gina objected, looking out at the gray, wet day. Even the filtered sunlight, such as it was, looked depressed.

    “Dib ib impordat!”

    “I know. But Newsie…so are you, and it isn’t worth risking your health. You already sound hoarse and…um…stuffed. Why encourage a cold to turn into strep or pneumonia? Give it a day or two and rest,” Gina said softly, continuing to run sympathetic fingers through his hair. Any other time, he would have found that immensely…pleasing, but right now his only concern was the story. “I’ve already called your station and the theatre for you. You’re officially on sick leave as of right now. If you feel able tomorrow, by all means jump back in! Just…wait until you can do it without risking something nastier…or sounding like a congested walrus.” She smiled at him; he scowled and snorted, then lost control to a fierce set of sneezes, burying his nose in a handful of tissue.

    “Dib ib ridiculub,” he muttered.

    “Drink your tea. It’ll help. There’s horehound and chamomile and honey in it.”

    “At leab leb me call Rhonda,” Newsie insisted, giving Gina his most unhappy, pleading, Muppy-eyed look; it had worked before when he’d wanted to work overtime on that three-week investigative piece about recycling pigeon droppings into low-emissions heating fuel…

    Gina shook her head. “I already talked to her. She said she’s going to need a day to sort through the film anyway; apparently your camera got wet and she’s having to edit all of it through some fancy image-restoring program just to make it watchable.” Newsie groaned, shoulders slumping. Two grand for what? A soaked camera and unusable film? Darn that sloth! At least Gina wasn’t bringing up the subject of wasted money; they weren’t hurting, but ravaging their savings wasn’t going to help the matter if nothing was accomplished through all these payouts for information and help. She put an arm around his shoulders. “Just rest. Hopefully tomorrow you’ll be able to get to the station and file your report.”

    “I neeb do geb de fur do Doddor Unnydew,” Newsie said, looking at the tiny jar Gina had cleaned out to put the weird fur sample in, sitting ominously now on the nightstand.

    “Tomorrow,” Gina said firmly. Seeing her frustrated journalist lost in a frown, she sighed, and kissed the bridge of his nose. “Drink your tea. Good vitamin C there. Get some rest.”

    He tried not to sound hopeful, looking cautiously up at her as she rose. “Whenf your broducdun meebing?”

    “Well, it was going to be this evening, but I was able to get them to move it up to four o’clock,” she replied, pulling her hair back as it tried to slide out of her loose ponytail. “Think you can look after yourself for a couple of hours?”

    “Zhur,” Newsie agreed immediately. Better than he’d hoped! With Gina out of the apartment for her production meeting, he might have just enough time to run down to the station, help Rhonda edit the report, and at least prepare it for airing tonight, even if he couldn’t stay for the broadcast! At least the vital information would get out to the public, and he could try to rest a little after…that… He blinked. “Why arb you looging ab me dat way?”

    Her grey eyes narrowed. “You weren’t thinking of going out, were you?”

    “Erb…doh,” he lied, but couldn’t keep a flush from suffusing his already-heated cheeks. Gina leaned over and tugged the sash of his robe; he tried to stop her, weakly fumbling at her diligent fingers, but she opened his robe, revealing the clean sports coat and tie he’d snuck on under it. She shook her head, crossing her arms. Embarrassed, Newsie stared up at her.

    She could only be angry with him for a moment, fortunately. She sighed again. “Newsie…look. I know you don’t want or need another mother, but you don’t take your own safety into account often enough.” Serious understatement, Gina thought, images of falling books, stampeding cows, and rolling boulders flashing through her mind. “You…you get so focused on the news, on the next big scoop, that you don’t give enough regard to your own health! For once, stay put, get well, and then you can give this story the attention and strength I know you’ll need for it. Okay?”

    “People neeb do know whaff goimb om!” Newsie argued, gesturing at the monster-goop-in-a-jar.

    “And have you figured out what that is just since this morning?”

    “Uh…”

    “Get that weird stuff analyzed. Get your report about the seawater in the tunnel on the air, and let the people we pay taxes to around here get off their butts and go check it out,” Gina said. “But don’t go crying monster until you have proof you can actually present without looking like a lunatic, and don’t do anything until you’re over this cold!” She shook her head. “You have the most sensitive sinuses of anyone I’ve ever met…”

    “Dab mot my vault,” Newsie grumped, hating how accurate her points were. He really, really wanted to get the word out about those creeps underground! But…he still had no idea what they were doing down there. And he knew Rhonda would fight him tooth and claw over a monster warning unless he could prove the glob of fur was from an actual indeterminate caterpillaroid thing previously unknown to science…not to mention all the objections he could easily imagine Blanke bringing up. He started to rewrap his robe, but Gina put a gentle hand on his. When he looked back up at her, she smiled softly, and started untying his tie. “Whab are you doimb?”

    “You’re not going to rest comfortably in that. Here. Put on some PJs.” She pulled a pair of long, blue-stripey pajamas from his dresser and tossed them on the bed. “Come on. Off with the suit. On with the cute jammies.”

    “Oh,” he sighed. For a moment, he’d wondered if perhaps she knew of some remarkably intimate remedy for the common cold. He would’ve liked to explore that particular health story. Gina grinned at his obvious disappointment, and headed for the bedroom door.

    “Get comfy, my very manly Muppet. Maybe if you’re feeling better tonight we can see about raising your body temperature that way.” She paused at the door, watching him reluctantly stripping off his work clothes. “I’m going to close the door so the noise won’t bother you, but I’ll come running if you yell for me, okay?”

    He shot her a confused look. “Noib? What noib?”

    “The production meeting. Everyone’s coming over here; we’ll be in the living room. I think Charlotte’s bringing Indian food.” She laughed at his startled expression. “Oh, did you think I’d leave the apartment with you all cabin-fever grumbly? Not a chance in heck, reporter boy! I asked them to pick up a curry for you. Good for your nose.”

    Newsie sighed, then gave up, shrugging into his pajama shirt. Before Gina closed the door, he said quietly, “I lub you.”

    Softly she replied, smiling, “I lub you too, Aloysius. Rest well.”

    He wrapped his bathrobe over his pajama-clad felt, shivering again, and drew the blanket up over the top of his head, sitting crosslegged where he could look out the window at the cold, drizzly day. She knows me too well, he thought wryly, regarding the still-steaming mug of herbal tea on his nightstand next to the fur sample. He sighed, and reached for the tea.

    -------------------------------
    Clifford stroked his mustache, concentrating on the list of acts which he’d been forced to rearrange. “Okay…so…if there’s a News Flash, Fozzie can take it. Since the chickens won’t do the musical number, we’ll just have to—“

    “Piggy told them they had to be moral support for Camilla,” Dr Strangepork offered. “It has something to do with that new show of Gonzo’s.”

    Clifford nodded tiredly. It wasn’t even time for the house to open, much less the curtain, and he already felt harried. “Right, fine. So…for the opening act, why don’t we put ‘Pigs in Space’ first?” He looked at Strangepork and Link, who both nodded. Happy to have at least settled one part of the show, Clifford made a note on the legal pad Scooter had left for him. “Great. That should start the show with a…” Out of the corner of his shades he noticed Crazy Harry listening in, and corrected himself quickly: “Uh…that should get things off to a strong start. Now after that, what say we put on—“

    “Miss Piggy should be thrilled to hear not only is she in the opening number with me, but we have that wonderful song from West Side Story later,” Link rumbled, pleased.

    “Uh…yeah. About that. Link, Piggy told me earlier there was not, and I quote, ‘a chance of her setting foot in a kosher deli’ that she’d ever do another duet with you after the way you upstaged her in that opera thing years ago,” Clifford sighed.

    “She upstaged me!” Link huffed.

    “Well, look, man, it ain’t happening. So unless you know of someone else willing to sing ‘I Feel Pretty’ with you—“

    “I will! I will!” Everyone turned at the high-pitched trill of a voice, and Wanda blushed, drawing her shawl a little tighter over her bosom. “I mean…I’d be happy to help out, if you need a singer.”

    Clifford looked her over, and shrugged. “If you want to. It’s not gonna be like singing with Wayne, though…”

    Wanda gave Link an appraising look; the hog was busy grooming his forelock in a mirror. “Same difference far as I can see,” she muttered dryly.

    “Great.” Clifford checked off another item on his list. “Okay, so, Fozzie, you want to come on after the pigs, or later after the lobster juggling act?”

    “Somebody’s juggling lobsters?” Rizzo wondered. “Does da shrimp know about dis?”

    “That’s King Prawn okay?” Pepe huffed, appearing abruptly on the stage manager’s desk. “And no one is juggling the lobsters! They are the jugglers already! The leader is my cousin.” He glared around at the odd stares Muppets gave him. “What? What? Jou never heard of reef lobsters?”

    “Sounds more like reef madness,” Rizzo snickered.

    “Uh, if things fall on me during the news, do I get worker’s comp?” Fozzie asked.

    “So…ever worked with a handsome pig before?” Link murmured at Wanda.

    “Many times,” she grumbled, and tromped off to the ladies’ dressing-room.

    “Fozz…nothing will fall on you. Only Newsguy gets that treatment. So when do you wanna do your standup bit?”

    “Uhmmm…I think after the lobsters…”

    “What about my solo, okay?” Pepe demanded.

    Clifford consulted his list. “Pepe, I don’t see anything about you having a solo tonight!”

    “No, no, jou see, Kermins promised me before he left, okay; he said to me, ‘Pepe, whiles I am gone, you make sures jou are on that stage every night because jou are the moneymaker around here okay!’”

