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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. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Woot! Newsie loses his fur sample but gets something of a lead to haunt down from Gina. *Shudders at the implication of the Martians' assignment. And it's apparent Newsie's going to miss out on the obvious clue of finding his cousin right there on the MMN screen.
    BTW: What does MMN stand for?
    You earn some ramchip points with the Most Monsterful Time of the Year parody. Although I remember the Grand Wizard's song about that from the original TV version of the Worst Witch...
    You also get ramchip points from the references to Grouchland.

    Now if you'll hexcuse me, I've got some Frackles to attempt to catalog. :scary:
  2. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I was interested in the doglizard’s interaction with his, um, owner? (Why does that word have an ominous ring to it here?) How do these nasties keep finding folks to work for them when they are so awful to their underlings. (Not to mention their underthings—yeesh!) But I just loved the silliness and crazy-making of the yip-yips. Dealing with the rampantly illogical (remember—I spend a lot of time in middle schools) can make even the nice and normal want to head-bang.

    The stuff at the theater was interesting. You know, I figure there’s not much left of the original theater by now—everything’s been burned, flooded, exploded or stolen at least once, so maybe it wouldn’t have been such as awful thing if Tex had gotten this theater…but I digress. I enjoyed Sweetums, er, conversation with Gina. It deosn’t surprise me at all that he has a brother whose a troll bridge. (But I’ll still bet he could take lessons from Sir Didymous!)

    “Hypocricise much?” (Heh heh—sooo gonna steal that.)

    I was a little surprised that Beaker didn’t catch on that something was wrong with Van Neuter. Hmmmm. Let me rephrase that. I’m a little surprise that Beaker didn’t catch on that there was something not quite on the up-and-up…well, this is awkward. So can I just smack Beaker and tell him to clue in so we have someone to tell Gina?!!

    I soooo like your “Oh, frog,” line, but I think Kermit would be secretly appalled. He may be a dictatorial control freak, but he doesn’t usually have delusions of grandeur—or godhead. But Piggy would probably like it!
  3. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ---------------
    Yeah, but Ohhhh Pig just doesn't have the same quality...SOME pig, on the other hand, now THAT was a catchphrase!

    What does MMN stand for?
    *whistles, finds some lint to brush off saddle shoes*

    Well, something's always a little OFF with Van Neuter. And what would be poor Beakie's frame of reference, anyway? He doesn't work with sane Muppets! :eek:

    Thanks guys! Pondering all the acts on the next installment of "Break a Leg"...
    --------------------
  4. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    You need help with those acts? Cause I do with these Frackles or kids or whatever they are, got names, but no ideas to attach to what/who they should be for Halloween. Hit me up, we'll talk, no big whoop. The number's 555-44… no wait, that's another show.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  5. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    *Rescues this fic from Page 2, bringing it back to the top. Hopes the effort will be rewarded with a new chapter. :shifty:
  6. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -------------
    Been a long week, and all my spare time has been filled with Xmas shopping for my nieces or writing Xmas cards! But this weekend I hope to write. Thanks Ed! :news:
    ----------------
  7. WhiteRabbit

    WhiteRabbit Well-Known Member

    MEEP!
    I'm sorry I haven't commented on this in a while. It's still amazing, chere. (Don't ask me why I'm using Cajun slang. :confused:) Anyway, looking forward to the next update.
    -shivers with antici............pation- <3
    The Count likes this.
  8. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Author's Note: This chapter is dedicated to the best emcee of M.C., the one, the only who apparently is able to read all fics in a single night, our own much-beloved Count -- Ed! HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    Part Eighteen (I)

    “Got the black powder?”

    “Blah,” Rosie McGurk confirmed, grunting as he dragged the smaller of the two cannons behind him to the backstage holding area of the game show set.

    “Great. Plungers?”

    “Blah.”

    “Extra hoops?”

    “Blah.”

    “Kerosene gel?”