    “Buddy, you ain’t even da most expensive item on da menu,” Rizzo cackled, causing the shrimp to bristle all over and jump down in front of the rat, where they resumed their argument from the weekend over who had the prettier face, greater talent, and better Halloween costume. Over the hubbub, Clifford tried to nail down the night’s schedule again.

    “If we run short, I’ll throw you in, all right, little dude? Now, the pigs are first; then comes Rowlf’s slam poem –“

    “Got it right here,” Rowlf said amiably, holding up a sheet of paper.

    “Groovy. After that we’ll have the—“

    “Short? Little? Jou got something jou wanna say to me, catfish-face?” Pepe yelled.

    “No, man! I just meant—“

    “Oh, wait, that’s my Groupon for Mighty Jack,” Rowlf said, scratching his head. “Where’d I put that poem?”

    “Wait! No! After da pigs!” Fozzie spoke up.

    “When do we go on?” asked a stately goat in lederhosen, a basket under one arm making disturbing noises.

    Clifford stared at him. “Uh…who are you again?”

    “I’m the Scandinavian sheep charmer.” The goat opened the lid of the basket long enough for everyone to glimpse an oddly long wooly thing. “Brought my own flugelhorn too!”

    “Uh…yeah.” Shaking his head, Clifford searched his list. “Got it.”

    “I can’t find my poem. How about a song?”

    “I’m really not comfortable with dis news thing…”

    “Jou gots a problem with me, jambalaya breath? Come on! Get down here and say it to my face!”

    “Guys, come on now…”

    “Hey, my Nawlins brothah, the band and I have some disturbifyin’ thoughts concernin’ the appropriability of this song about greenbacks, seein’ as how lil’ Robin is under the impression it’s froggist,” Dr Teeth spoke up, trying to get Clifford’s attention over the clamor.

    “Do you think she’s smitten yet, or should I really turn on the charm?” Link wanted to know.

    “Guys!” Clifford tried, but everyone was speaking, shouting, protesting or preening all at once.

    An authoritative bellow silenced them all: “Quieeeet!”

    Everyone fell silent, except for one alto voice complaining in a back corner: “So she was all like, ‘I rully hate it when they require nudity,’ and I was like, ‘I didn’t know they needed that for a hand model!’”

    “All of you be quiet!” Piggy ordered, coming the rest of the way down the stairs. “Our capitan put Clifford in charge, so all of you listen up!” She took the night’s list from the somewhat discomfited host and glanced at it once. “Right. You’re gonna tell them to do ‘Pigs in Space’ first, Rowlf’s gonna do ‘Waltzing Mathilda’ with Gladys, the sheep charmer’s next, then the hog and Wanda, then the jugglers, then Fozzie, then my solo, then the Mayhem, then the Chef, then Sam can blab until the audience is sick of it or for thirty seconds, whichever comes first, then the closing number with everybody. News whenever it comes up, the shrimp gets onstage over my dead body, and everybody goes home happy, right?” She glared around, her look silencing all objection, and handed the sheet back to Clifford airily. “Tell them all that, and let’s get the show moving! All of you foamheads, listen to him!” Snout in the air, she trotted off to fetch a bite from the canteen.

    Everyone looked at Clifford.

    “Uh…right,” he said, trying to regain some measure of respect. “All good ideas. Thanks, Piggy. All right, everybody clear on that?” He deepened his voice, looking around at everyone. The gathered Muppets all nodded. A light onstage suddenly winked out. Clifford growled, “And can one of you stagepigs please fix that danged thing? All right! Let’s all pull together here, and give Kermit a great first-night-without-him report!”

    Always ready to provide moral support, Fozzie swept one fist through the air in a go-get-‘em gesture. “Dat’s right! We can do this, right guys?” A low murmur rippled through the Muppets. “Hey! I said, we can do this, right?” The murmur increased this time, and a few “yeah”s and “Sure”s could be heard. Excited, Fozzie clapped his paws. “Dat’s the spirit! Now let’s get out there and have a blast!”

    “Fozzie…” Clifford groaned.

    Fozzie paled under his fur. “Oh, no…”

    When the smoke cleared, half the lighting board sparked crazily, connections shorted out. The other half of it was gone.

    Clifford put one hand to his throbbing head. “Aw, man…someone put out that danged short…”

    Fozzie coughed, his ears ringing. “What?” he shouted, unable to even hear himself.

    Someone else had heard, however. “Agains with the short jokes! Jou and me, we are about to have it out, jou got that already Mister Fat Wednesday?”

    “Give it up, Pepe,” Clifford sighed, shaking his head as a cable sparked and flopped like a dying snake on the backstage floor. “And that’s Tuesday.”

    “Whatever, okay.” The haughty prawn scuttled away, leaving Clifford to stare glumly at the mess, with a half an hour to showtime.

    Fozzie complained loudly, “Why da heck did Newsie have to call in sick tonight? I haven’t even had a News Flash yet and already my fur is smoking! Boy, he really is a jinx!”

    Crazy Harry just cackled, satisfied, and crept off to restock his grenades.
    --------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  14. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Mmm, just what I needed after a good Turkey Day meal mom made for us.

    Snookie's trying to throw a monsterwrench into the works with that little stunt of his.
    Octopus tentacles and squid rings and gator meat... Yeah, I know I've got weird tastes sometimes.

    And it appears that taping took place while Newsie and Gina had their escapade down in the underground. Erherm, that's another song from another Henson property.

    *Laughs at Bluh's one-liner comeback before he and Snookie left for the next show.

    *<333 the entire segment with Newsie and Gina. She's got him painted into a corner that he can't get out of. *Wonder if they'll get that monster fur analyzed by Bunsen or Van Neuter, probably whoever has more expertise in the field.
    Also, nice use of movie/song lines when Gina quips about alternate remedies for curing Newsie's cold (or make his fever burn).

    There's just too much happening during the scene back at the theater.
    Pepe grumbling over the short insults...
    Wanda singing with Link, reference to something I've read here from LinkiePie<3.
    The spotlight burning out lives! Or dies... You know what I mean.
    Chickens out in support for Camilla,
    Fozzie wanting to do his best for Kermit, unwittingly giving :crazy: the go-ahead he needed.

    All great, thank you for providing an update to a fave fic. More please!
  15. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Woo-hoo! Creativity triumphs over tryptophan! (Actually, that's a myth, but I liked the way it sounded.)

    I thought Gina was too savvy to leave Newsie alone when he's hot on the trail of a story--or a monster. Glad to know she wasn't fooled! (She could have just stolen his clothes....)

    I liked the back-story on Snookie's contract--it makes it some better (because at least he signed up for it) and some worse (he did sign up for it) but it does explain a lot. Methinks the tide might be turning soon....

    The theater stuff was wonderful! I am often amazed at how seamlessly Pepe, Rizzo and Clifford fit into either the new or old theater folks. It was nice to see Wanda get a chance to sing again. I assume she won't be snogging this partner if the lights go out again. I was thrilled to see Piggy taking things so easily in hand while her frog is off doing...whatever it is he does when he is gone....

    Good show, Newsie! Keep posting!
  16. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Sixteen

    Kermit passed a weary flipper over blurred eyes and took another sip of his strong coffee, waiting in the hotel lobby while Scooter finished up at the front desk. The early-morning light through the lobby’s broad picture windows gleamed on the brass fixtures inside and the coppery bushes outside. Autumn could be nice, he reflected; the swamp had experienced no such fanfares of color before cooler weather settled in. He regretted they hadn’t been able to begin this location scouting earlier in the year; it would have been nice to film fall leaves on the trees, wherever they wound up choosing to shoot. However, a barren forest had its appeal for a scary movie, and so far, the places they’d looked at on this trip all held some possibility for scenic shots.

    “All set?” Scooter asked, popping up at Kermit’s elbow rather too early for the tired frog’s comfort.

    “I guess,” Kermit sighed. “What day is it…Wednesday?”

    “Yep.”

    “So this must be…Vermont?”

    “New Hampshire. They used to be the same state, if it helps any…”

    “Great,” Kermit grumbled, turning to the door.

    “It’s a little chilly, boss,” Scooter cautioned. “Why don’t you let me go warm up the car first?”

    The amphibian appreciated his assistant’s concern, but shook his head. “I’d just as soon get moving. I’ll warm up enough that way.” Tired though he was, Kermit noted something a little off about Scooter’s manner today. “Everything okay at home?” he asked.

    Scooter shrugged, dragging their luggage along as they headed into the chilly morn and the gravel parking lot. “Oh, um, sure. Sarah’s fine. She’s keeping busy. She’s looking forward to the party on Saturday at Fozzie’s.”

    “It’ll be nice to see Mrs Bear again,” Kermit agreed, but sensed Scooter holding out on him. “Anything else?”

    “Uhm…did you talk to Piggy last night?”

    “Of course,” Kermit replied, curious and now a little worried. “She seemed great. She told me all about her shoe-shopping trip.” He shook his head again, ruefully. “It seems attending a Halloween party involves more than a perfect costume; the perfect shoes are a major design decision.”

    Scooter chuckled dutifully, and now Kermit knew there was something else. He frowned at Scooter while his assistant busied himself packing their small suitcases in the trunk of the rental car, opening the doors, starting the engine and the heater and buckling in. “Is there something else I ought to know?” the frog demanded; Scooter turned, saw his boss wasn’t buckling in, and realized the car wasn’t going to move until he gave him all the news.

    “Um, well…Clifford texted me this morning…”

    “And?”

    “Oh, there’s no problem, chief! It’s all taken care of!”

    Kermit’s face crumpled unhappily. “What’s all taken care of?”

    “Well, insurance will probably cover the smoke damage --”

    “Smoke damage?”

    “—and Clifford said the audience seemed to enjoy seeing the show by footlights –“

    “Footlights? As in candles?”

    “—and Gina and Scott volunteered to come by today and do the tie-in for the new breakers, and hook up the new light board –“

    “What happened to the old one?!”

    “—and Crazy Harry’s been ‘indefinitely detained’ again by Homeland Security, which is probably just as well; and Fozzie’s having his fur cleaned –“

    “Scooter!” Kermit shouted, making the other Muppet flinch in the close confines of the compact car. “What the hey happened?”

    “Oh, uh, nothing big, chief. The light board…um…exploded.”

    Kermit struggled a moment with the various things trying to force their way out of his mouth, counted to twenty silently, and blew out a long breath. “Eeeesshh. You know…maybe I don’t want to know the details after all.”

    Scooter nodded sagely. “Probably not. And like I said, it’s all being taken care of.”

    “There’d better be a theatre to come back to Friday,” Kermit grumbled.

    Scooter laughed, putting the car in gear. “Buckle up, boss. Long day ahead. We have…” he consulted a list on his phone. “Four properties to look at. Hey, what did you think of that one yesterday?”

    Kermit did as he was urged and settled into the plush seat, resigned. “Uh…was that the one with the chicken coop out back, or the one with the huge barn?”

    “No, the chicken coop was the one with the huge barn, and that was Monday night. I mean the one with the pond out front, and the broken-down rail fence! Wasn’t that just about perfect?”

    Kermit winced; he did recall that farm now. “Scooter, the owner tried to run us off with a shotgun! Your real estate agent gave us the wrong address!”

    “Yeah, sure…but wasn’t it great?”

    The frog slumped in his seat, and tried to focus on his coffee. Not one single cabin-in-the-woods so far had possessed exactly the right combination of rural scenery, partial dilapidation, and owners willing to negotiate for a film crew to camp there a few weeks, and at this rate, they’d have to wait until the spring to start all over again… With a heavy sigh, he stared out the windshield at the gorgeous New England autumn, and did his best to tune out Scooter’s aggressively optimistic chatter.

    It was way too early in the morning.

    -----------------------
    “Me mee meep meep,” Beaker offered tentatively, eyes darting in all directions as Bunsen trotted cheerily ahead of him along the conservatively-decorated hallway.

    Honeydew chuckled, waving a hand airily in dismissal. “Now, Beakie! You know perfectly well that as long as the portable psychokinetic modulating device is operating smoothly, there should be no more trouble with objects animating monstrously! And the Newsman said it was about a new monster species! Aren’t you excited?”

    “Meep,” Beaker said flatly. Excited wasn’t the term he would’ve used.

    Bunsen checked the number of the apartment door with the wreath of fall leaves and miniature pumpkins decorating it, then knocked. After a pause, the door opened. The scientists blinked uncertainly at the impatient rat glaring up at them. “Er…hello! I am Dr Bunsen Honeydew, and this is my –“

    “Yeah, yeah,” the rat said. She stepped aside for them to enter. “He’s in the bedroom trying to unclog his honker.”

    “Meep,” Beaker murmured at Rhonda; she gave him a short nod in reply. Bunsen walked down the interior hall, glancing curiously at the Art Deco prints on the walls and the autumn-leaf throw rug underfoot. Beaker put a tremulous hand to his mouth when he saw the garlands of silk leaves, plastic spiders, and tiny orange lights strung in the arched doorway to the more private rooms of the apartment, then hurried to catch up with his colleague. Rhonda scurried past them and jumped onto the foot of the generous platform bed where the Newsman huddled, scowling and blowing his nose for the fifteenth time this hour; two full boxes of Kleenex sat on his nightstand, and an empty one sat on the floor next to the wastebasket full of discarded tissues.

    “My goodness,” Bunsen said. “What a nasty cold! Have you tried Echinacea?”

    Newsie glumly held up a mug of herbal tea. Rhonda snickered. “Gina’s been pumping him full of it. I think he sneezed flower petals an hour ago.”

    “Bery fuddy,” Newsie grumped. He gave the Muppet Labs duo a serious look. “I foud dis in de Con Ed tunnel under de ciddy. I need you guyd do amalyze id!”

    “Meep mee meep,” Beaker suggested.

    “Yes, Beaker, vitamin C is effective, but perhaps at this stage chicken broth might be more conducive…”

    “Coud you jud fid oud whad dis is, please?” Newsie asked, handing the purplish furry glob-in-a-jar over.

    “Oh, my,” Bunsen said, peering at the sample. “How very fascinating! Beaker, does that look like an example of leeriminus purpurea to you?”

    Beaker gave the jar a wary look, but wouldn’t touch it. “Meep mee,” he said, shrugging, shaking his head.

    “Hmm. Most curious! How exactly did you come by it, Newsman?”

    “He claims it came off a monster while he was chasing it through the sewers,” Rhonda said, rolling her eyes and flipping her bangs out of her face.

    “Id looged lig a cadderpillar!” Newsie protested, scowling at the rat. “Id wad gonna bite Gina! Ad dere were odders down dere!” He turned a hopeful face to the scientists, appearing more plaintive without his customary glasses. “I cad warn eberybody widdout proof! Please dell me dis is from a monster so I cad ged by rebord on de air!”

    “Well, we’ll be happy to analyze it for you, but of course you understand I can’t allow unempirical evidence to influence the results,” Bunsen said. Newsie sighed.

    “Doc, please just tell him it’s from a bug or something so he’ll lay off about monsters,” Rhonda muttered, drawing Bunsen aside. “I think he’s feverish.”

    “I am nod feberish!” Newsie snapped. “I did see a monster! Ad we hab do warm beeble!”

    “Great, fine. You’ve turned over your glob to the lab geeks. Now can we just focus on this report about the ocean caving in the whole undercity?” Rhonda griped, shoving Newsie’s laptop with her flashdrive attached back in front of the bundled-up journalist.

    “Don’t worry, Newsman! Beaker and I will perform extensive tests on this and let you know definitively what it came from tonight!” Bunsen assured Newsie. Beaker meeped assent, trying to sound more positive than he felt. “Ah…do you think you’ll be back at the Muppet Theatre tonight? You sound a teensy bit stuffed,” Bunsen hedged.

    Newsie frowned, sniffling. “I hade habing long sinudes,” he muttered.

    “Gina wouldn’t let him out with her today to go fix the electrics,” Rhonda said smugly. “She called me over to Muppetsit and make sure he doesn’t run out in the street crying wolf…or monster, or whatever.”

    “I do nod need a sidder! I’m fi—cough, cough, cough…ugh…”

    “Yeah, sure. You sound terrific. Come on, do ya like this computer animation of what’ll happen when that wall underground caves in, or what? I thought the little rats fleeing out of every manhole cover in downtown was a cool touch…”

    “Come along, Beaker,” Bunsen whispered to his colleague. “And don’t forget to use the antibacterial hand cream. We wouldn’t want to spread an infection.”

    Beaker nodded, digging the Muppet Labs Antibacterial Lotion (cotton candy scent) from a coat pocket and squeezing a little into his palm as they exited the apartment. Unfortunately, the cream proved much stickier than it had during their lab trials; his fingers adhered to his coat, and when he tried to pull them free, his whole coat tugged over his head, and when he tried to pull that down, his jaunty blue scarf stuck to his nose, and when he meeped and tried to pull his hands free, he tripped and fell in the outer hall, and a potted fake frondy plant which he kicked in his struggles toppled onto him, and bad memories of frondy monsters made him shriek loudly.

    “Oh, for heaven’s sake, Beaker! Don’t break anything; the Newsman and Gina probably already pay high tenant association fees here! Now come along; we need to get back to the lab and start up the spectromatic genetic destabilizer…” Bunsen paused, reconsidering. “Oh, wait. We still haven’t received that replacement halide tube, after the rogue gerbil DNA from that burger wrecked the carbon-chromulator transmogrifier…hmm.”

    “Meeeeep!”

    “Perhaps we ought to contact Dr Van Neuter. He might have an operable genetic analysis setup…didn’t he say he was working in a new lab over at that old hotel?” Bunsen mused, ignoring Beaker’s muffled cries; the lotion had smeared over his mouth, and he was rapidly losing sensation in his tongue. “I think that might be the better idea. Come on, Beaker!” He realized his assistant wasn’t at his side, and turned back, annoyed. “Oh, Beaker! Your scarf looks fine! Now get up and for heaven’s sake, retie your shoes before you trip again. Some Muppets need to develop a better awareness of what’s right in front of them,” he grumbled as he continued on to the elevator.

    ----------------------------------
    Gonzo looked around at the huddle of monsters conferring in low voices as some kind of greasy tokens exchanged paws. “Hi guys! What’s up?”

    They all started shamefully, and two or three quickly faded into the dark corridor. Rosie McGurk sighed, clambering to his hindpaws, and gave Gonzo a steady, neutral stare as the daredevil looked confusedly at the monsters all suddenly remembering they had something else to do, somewhere distant from this patch of subterra. “Er…did I interrupt something?” Gonzo wondered.

    “Ba habba fragga zook,” McGurk explained.

    “A betting pool? What on?”

    “Er…frabba mukk,” McGurk replied evasively, taking Gonzo gently by the shoulder and steering him back toward his cell. The monsters had tried handcuffs, a straitjacket, extra locks, and chickenwire, but thus far nothing had proven successful in keeping the Muppet from wandering the studios at will.

    “The show tonight? Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that…listen, I need some advice,” Gonzo murmured. “That fungus guy was really good last time; I need to come up with something really spectacular to beat him! Uh…her. Whatever it is.”