    “Blah,” McGurk sighed, pausing for breath before heading back to get the other cannon. Gonzo paced him, scanning a checklist, though McGurk had no idea who had let the Whatever use a printer around here. Or maybe Gonzo had brought the entire checklist with him when he first auditioned, which was a somewhat disturbing idea.

    “And my lucky cornhusk doll?” Gonzo asked anxiously, looking around for the first gift Camilla had ever given him. Tiredly, McGurk held up the fragile, yellowed effigy of a chicken made from cornhusks and string. “Great! Then we’re all set! Just, uh, just put the other cannon over there. That should make it easier to pull up onstage.”

    “Ugga bluh,” McGurk agreed wearily, trudging to the second cannon and bracing his shoulder under the rope. “Urrrrrrruuuuggghh!”

    “Put your hump into it, Riff!” Gonzo chortled, in a terribly good mood. “I can’t wait for Camilla to see this! She’s just gotta vote for me tonight, right? I mean, heck, I bet everyone will, but she’s really the one whose opinion counts to me,” he confided.

    “Rabba,” McGurk sighed, straining to get the cannon in place. With a groan, he dropped the rope, realizing that actually dragging it onto the stage was going to be far worse than the trip up from Dungeon No. Sixteen; they’d borrowed the pieces from the set of the pirate-themed matchmaking show ‘ARRRR of Gold!’ So far, no one had complained about the missing ten-pounder and twelve-pounder. McGurk thought disgustedly that the nomenclature of cannon was unhappily deceptive; it was the actual cannonballs which weighed only ten or twelve pounds. The guns were a great deal weightier…and Gonzo was going to have a frackle of a time keeping his trajectory level between them, as light as he was. McGurk was more than content to leave the engineering to the daredevil tonight, and only be responsible for lighting the special chain-fuses which Gonzo had devised to feed into the black-powder pans like machine gun belts, and setting up the hoops for the Whatever to zoom through on each pass between the smoking mouths of the big guns.

    “Can’t you just smell the excitement?” Gonzo asked, breathing in deeply, his eyes wide and shining in the dim red lighting backstage.

    “That’s Virgil,” a passing monster growled, whereupon another one smacked the first one, caving in its bulging eyeballs.

    “Hey! It wasn’t me!” the attacker huffed before both of them flinched under the cane of the director.

    “Quiiiet! Quiiiet on zee set! Eet is almost ze curtain time!” Pew snarled, swinging his cane in a wide circle just over his head; a trollish creature in ragged plaid and jeans grunted in surprised pain at the whack to his bullhorned skull. “Places! All performerrrs get into zee holding area! Ah need a sound zheck!”

    The Frackle adjusting the mikes at the judges’ table nodded, turned to the smaller monster next to him, and solidly whacked its fat nose. “Whooonk!” it cried into the first mic. Angered, it backed away a step, and the Frackle promptly grabbed its nose and honked it next to the second mic. “Hoooonk!” Seething, the little blue monster retreated again, but before the Frackle could repeat the nose-grab, it swung a hairy fist and konked the Frackle’s chin. “Ughhh,” the Frackle groaned into the third mic, sinking to the floor. Pew nodded curtly.

    “Ah need all zee mikes!” he yelled, whirling around to face backstage; off stage left, Snookie Blyer yanked his lapel mic out of range of a grabbing orange monster with green, cone-shaped horns.

    “Yeah, you’ll be checking my mic when this place freezes over, buddy!” Snookie snapped at the unbalanced monster, toppling it with one shove of his hand and stepping over it as he advanced to center stage. “I’m here. Let’s get this farce underway.”

    “Oh, wow! I’ve been looking forward to this all day!” B.D. said, lumbering over to his seat at the judges’ table and plopping into it with a loud thump.

    “Mnngh! Mnnngh mnnnn!”