    “Frah?” McGurk asked, continuing to guide Gonzo along the rocky, dankly dripping corridor.

    “Yeah. See, here’s what I was thinking: what if I set up two cannons and shot myself between them, over and over, while you put bigger and more dangerous obstacles in the middle after every shot?” Gonzo stared at the feathery-haired monster as the creature stopped, surprised.

    “Garabba muh?” he asked.

    “Well, sure! I mean, unless you don’t want to help me out,” Gonzo agreed, waiting for a response. “What do you think? Or…or should I do the trapeze tai chi accordion swallowing instead?”

    McGurk flinched. “Magga frah! Uhhh…bah habarra muh gooba?”

    “Well, that’s where I need some objective input,” Gonzo admitted. “I can’t decide which would be cooler, a series of consecutively smaller flaming hoops, or consecutively thicker sheets of particle board! I mean, sure, flames are always killer, but I don’t think anyone has ever tried to head-butt their way through two sheets of compressed chemically-treated sawdust with asbestos sandwiched between them…I could wear the rose-studded jumpsuit and call it ‘Flowers Through the Attic’! Whaddaya think?”

    The monster gave it serious consideration. “Er…bagga fragga buh.”

    “Oh,” Gonzo said, his expression clouding. “Yeah, you’re right. OSHA regulations against asbestos…I didn’t think of that. Oh, well. Flaming hoops it is! Could you come help me apply the kerosene gel to them?”

    The whatever appeared so happily earnest McGurk didn’t have the heart to refuse. “Bahabba,” he agreed, following as Gonzo bounced along oblivious to the stench of the nearby open sewer line. Suddenly a large, sinuous nose with bedraggled whiskers interrupted Gonzo’s progress. “Bahg!” McGurk exclaimed, then did his best to look inoffensive as the doglizard threw him a nasty glare.

    “Where do you think you are going, you sssssimpletonssss?” hissed the boss’ assistant.

    “Oh. Uh, hi,” Gonzo said agreeably. He indicated the uncomfortable monster behind him. “Rosie and I were about to go prep my act for tonight. Do you work here?”

    “Why are you out of your sssscell?”

    “I’m out of a lot of things, but I understand you guys have a strict operating budget,” Gonzo replied. “Oh! Hey, do you think I could maybe at least get a fresh towel? Something ate mine this morning in the shower.”

    Eustace blinked in surprise at the prisoner’s glibness. “You are ssssupposssed to remain in your ssscell until the sssshow is underway! Our…guesssstsss…are not permitted to roam the ssstudiosss. Did you not ussse the sssuperglue as hisss abominablenessss inssstructed?” he demanded of McGurk.

    The pinkish creature turned red, shrugging. “Frah rabba guh!”

    Eustace shuddered. “He ate his way out?” Incredulous, he gave Gonzo a look from blue frizzy head to Buster-Brown-clad feet. Summoning his inner monster, the doglizard snarled at Gonzo, “No more essscaping! Ssstay in your room!”

    Annoyed, Gonzo argued, “Then how am I supposed to set up my props ahead of time? Good art takes preparation!”

    “Er,” Eustace gulped, unsure what to do. All the game show prisoners were normally confined to ‘F’ block in the rough-hewn cages between the studio sets; if this had been any other doomed soul, Eustace would not have hesitated to order his immediate availability for the barbeque pit. However, the boss had specifically singled this bizarre being out for special treatment, and Eustace dared not upset his master. “Ahh…sssso be it. But confine your preparationsss to your sssscell corridor!” He glared at the uneasily squirming McGurk. “Do not make me inform hisss sssliminesss that thisss contessstant requiresss another guardian!”

    “Gabba,” the monster murmured, downcast.

    The doglizard snorted, whopping his long tail once against the rocky floor. When he’d stormed off in another direction, McGurk muttered something insulting about scaled canines under his breath. “Geez,” Gonzo said. “There goes a guy who looks like he could use a game of ‘fetch.’”

    McGurk snorted a laugh. The two picked up their feet once more, heading for the pile of props Gonzo had amassed outside his tiny cell. “Thanks for helping me. I’ll be sure to announce you tonight,” he offered, but the monster hurriedly waved his hands No.

    “Agabba booga muh,” he demurred, and Gonzo shrugged.

    “Eh, it’s cool. Hey, we should add some stuff to make all the hoops burn different colors! And remember, start with the five-foot-diameter one and work down to the six-inch one, okay?”

    “Sah ibba?”

    “Well, I have to tuck in my nose, but yeah, it fits.” Gonzo smiled at his new friend. “Gee, I’m really glad you work here! I don’t mean to complain, but honestly, I get the impression there are people around here actually betting against me,” he confided.

    “Rabba?” McGurk did his best to look surprised. He felt a little sorry for Gonzo…and now he absolutely wasn’t going to tell the optimistic daredevil just how much monster money had been thrown down in the betting pool; the house odds favored Gonzo dying by fire. McGurk didn’t think so; he’d put in his twenty clawllars for the “death by consumption” category.

    Quietly he sat down and helped apply flammable gel to the stack of braided airline-cable hoops, and listened to Gonzo chatter on about his plans once he’d won the contest. He refrained from telling Gonzo that the grand prize was to be allowed to witness the Opening of the Ineffable Dark Scary Portal which the boss had announced as the beginning of the end, midnight on Halloween.

    --------------------------
    Phil Van Neuter was not a happy camper.

    To start with, Mulch had ignored his order to file the insect wing samples by variable ugliness instead of alphabetically before he left for his holiday, and it took three hours just to locate that specimen of loquatia creepia the experimental vet needed in order to splice in the missing sequence of the Muppet protoduck genome he’d been trying to replicate inside a modern egg for, oh, two weeks now? How could he possibly grow an insectoid talking duck from scratch without the proper materials? And then his protein-and-vitamin algae drink had been somehow switched with Folger’s crystals, which he detested, and he was fairly sure that idiot Thatch was to blame, although he hadn’t yet seen the purple monster this morning, so he had no one to yell at. And now someone wouldn’t stop ringing the bell!

    “Just how am I supposed to concentrate with all this ridiculous nonsense going on?” Van Neuter complained loudly to no one, tromping up the stone steps from the basement lab to the dusty, unheated lobby of the decrepit hotel. His mood, though, swiftly changed when he saw who was on the doorstep. “Oh! Bunnie! Come in, come in!”

    Honeydew stepped inside, carefully avoiding the rotting doorframe which looked ready to crumble at the least touch. “Good morning, Phil! What a gloomy day it is out there.”

    “I wouldn’t know, I never see the sun,” Van Neuter returned, barely glancing out at the steady rain turning the street even grayer than it had been. He gave a curious look to Bunsen’s carrot-haired assistant, whose hands were bandaged and whose mouth was covered by a blue scarf, but then Bunsen was explaining the reason for their dropping in.

    “I know you’re almost always busy, but I need to request a teensy, weensy little favor,” Bunsen said, and produced a small jar which he handed to Van Neuter.

    “Pimientos? No thank you,” Van Neuter said, puzzled.

    “I think that’s what was in it originally. However, the specimen currently contained within that jar may be from a heretofore unknown species, and we are unfortunately unable to use our genetic destabilizer to see what exactly it is,” Bunsen said.

    “Wonderful!” Van Neuter exclaimed, his spirits revived. He beckoned them behind the shoddily-shored-up main staircase, to the stairs leading down to the basement and beyond. “Come on down, and let’s see what you have! A mysterious organic glop – how exciting!”

    “Oh, thank you!” Bunsen beamed. “I just knew you’d be interested!” He turned his gaze to the slime on the walls as they descended. “So, what have you been up to lately?”

    Beaker shivered, his head swiveling to view the sides and roof and steps of the narrow, cold passageway until they made a sudden turn into a large, cluttered room which had originally been the cellar of the hotel. The stairway, he noticed, continued down; he wasn’t sure he wanted to know where it went. Nervously he flexed his still-glomped-together fingers inside the bandages he’d had to clumsily wind around them, after Honeydew had grudgingly squirted some oven cleaner on them to unstick them from everything else. Beaker was on the lookout for giant spiders, but nothing more outré than glowing fungus met his wary gaze inside the makeshift laboratory. “Oh, well, it’s been mostly redecorating; so nice to have a free space to work in!” Van Neuter said, waving his hands this way and that at the steel shelves of jarred pickled specimens, the dusty stacks of crates, and the faded orange-and-black crepe streamers draped from corner to corner overhead. Beaker looked in surprise at those, but his colleague beamed brightly.

    “I noticed! How very festive. Er…not to rush a favor, but do you think you might have time to analyze that sample today? I did rather rashly promise someone I’d have the results tonight,” Bunsen said apologetically, but Van Neuter seemed giddy.

    “Oh, not to worry, not to worry! You’ve come to the right questionably licensed vet! Heh heh, my little joke…So! Let’s just open this up and see what we have…oooh…it’s really slimy, isn’t it? How interesting!” Van Neuter played with the furry, slippery glob a bit, sliding it down his fingers like a trick ball. “Oh, and it really stinks, too! Well, this is certainly a delightful find, Bunnie! Do you want to play with it first?”

    “Ah, no thank you,” Bunsen replied, taken aback. “Is it…enough of a sample to perform tests on?” The glob seemed to be shrinking as he spoke, shedding bits of fur and slime the longer Van Neuter toyed with it.

    “Oh, of course, silly me! I get so carried away with a new specimen! Here we go.” The vet dumped the sample into a Petri dish, clamped a lid on it, and dropped the whole thing into a contraption which best resembled a copy machine mating with a sewing serger. He tapped a few buttons, waited, then gave the thing an impatient whack on the side. With a feeble gurbling beep, it started up. Van Neuter smiled broadly at the scientists. “I just had this thing serviced last week. It had better be able to perform broad-spectrum mitochondrial photosynthetic globule splitting!”

    “Remarkable,” Bunsen remarked, studying the machine thoughtfully. “You know, Beakie, we really ought to build something like this! Does it replicate recombinant malformations?”

    “Oh yes! And it reticulates every single spline!” Van Neuter bragged.

    Beaker shook his head. He didn’t think genetic spline reticulation sounded like a good idea, particularly when one didn’t know the origin of the genetic sample. As if to confirm his concern, the machine wheezed, chugged, and went into a frenzied shaking.

    “Now you just stop that!” Van Neuter exclaimed, kicking the thing’s side. It groaned, shuddering and emitting a high whine; the vet kicked it again and again, cursing: “You quit that this instant, you double-cored, chromosomal-partitioning, ungrateful beast! You spit that back out right now or it’s no more chewy gerbil offal for you!”

    “Meep!” Beaker gulped, eyes wide.

    “Perhaps if you set the knob to ‘unknown and possibly monstrous donor’?” Bunsen suggested, pointing out the settings scrawled in magic marker next to a washing-machine-style selector.

    Van Neuter paused, embarrassed, then chuckled. “Goodness, what was I thinking? That’s left over from my dinner last night!” He quickly switched the knob from “extinct larval rhinospider” to the correct setting, and the machine settled down and began humming quietly while it processed the sample. After a second it dinged, and a door at one end swung open, coughing out the purple fur, now smoking and somewhat more crumbly. “Well, hope you didn’t need that for anything else! Let’s see what it says,” Van Neuter said cheerfully, adjusting his goggles (bifocals were so tricky) to read the printout the machine reluctantly spat out in dot-matrix purple ink. “Well, this says it’s from a—“ Suddenly he paused, realizing the sample was indeed from a monstrous wooly caterpillar species…one which only thrived beneath the streets of New York. Which meant, more than likely, it belonged to… “Hmm,” he said, stalling, feeling nervous. “Well. Um. Where did you say you found this?”

    “Meep meep meepie,” Beaker explained.

    “Well, no, technically, the Newsman said it was from the Con Ed tunnels,” Bunsen corrected him. “I believe the sewers actually run farther down.”

    “Um,” Van Neuter said.

    “What does it say? Are we indeed dealing with a new species?” Bunsen asked.

    “Well, no, I wouldn’t say new,” Van Neuter hedged.

    “Don’t keep me in suspense, Phil! What exactly do we have?”

    “Ahhh…nothing all that exciting I’m afraid! No, no, just a wee little bug, that’s right, just a caterpillar. Sorry!” Van Neuter chirped. “Now, Bunnie, I really am sorry, but I have so much to do today, so many genomes to splice into fruit, heh heh, you know the old saying! But it really has been lovely to see you again drop back in soon and we’ll have lunch bye bye now!” The vet nearly ran from the room through a narrow doorway; from the dark beyond, the Muppet scientists heard clanging, banging, head-hitting sounds. “Danged broken light bulb!” Van Neuter exclaimed. The slam of another door sounded, and then the two Muppets stood alone in the lab. Beaker looked at Bunsen. Bunsen looked bewildered.

    “Er…so…not a monster, then?” he called out, but no reply came. Shrugging, Bunsen turned to go. “Oh, well. I did warn the Newsman that the evidence might not support his theory…”

    “Meep mee meepmeep!” Beaker protested, gesturing at the worn-through sample slowly disintegrating on the floor.

    Bunsen gingerly picked it up, but it fell apart in his hand, poofing into a shower of purplish dust. “Regrettably, it would seem we’re out of material, Beakie…and at any rate, I’m sure Dr Van Neuter knows genetics and rare species better than any Muppet alive. If he says it’s only a bug, well then, a Lepidoptera it must be.” Bunsen sighed. “It was nice of him to take time out of his day to help, though.”

    Beaker followed his friend uncertainly back up the stairs. He wasn’t sure anything about this had been helpful, but he was glad to get out of the building, even though that meant walking back out in the rain, which seemed even heavier than when they’d gone into the condemned hotel. “Mee meep mee mee mee?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at the creepy old edifice with its crumbling brickwork.

    “Oh, not to fret, Beaker! We’ll be back here again soon! After all, we still have to do a test run of the fear-o-sensor system before Halloween night! You’ll get to put the whole system through its paces!” Bunsen responded, as always trying to see the bright side of things.

    Beaker started; he’d forgotten all about that! Another look back at the hotel before they turned the sharp angle in the street gave him more cause to worry; he could’ve sworn he saw something purple with three eyes and green hair staring at him from a third-floor window! “Meeeep! Mee mee meep mee mee—“

    “Yes, yes, yes, don’t worry, you’ll get to explore the third floor and the basement!” Bunsen assured him. “Now come along, Beakie! Let’s see if we can find a decent cup of mochaccino around here! If you’ll buy, I’ll pick up the tab for dinner tonight.”

    Repeated gestures and hesitations didn’t make Bunsen turn around; the bald scientist was more intent on finding a coffeeshop out of the chilling rain. Sighing, Beaker trudged after him, thoughts of purple caterpillars, purple third-floor monsters, and giant spiders swirling unhappily through his brain, so much so that he almost didn’t see the delivery truck in time. With a shriek, Beaker leapt back onto the curb, and the truck honked angrily as it zoomed past, soaking Beaker completely as it barreled through the deep water of the street. Carrot-orange hair plastered to his head, Beaker grumbled and hurried to catch up to Honeydew.

    He never saw the googly-eyed pink thing and its blue twin, peering at him from a burbling drainage opening at the curb. “Mup-pets,” the pink thing murmured. “Yip. Soon.”

    “Soon. Soon. Float soon. Yip yip yip.”

    “Yip yip yip yip yip. All float down here. Uh-huh,” they agreed in chorus, and vanished.
    -----------------------------
  17. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Now there's what I've been waiting for... An update to this vonderful story.
    *Wishes the bit with Kermit and Scooter mentioning Vermont was an actual MUP3 soundbyte.
    *Hands Kris a macadamia 6 cookie.

    Gotta run, be back later.
  18. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    You do a Vundermous Bunsen and Honeydew! I always love to see what you do with them. And thank you for making the fact that Van Neuter creeps me out entirely reasonable. What an icky, er, man.

    Poor little Newsie--all clogged up and no place to read his report yet! I adore that Gina knows to hire a sitter, although I wish somebody believed him. You'd think that with all the supernatural stuff going on in their lives that Gina would be more inclined to take him at his word, although we all remember that classic moralistic tale, "The Newsman Who Cries Monster"....

    Gonzo is very convincing as the clueless contestant, but I'll still feel better when he's safely up top and in Camilla's feathery embrace.

    And why do we love to torture poor Kermit on the road. I'm glad it's Scooter's turn to be cheerful because Kermit is clearly not up to it! Bring the boys back home safe, too--okay?

    Thank you, thank you! Post more!
  19. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ---------------------
    :insatiable: COOOOKIIIEEEE! AHHHM nomno0mnomnomnomnom!

    :news: Dang it...he always gets those before I do...thanks anyway Count!

    More soon. Story in head...must...type...faster...
    ----------------------
  20. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Seventeen

    Eustace slipped into the dark control room, afraid to disturb his master, but feeling as though this phone call might be important enough to warrant the interruption…he hoped so, at least. He deeply hoped so. “A-ahem…your…your unutterable ssshadowinesss…”

    The merest shift in the darkness couched in darkness, a shadow in a massive black chair, told Eustace he had the boss’ attention. Gulping, he choked out: “T-the hosssspital isss calling about that Muppet woman, my lord detessstable…”

    “Oh?” The voice betrayed not the slightest emotion. Eustace hated that; it was nearly impossible to tell when or whether the boss was pleased with anything. Easy to tell when he was unhappy, however, so perhaps neutral was good. With the merest tap of a gloved finger on his Gruetooth headset, the boss took the call, turning his voice lighter, slightly less ominous. “Hello?... Yes, this is Mr Crimp. Is she…ah. I see. Yes…yes, it’s awful. Does she. I see… How long? Two weeks. Well…perhaps that’s for the best. Thank you. It’s good to know Auntie’s as comfortable as possible right now. Yes. Please keep me informed.” The boss hung up, sitting silent for a long while; Eustace did his best to keep his tail still. Finally the shadow spoke to him, firmly and calmly: “Fetch me the Martians.”

    “Er…of course, ssssire. At onssse,” Eustace agreed, backing out of the room. Good grief, how was he supposed to do that? Those raggy things just appeared and disappeared whenever they felt like it! And now he had been ordered to fetch them! What under earth was he going—

    “Flun-ky,” the blue thing said right in his ear.

    “Gaaah!” Eustace cried, cringing.

    “Flun-ky jump. Jump. Yip yip. Jump,” the pink thing said; it sounded decidedly smug to the doglizard.

    “Come in here, boys. I have a job for you,” the low voice simply spoke from the control room over the intercom, and Eustace shivered. The fact that he never raised his voice only made the boss more creepy, in the flunky’s opinion. He opened the door for the bizarrely jerking string-tentacled things, but ignoring him, they stared confusedly at one another a second before the pink thing pulled the classified ads section from thin air; it appeared to be from today’s Times. They huddled together to scan the listings.

    “Jooooob. Job. Jobjobjobjob.”

    “Yip yip yip.” The blue thing pointed out a listing with a tiny claw. “Doooog-wal-ker. Job. Jooob. Yip yip yip yip.”

    “Nope,” the pink one disagreed. “Nooopenopenopenope.”