    B.D. started, realizing something was squirming beneath him, and half-rose to find Shakey squashed on the seat. “Hey! Get outta my chair!” B.D. growled, tossing the flattened monster like a Frisbee; Hem caught him, eyes widening.

    “Cool, delivery!” Hem muttered, immediately stuffing the third judge into his enormous black hole of a mouth.

    “It’s not delivery, it’s—“ B.D. began, but Pew’s howl drowned all else out.

    “QUIIIIEEEEET! Camera one, you weel pan zee judges! Ah want zee best reaczun zhots you can manage, you poor ehscuse for a lens zhockey! Camera le too, you ztay weeth zee host,” Pew shouted, pointing first at the audience, then at the judges’ hairy feet below the colorful bunting draping the table. “Ze camera tree, you must always keep zee stunt performair in ze sight, no mattair how dradful an awfeel his demise! And camera four, you altairnate from ze audience to ze performair! Do you pathetic marons all compre’end zis?” Pew finished by indicating with wild sweeps of his cane first Snookie (who ducked just in time), then the ceiling, then waggled in the direction of center stage. The four camerafrackles looked at their director, looked at each other, shrugged, and turned their lenses on whatever Pew had pointed at. “Raht! Stand by on all ze cameras! Let in ze audience! And everyone, zhut ze hail up!”

    “Wow, he’s grouchy today,” Gonzo observed.

    “I resent that!” grumbled Dan Rather-not as he slouched by. “He’s nowhere near mean enough to be a Grouch!”

    “I thought you’d rather not be here,” Gonzo said, grinning.

    The Grouch scowled at him. “Quit stealin’ my lines, kid! Oh, and – break a leg! Heh heh heh.” Chuckling nastily, the Grouch hurried offstage to find a seat down center, where he could boo the performers close enough for them to actually hear it.

    “Pew, you old duffer!”

    Everyone in the backstage area turned at the sound of that deep, melodious voice. A sinuous, ghastly pale dragon in a tattered tuxedo jacket approached, leading by the arm a taller man also formally dressed, but with far fewer holes in his clothing. The man had a youthful, oval face and short curly brown hair, but his eyes were obscured by stylish shades. In his free hand he gently tapped along a silver-tipped ebony cane with a dragon-head grip. “Ho ho, how delightful to find you actually gainfully employed! Long time no spook, my friend!” the dragon continued, smiling toothily, and Pew broke into a scraggly grin.

    “Why by fruity Saint Marmalade, eef it isn’t mah old roomie Daidlee!” Pew exclaimed, throwing his arms wide for a hug; Uncle Deadly gently turned him to actually face him, and the two long-snouted creatures whacked each other on the back, growled, laughed, and broke into a happy chant together accompanied by a bizarre pawshake which Pew may or may not have flubbed: “Horrendos etiam cum illis congressus!”

    “Ah, those were the days,” Uncle Deadly sighed, wiping a sentimental tear from one ghoulish eye. To his companion, the ghostly dragon explained, “Pew and I burned many a lantern of midnight oil together at Oxford!”

    “I never knew you went to Oxford, Deadly,” the well-dressed gent murmured, impressed.

    Pew chortled. “Zen he did not tell you it was ze Barsolamew Oxfaird School uff Eestrionics in Jersaiy? Hah, hah! Deed he tell you how many skirts fell for his eemprezhion uff ze Falstaff?”

    “Erm, later, Pew old man,” Deadly demurred, shoving his companion forward. “I’ve brought a guest! This is my friend Count Eh– erm – let’s just call him Countie, shall we? He’s traveled far and long, from distant lands where the papaya blooms and the native girls all roll their R’s most charmingly!”

    “Ahh,” Pew said, managing to shake the man’s hand on his fourth attempt, when Deadly finally grabbed both their hands and smacked them together. “Brazeel?”

    “San Juan, actually,” the man said, smiling.