    “Mm.” A short pause. “Dish-wash-er?”

    “Hmmmmmm.”

    “Nope,” they chorused, shaking their entire bodies in the negative. “Nooope nopenopenopenope.”

    “Is there some delay, Eustace?”

    “N-no, ssssire! Ah, the, the Martians ssseem to not quite undersssstand what issss required…” The doglizard wished he could sweat; that might actually be preferable to the extreme chill now coursing from his tiny little heart to the rest of him.

    “Job in here, boys. In here.”

    The furry jellyfish creatures both popped their bobbly eyes up at the sound of the imperious voice, looked at one another, shrugged, tore the paper in half and chewed it up before levitating through the door and into the control room. The door slammed behind them. Shaken, Eustace sank to his bench, worried about his responsibilities; the new reality show resumed tonight, and that nearsighted director was a cause for extreme concern. Why, just last week, they’d had to replace no less than two goblins and three Frackles due to missed flamethrower dampeners, collapsing cameras, misplaced light trusses… Eustace rubbed the scaly plates over his eyeballs, desperate to end the migraine before it started tonight, as it surely would. Suddenly he realized the intercom was still activated. He opened his mouth to inform the boss, then froze at what he heard whispered in the next room.

    “I allowed you two some leniency when the old bat tripped and put herself in the emergency room, but I am far from satisfied at the results. I am informed she still lives, and is now breathing through tubes. The provisions she made for such an event require her to stay on the machine for at least two weeks.”

    “Eth-el ma-chine?”

    “Yes. The machine is all that’s keeping her alive at present. I wish this…ended. Did I not instruct you two to complete this some time ago?”

    Eustace cringed, flattening his spine against the cold rock wall behind his sleeping bench. Those things had failed the master? Surely the master’s displeasure would fall only on them, and not on his flunky? After all, Eustace hadn’t failed to murder a little old lady in her hospital room! The nature of the task sinking in as he listened, Eustace did something very dangerous: he wondered why the boss wanted an old Muppet lady dead…

    “Mm. End-ed. Yip yip.”

    “The. End. Yip.”

    “Yip yip yipyipyipyipyip uh-huh.”

    The slightest touch of impatience crept into the boss’ voice. “You must finish her off! Do you not comprehend me?”

    “The fin-ish?”

    “Fin-nish. Yip yip yip.”

    “Take off that ridiculous helmet and pay attention!”

    Eustace gulped, wishing he could simply vanish like those weird monsters seemed to be able to do at will. The boss in a bad mood was not pleasant to be around…and he would be doubly unpleasant when something else went wrong on that stupid show tonight, as it undoubtedly would; he seemed to have a lot wrapped up in that particular project, for some reason…

    “Not Fin-nish,” one of the creatures corrected the other. “Noooorse. Norse. Yip yip yip.”

    “Will you stop that!” Something thumped loudly, and Eustace stifled a groan. He turned chill blue at the next, very quiet words over the intercom: “Eustace, surely you have many things to see to before this evening.”

    “Absssolutely, my lord!” the doglizard yelped, and fled, bearing the pain with a grunt when one of his whiskers caught on the rough doorway to the corridor and plinked loose. Anything, any pain, was preferable to risking the master’s ire right now! As he scrambled up from the lowest level, not even considering what he should address first on his list of tasks, things to oversee for his slimy liege, he fervently hoped those two foolish monsters would see the dark and just do whatever it was the master wanted. Whatever it took, whatever the cost, just so Eustace wouldn’t receive the brunt of the master’s fury if someone dared refuse an order…

    ----------------------------
    Gina and Scott followed the coin in the air intently, both of them protesting when a rat swung by on a tiny vine and snatched it before it hit the floorboards. “Hey!”

    “Since when is Tarzan a thief?” Scott wondered.

    Rizzo chortled, waving the coin from his landing atop the landing. “I ain’t Tarzan, I’m…uh…Ratten Hood! I steal from da rich and give to…me!” Cackling, he scurried off with his shiny new dime.

    Scott grinned at Gina. “Got another coin to flip?”

    “Forget it,” she grumbled. “I’ll do the tie-in, you whack the board.”

    “Hey battah battah,” Scott rumbled, picking up the hunk of two-by-four they’d designated official crispy-critter-preventer for this somewhat dangerous job. “You sure about this?”

    “Might as well. I don’t think I’m strong enough to whack you if you start frying,” Gina sighed, and they walked together to the junction box powering most of the theatre. Hooking the new board to the dimmers would be next, but far less risky than actually wiring the circuit for the control board directly into the main power supply. Both techies had witnessed what could happen if the process was done improperly, or the power wasn’t completely turned off…

    Clifford saw them opening the breaker box, and yelled loud enough everyone backstage would hear: “Heads up y’all! Gonna be dark in here! Power going off!”

    Gina nodded thanks at him, and pulled on her insulated gloves. Scott switched on the bright battery-powered lantern and held it up over her shoulder. Activity backstage quieted to a hush for once; no one knew quite what the result of this electrical attempt would be. Gina took a deep breath, stilled her nerves, and yanked down the main breaker. The sound reminded her of an enormous engine suddenly cut off; odd silence sifted through the old theatre from the wooden grid high overhead down into the basement. Please please please don’t fry me, Gina begged the wire in her hand; she hastily switched off all the subbreakers just to be certain as possible that no current still flowed anywhere in the system. Scott lifted the two-by-four, watching closely. Gina cautiously found the main line in the breaker box and touched her wire stripper to it.

    Nothing happened. Breathing a little easier, she quickly stripped the ground, white and black wires on one side of the enormous jumble of them and twined in the respective loose ends from the cord to the new control board, finishing off by capping and insulating the new connections securely through the new breaker switch now dedicated to it. When she nodded at Scott, he hefted the wooden board again, setting the lantern down so he would be able to put the strength of both arms behind the swing, if needed. “Starting up!” Scott bellowed, noticing in his peripheral vision a growing number of Muppets gathering to watch. He hoped it would be anticlimactic.

    Gina flipped the main switch, and then the sub-breakers. Light and air movement returned to backstage, and to the rooms below and above the stage-floor level. Last test, she thought, and flipped up the new breaker switch, sending current to the board. The light inside the box came on green. “So far so good,” she breathed, stepping back. Scott relaxed, laying down the board. She looked up at him, feeling her heart slowing at last. “Piece o’cake,” she said.

    Scott grinned. “You should know better than to say that around here!”

    “Good point. Let’s hook up the dimmers.”

    Scott turned the new breaker back off and closed the box. “None of you touch this! Hey, uh, Sweetums?” The shaggy monster cocked his enormous head expectantly, eyebrows raising like logs in a flooding river. “Can you guard this while we work on the dimmers, and make sure no one messes with it?”

    “Aw, sure!” Sweetums growled, planting hefty feet directly in front of the box and glaring menacingly around at the entire room. “Get away from there!” he yelled at a penguin who was ambling by, startling the flightless bird into sudden – albeit short and ungraceful – flight.

    Gina hid a smile as she walked over to the racks of dimmers clustered behind the lighting board off stage left. “Will he let us mess with it now?” she wondered.

    “Hope so,” Scott replied cheerfully. “Or else their lighting cue tonight will mostly be on…off.”

    Gina giggled, brushing the light sheen of nervous perspiration from her brow with the back of her glove. Scott gave her a serious look. “Does your Newsie know what you’re doing today?” he asked quietly while they began sorting the burned wiring from the still-undamaged sections among the lines leading from the dimmers.

    Gina shrugged. “I told him I was putting in some new wiring, yeah.”

    “Did you tell him we had to do a tie-in?”

    “Scott, he has no idea what that is.”

    “And of course you didn’t tell him,” Scott pointed out. “You know, I hear you complain all the time how often he puts himself in a position to get hurt with his weird news stories, and here you are chancing life as microwave popcorn.”

    “You’re exaggerating,” she argued. “I do not complain about that all the time!”

    “Often enough. Hypocricise much?”

    “It’s not the same thing! I know what I’m doing, I’ve done this before, I had you right here to knock me away from the current if anything went wrong! Meanwhile he’s obsessed with monsters in the sewers!”

    Scott paused, a handful of wire resembling toasted worms in one hand. “Cool. Guess that’s what happens when all those little kids’ parents get tired of feeding the critters and flush ‘em down the drains.” He frowned at the twisted spread of wires. “I didn’t even know copper could fuse with chickenfeed like that…”

    Gina stopped, staring glumly at the mess of ruined wiring they’d have to completely replace. “Maybe when Kermit gets back we can talk him into buying a floor-undermount fuse system…this is ridiculous.” She sighed, plopping onto the dusty floor to tackle the job, pulling one of the spools of new wire over. “The worst part is, he might be right.”

    Scott quirked a puzzled brow. “Uh…right about the theatre not having the money, or right about the rats stealing it all and selling it for scrap if it’s not nailed down?”

    “Not Kermit – Newsie. I went with him down in the tunnels yesterday…and he found something. We don’t know what yet, but something weird. I’m starting to think this city might be stranger than I already knew it was.”

    Scott glanced across the stage, where a line of chickens in pink poodle skirts cawped threateningly at a huddle of penguins sporting slicked-back hairdos and black leather jackets; hard to tell whether they were all about to rumble or to rehearse. “Sure about that?” he asked.

    “Scott, I’m…I’m starting to wonder if Newsie might actually be onto something; and it makes me a little…um…” She looked over at Sweetums, still fiercely glowering at everyone within twenty feet. “You know, there really are a lot of monsters around here. I didn’t really notice before.”

    On cue, Big Mama stomped through the door leading to the tunnel beneath the stage, and fixed the two techies with a plus-sized glare. “Hey! A little warning next time? I was right in the middle of doing my claws!” She waved a circular power sander in the air, let out a loud hmph, and stomped away again.

    Scott snickered. “Right. ‘Cause they’re so quiet and easy to miss.”

    Gina didn’t smile. “Okay, look…these guys all seem like good people. But it does make me wonder whether Newsie’s theory about creepy things underground has any merit. I mean, before you came here, did you still believe in monsters?”

    Scott thought about it while he attached a new groundwire to one of the dimmers. “Huh. I guess not. I mean, it’s not like monsters make the news much, and these guys just get lumped in with the other Muppets.”

    “Right! But…what if…what if there really are evil monsters?” Gina felt cold suddenly, and drew her plush hoodie jacket tighter over her shoulders.

    “I guess if you’re willing to admit the existence of monsters at all, that has to be a possibility,” Scott said. He shrugged. “Of course, that could just be the whole Halloween season getting to you both. Especially your boyfriend. I noticed he’s a little jumpy lately.”

    Gina sighed. “No, he’s always jumpy. Comes from years of things falling on him at a moment’s notice.” She shivered. “Did we turn the heat off or something? Brrr!”

    “Hola,” Pepe purred at her, popping into view beside the nearest dimmer rack. “I thought jou might like the cooling breezes on that beautiful sweaty brow! Heh heh heh.” He showed off an ornate Japanese fan before resuming waving it at her.

    Grumbling a curse under her breath, Gina simply swatted the shrimp away and tried to concentrate on the wiring job. “Dang, left my C-wrench in my toolbox,” Scott muttered, starting to unkink his long frame from his crouch, but Gina shook her head, glad for the chance to move around a little.

    “Stay put, I’ll get it. You want a coffee?”

    “Is the frog green? Heck yeah.”

    “Coming up.” Gina approached the breaker box cautiously, but Sweetums only gave her a friendly nod. She retrieved Scott’s crescent wrench from his toolbox near the monster’s massive left foot, noting uncomfortably in passing just how sturdy those ragged-clothed legs appeared, and how wide that floppy mouth seemed… Determined to shake off unreasonable fears, she stared up at the monster, and his bulging eyes swung down to view her directly. “Hey, um, Sweetums?”

    “Yeah?” This close, she could smell his breath: onions, tuna, and something oddly spicy.

    “Can I ask you something?”

    “Sure!” The monster seemed the essence of good cheer, but Gina still gave careful thought to the phrasing of her question.

    “Um…I’ve heard some pretty wild rumors about monsters living in the tunnels under the city. Do you know anything about that?” She realized she was holding her breath, and consciously took another.

    Sweetums blinked his huge yellowy eyes. “Why, sure! My cousin Morty is the Central Park Troll! He works under the bridge, a’course, but when it’s cold he usually sleeps in the old aqueduct tunnel in the park!”

    “Oh…okay,” Gina said, trying to process past the idea of a bridge troll in Central Park. “Uh…I was actually more concerned about anything you might’ve heard about monsters down in the sewers, or the power cable tunnels. Or the subways,” she added, and the monster’s eyes widened.

    “Uh…yeah! I have heard stuff like that. Ya know, you never can tell whether what they print in the tabloids is true, but yeah…supposedly there’s a gang of Pesties that took over the whole four-five-six line, and they’re based in the Bronx…haw haw haw, but you never know about that stuff!” He sobered a bit. “But you already know about the portals to Grouchland in the sewers, right? I mean, everyone has to keep an eye out for those when you’re down there! Morty wasn’t lookin’ where he was goin’ once, and next thing he knows, a buncha Grouches are yellin’ at him ta get off their dump! Haw haw haw!”

    “So…so you haven’t seen any giant monster bugs down there?” Gina asked, thinking of Newsie’s claim that whatever he saw moved like a caterpillar.

    Sweetums looked startled. “Gosh, I never go down there! It’s…it’s…” The shuffling, shaggy beast seemed very hesitant to speak. He leaned close, and Gina braced her feet, closing her eyes as that pungent breath wafted across her face. “It’s kinda dark and scary!”

    Gina leaned back, staring in surprise at the troll. “Uh…yeah,” she said, at a loss for a coherent reply.

    Sweetums shook his head, glancing worriedly around the backstage area, but no one seemed to be paying attention to their conversation. “You don’t wanna go down there, trust me! It’ll mess up your fur for sure!” he claimed, apparently in complete seriousness.

    Gina started to grin, then bit it back, not wishing to hurt the monster’s feelings. “Gotcha. Thanks.” She took a couple of steps away, remembering she was supposed to grab some coffee for herself and Scott, then turned back to ask, “What exactly are Pesties like?”

    The monster blinked, then frowned, thinking it over. “Uhhhh…well, they’re huge, and bloodthirsty, and they wear stripey socks to cover their tracks on dark and stormy nights!” He shrugged. “Least that’s what they say.”

    “Oh,” Gina said. “And…and they’re in the subways?”

    “Maybe.” Sweetums waggled a giant finger at her. “Remember, the tabloid said they were in the four-five-six line, but ya can’t believe everything ya read!” As Gina nodded agreement, the monster added, “They might be in all the lines! Well…’cept maybe the number seven train; I mean, who wants to go to Flushing? Haw haw!”

    “Right,” Gina agreed weakly. “Thanks, Sweetums.”

    “Sure, anytime!” the affable troll said, and abruptly reached down to swat away a chicken who’d strayed too close to the breaker box. “Hey! No touching!”

    “Bawwwk!” the chicken protested, quickly smoothing down her ruffled feathers. “Buk bu-kawk buh-bawk!” Having tossed that insult over her shoulder, she strutted off.

    “I do?” Sweetums wondered, startled. He huffed into a paw, sniffing his breath. “Uh…sorry ‘bout that…” Surreptitiously he pulled a giant piece of peppermint gum from a pocket and chewed it. No one was gonna accuse him of having po’boy breath in this classy joint!

    More ill at ease than she’d been at the start of the conversation, Gina hurried down to the canteen, hoping the Chef hadn’t touched the little Keurig machine she’d brought over to supply coffee which didn’t taste like fresh-caught salmon. It sounded unhappily as though her dear Muppet was more right about an underground menace than even he suspected.

    ----------------------------
    That particular Muppet, by six o’clock that evening, was bored out of his foam. There was nothing worse, Newsie reflected miserably, than not being sick enough to sleep it off under a warm blankie, but being still too sick to go to his job. Rhonda had departed an hour ago after extracting a promise from him that he wouldn’t attempt to leave the apartment, at least until Gina came home. He’d alternated moping in the bedroom with moping in the living room, with occasional side trips to mope in the bathroom or stare mopily at the food in the ‘fridge. Nothing sounded good to his taste buds, so he dutifully fixed himself another mug of the herbal tea mix Gina had left for him, stirred in a candied spoon of thick clover honey, and planted himself on the living room sofa to catch the news program which he, in a just universe, would be anchoring right now. Glumly sucking the honey-spoon, he sighed and stared at the opening credits and Harve Bergeron’s super-shiny smile. Hmph. At least I don’t have to do a comb-over, Newsie thought, then chided himself for being critical of the new anchorman. Don’t be all sour grapes! Harve’s been around almost as long as you have…and he’s tall…and the boss likes him…never mind. Scowling, the Newsman watched the journalist who’d been picked to greet the viewers from the big desk every weeknight launch into the day’s top stories.

    Newsie sipped his tea, trying to focus solely on the stories themselves; he prided himself on being current. However, he couldn’t help a satisfied snort when Bergeron flubbed the intro to a piece on Syria, and when the feed returned from a commercial break to show the anchor chatting up the weathergirl, who seemed distinctly displeased by the attention, Newsie shook his head and frowned. Unprofessional! Everyone at KRAK knew the weathergirl was only interested in working-class snails; she had a thing for smooth shells, the station gossip went. Yet here was Bergeron hitting her up, and on-camera, no less! Good grief! You’d never catch me looking like such a buffoon, Newsie thought, at first pleased with himself. Then a painful sneeze reminded him of his own not-the-anchor-and-not-even-at-work status, and he scowled deeply. Fastening another Wheeze-rite Strip onto his nose, bringing the total to six going from the bridge of his nose to about the halfway point along it, he took as deep a breath as he could, and sighed. This was horrible. There wouldn’t even be a Muppet News segment tonight.

    Confirming his thoughts, Bergeron smiled at the camera and said, “The Newsman is off tonight, so instead of Muppet News we’re introducing a new segment: Scene in New York! That’s s-c-e-n-e,” Bergeron added, unnecessarily since the title graphic spelled it out. “For our first installment, I paid a visit this week to one of the heritage landmark museums open in Times Square: the Stringy Corset Galleria!”

    The WHAT? Newsie wondered, startled. Unfortunately, the “museum” proved to be part dimly-lit exhibits of Victorian corsets on modern mannequins, part alternative lingerie shop. In a taped sequence, Harve leaned over a counter full of stacks of sequined and feathered underthings to chat with a bored-looking woman in fishnets and glossy black vinyl. “So, how many people actually buy bras made out of used Nantucket crab traps?” Harve asked cheerily.

    The woman, presumably the store proprietor or museum curator, answered in a single-breath monotone: “Lots of women who want to really make a splash at the clubs. Look, mac, are you gonna buy anything or what?”

    Newsie shook his head, eyes wide. This? This was what Blanke had okayed to sub in for his Muppet News report? Oh dear sainted Murrow – I need to get well right NOW! He remained glued to the sofa, taking in the awful “report” like a three-train pileup, until Harve, smirking, turned back to the camera in the news studio.

    “Each week, I’ll take you to one of the many, many fascinating places that make this city the greatest place to live on earth! Coming up…can the Jets pull it together? Next, on Big Apple News.” The Newsman slumped, dismayed. They’re making that smarmy excuse for Harve to visit questionable establishments a regular segment? Does that mean Blanke is cutting Muppet News? No! Fearfully he fidgeted with the blanket wrapped around his body. No! They can’t! I have a contract! Even now, Rhonda was surely working on the final details of their presentation about the cracks in the ConEd tunnel. That fur! I have to get the analysis back on that stuff! Then I can actually tell everyone about the monsters, warn them, get the city to DO something!

    Nodding fervently to himself, he sank back into the generous sofa cushions, lost in thought, ignoring the sports segment, looking up only long enough to register the forecast for tomorrow was for partly cloudy skies and a slightly warmer day. Hopefully Gina would allow him out, with the rain past. Deciding he was tired of waiting, Newsie roused himself and hunted down the phone, dialed the Muppet Theatre, and punched in the extension number for the Lab before Pops could finish saying hello. He drummed impatient yellow fingers on the sofa arm until Beaker answered: “Meepo?”

    “Uh…Beaker! This is the Newsman. Did you guys get around to—“

    “Meep! Meep mee meep meep meep mee!”

    “What?” Newsie frowned at the phone; he heard Beaker’s frustrated sigh.

    “Meep, mee meep meep meep, mee,” Beaker explained slowly.

    “I have no idea what you’re saying!” Newsie barked, desperately needing the results of that monster sample test. He had to get that to the studio as soon as possible! Even now, even tonight, out in that chilly drizzle, more people might vanish! He had to stop that, had to warn the public, this was his duty and his –

    “Beaker, if you’re ordering olives on that, please tell them only green ones; I detest black olives on pizza!” Honeydew’s voice sounded in the background. Newsie heard a muffled exchange, with Beaker meeping, and Honeydew saying, “The Newsman? Oh dear, I’d almost forgotten about him! Here, let me have that. You go pick up our pizza… What do you mean you didn’t order it yet? Honestly, Beakie, then call them and get our regular pepperoni-and-sardine deep-dish…” After more meeping, the phone clattered, and finally Honeydew came on the line: “Er, hello, Newsman?”

    “Dr Honeydew! I need the results of that test!” Newsie said.

    “Oh! Oh, yes, of course, I’m so sorry…”

    “I understand you’re busy,” Newsie said, reining in his impatience. “I really do appreciate your running the analysis for me. Is there any chance you can have it sent here, or –“

    “No, I mean, I’m sorry: your sample was not from a monster.”

    Newsie sat back, shocked. “What? B-but…I saw it! It looked like a caterpillar, with purple fur, and slimy legs, and…and nasty big teeth!” He swallowed, recalling just how close to chomping his beloved those teeth had come.

    “Well, er, perhaps a trick of the light made it seem larger than it actually was. You see, your sample came back as a simple wooly caterpillar. Not uncommon this time of year, what with the cooler fall we’ve had recently.”

    “No!” Newsie insisted, “That was no normal insect, Dr Honeydew! It was…it was huge! It was monstrous! Caterpillars, even wooly ones, do not commonly have four-inch fangs!”

    “I’m sorry, Newsman. I wish I could be more helpful,” Honeydew said, sounding genuinely regretful.

    Newsie took a deep breath, swallowed down his anger, and forced himself to speak calmly. “I…I see. Well. Thank you for…for checking it.”

    “Of course! Anytime. Will you, er…will you be back at work tomorrow? Fozzie is currently in the hallway outside wailing because he heard the news wire go off, and it’s almost time for curtain…”

    “Why would the news wire scare Fozzie?”

    “Oh, he’s filling in for you. He seems to think something is going to fall on him…tsst, tsst, tsst! Well, I hope you feel better soon, Newsman. Take care. Beaker! Beaker, what have I told you about teasing the Plutonian Flytrap? We’ll need that plant for the haunted charity walk setup!” Frantic meeping, a scuffle of feet, and a loud crash followed before the line went dead. Unhappily, Newsie hung up.

    How could that slimy little fur sample not be from the monster Newsie had chased into the depths of the tunnels? Drawing the blanket around his shoulders, the Newsman hopped off the couch and paced restlessly, worried. What now? Those things are still down there, but without proof, who’ll believe me? Blanke would cut my budget permanently…Rhonda would make fun of me…the other Muppets would think I was being monsterist…then again, can I absolutely trust the monsters who work at the theatre? What if some of them are spies? Good grief, what if there are tunnels right under the theatre? He groaned, slapping a hand to his forehead. He’d never even thought of that! And Gina was over there right now, helping to restore power to the lighting system! Oh frog! I have to get down there tomorrow, have to check the basement, have to block off any possible entrance from below! Maybe, he thought, he could enlist the rats’ help with that. He’d seen more than a few new whiskers around the past few days; his brain hadn’t even made the connection between that and the rats who’d been protesting in the street until now! Didn’t a couple of those rodents seem familiar? He shook his head, annoyed; Rhonda would accuse him of being prejudiced if he ever said this, but many of the rats really did look a lot alike, so it was hard to tell for sure…

    He paced around the entire apartment, thinking, planning. He would be back at work tomorrow, both at the news station and at the theatre. No question, no arguments, no matter if he couldn’t breathe or talk or move without shivering. He had to go in.

    After some minutes of unhappy thinking, he felt exhausted. Tomorrow was going to be rough, if how he felt right now was any indication. He climbed back onto the sofa and rewrapped himself in robe and blankie, tugging up his furry orange-and-brown socks and bunny slippers for good measure. He had to heal as much as possible, as fast as possible. Feeling determined, he tried to turn his focus from internal stress to external distractions, flipping through the cable channels, reminding himself that Gina said worrying over his problems only weakened his immune system, and that he ought to find something positive to occupy his mind. Game show…game show…ugh, reality show…what the heck is THAT?

    He stopped his surfing at a bizarre spectacle: in a street set festooned with fake cobwebs and orange streamers, blazing jack-o’lanterns and leering floating ghosts of crepe and tattered cloth, people dressed as large monsters danced and sang. “It’s the most mon-, monsterful tiiiime of the year! There’ll be skeletons dancing and goblins a-prancing and pumpkin-spiced beeeer…in the most monsterful tiiiime of the year!” The strange dance, which made Newsie think of a Maypole festival, wound up and down the Halloween-themed set, with the camera zooming in on various furred, horned, scaled, clawed creatures all apparently having a wholesomely good time simply swirling about and tossing sparkly confetti or tiny spiders into the air. He shuddered, certain he’d just seen a handful of what he’d taken for plastic spiders actually crawl off the set. What the hey IS this? He dragged up the cable guide, which proved unhelpful; it listed the program as “Halloween Celebration: holiday variety show feat. dance numbers.” Right. And Marvin Suggs is PETA-approved, he thought with a snort. Unfortunately, this brought on another coughing fit. As he buried his sore nose in the fragrant steam of his tea-mug, he heard the channel’s announcer outlining the night’s lineup: “You’re been watching the Halloween Spectacular here on MMN! Later tonight, catch the Muppaphones on Carl! Up next: the most amazing stunt contest reality show ever televised – it’s Break a Leg! Right here, on MMN!”

    “Frog no,” Newsie groaned, switching the channel over to one of the big networks’ nightly news shows to watch the last couple of segments, although seeing well-paid correspondents covering actual health, science, and arts stories didn’t improve his much-slighted mood. He looked up eagerly when the front door opened, and Gina stepped in, her arms laden with bags from a nearby grocer’s. “Hi beautiful! Can I help?” he asked, hastening to offer a hand while she gently kicked the door closed.

    Gina looked down at her ill Muppet, the contrast between his bright and hopeful eyes and the multiple plastic strips over his long nose, his uncombed hair, and layers of clothing and blanket resembling the royal robes of a questionable street monarch making her pause and try not to smile. “Hi, cutie. No, I’m fine, but thank you. Feeling any better?”

    “Absolutely,” Newsie proclaimed, then sneezed. He looked embarrassed as he tucked the tissue into a pocket. “Um. Much better!”

    Sighing, Gina carried the makings she’d bought for grilled Monte Cristos and fresh veggie soup into the kitchen. Newsie followed her, doing his best to appear cheerful and all ready to launch himself back into his work. Gina didn’t buy it for a second, but after what she’d heard today… “Is it going to rain tomorrow?”

    “Uh…the forecast says no.”

    “I don’t think you’re ready to go back yet,” Gina said, but stopped his protest with an upraised hand. “However…maybe you need to anyway.”

    “Er,” Newsie said, his prepared arguments choked off. “I…I do?”

    Gina sat down at the kitchen table, indicating for Newsie to join her. When he settled on the opposite chair, she took his fuzzy hands in her own, softly stroking his fingers; Newsie waited, silent, recognizing she was trying to decide how to begin whatever she needed to say. Finally, quiet words emerged: “Aloysius…I think you should investigate the undercity more.”

    He blinked, surprised. “I should?”

    She sighed. “Against my better judgment…but you’re the only one who’s even going to touch a story this weird. And I heard something today that might be useful to you.”

    “Okay,” Newsie said, leaning closer. Struck suddenly by the fact that his love was encouraging his work despite her own misgivings, he took her hand in his and kissed it. “I love you.”

    Gina softened into a smile, and leaned over to kiss his nose. “And I you, my brave journalist.” She took a deep breath. “So, while I was at the theatre today, I had a talk with Sweetums…”

    Newsie shut his mouth for once, realizing any comment would be superfluous, and listened.
    -------------------------------


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