    Pew abruptly burst into off-key song: “When ah get back to San Juan –“

    Deadly proclaimed, in an oddly dramatic baritone: “I know a boat you can get on!” The two old chums chortled loudly, and Deadly said, “Ah, what memories! We had the finest all-monster production of ‘West Side Story’ ever staged!” He turned to his guest. “I was a superb Tony, naturally!”

    “All-monster? Who played Maria?” Countie wondered.

    “Er…”

    “Wail, we were zumwhat zhort of monsters of the gentle persuasion, you see,” Pew explained. “So ah sang zat part…but enough about zat! Heh, heh, ah am certain mah old roomie has told you many sordeed tales uff how we used to raise a little heck in ze dorms and ze inzhurance rates in ze theatre!”

    “Uh…no.”

    “Ah! Too risqué! Zen he must haff told you all about ze time we played ze Barber of Zeville for tips to make our way through ze last zemester, no?”

    “Sorry, no,” Countie apologized, and added before Pew could further reminisce: “Actually, he’s never mentioned you, but it’s very nice to meet you anyw—“

    “Ho ho, such a kidder!” Deadly laughed loudly, clapping Countie on the back so hard he began coughing. “Would you terribly mind, old bean, if we stayed to watch your skillful direction of this varietal venue of vagrants? It’s his first trip to New York, and I’m showing him the sights the tourist brochures would never, ever mention.”

    “Uff course!” Pew said, straightening his hunched back a bit proudly. “Mah show is now in ze top ten of ze ratings, deed you know?”

    “Astounding, truly,” Deadly agreed, dodging back a step when Pew swung around to yell randomly:

    “You! Ah saw zat! Put zat back whair you found it!”

    The judges looked perplexedly at one another; Hem stifled a somewhat guilty burp. Everyone else shrugged and went back to what they’d been doing, as the audience crowded in. Deadly spotted the Great Gonzo among the anxiously shuffling contestants and their monster handlers down in a large pen behind the stage. “Aha! Countie, my friend, now’s the time to get out your autograph tablet!”

    “Uff course! Ah would be delighted to sign mah illustrious name for—“ Pew began, but Snookie, noticing the trio as he paced the stage, interrupted.

    “We’re not adding a new contestant, are we?” he called down, indicating the visitor.

    “Eef I zhoose to add anothair worthless piece of cannon foddair to zis mix, what concern is it uff yours, you wash-éd up Guy Smiley impostair?” Pew snapped in reply.

    “Fine, whatever. Just make sure I get the right cue cards this time, you sightless cine-hack!” Snookie retorted.

    Angrily, Pew grabbed their visitor by the head, mumbled a quick apology, and moved his claws down to the man’s shoulder. “Ah see as well as any monstair here, even zis strangely furless, oddly tall creatchair! Ah am not sightless, ah am a veezhonairy!”

    “That figures,” Snookie muttered, coming closer to give the stranger a once-over. “Hey, uh, can you, uh…actually see anything? –Not you, pipecleaner-nose,” he stopped Pew before the director could argue.

    “Not much,” Countie admitted, with a wry smile. It softened his serious face, and Snookie abruptly felt sorry for the man. Snookie crouched at the edge of the stage, impressed when the visitor oriented on the sound of his movements and gingerly approached him. “You must be the show host,” Countie said.

    Snookie nodded, stopped in self-annoyance, and spoke aloud, “That’s right, pathetic though it is. Guess you could say it’s a living, though even that’s stretching it. Snookie Blyer, kid.” He leaned closer to whisper, “Believe me, you won’t miss anything tonight that you’d actually want to see.”

    “Snookie…hey! Weren’t you on Swift Wits years ago?” Countie asked, brightening.

    Snookie winced. “Still am, thanks for the memory.” He was about to make some polite parting comment when the visitor, with an open, earnest expression which made his handicap seem irrelevant, reached a hand up, something flat and gray in his palm.

    “Could I have your autograph?”

    Snookie blinked, startled. “My…you want my…” He peered down at the thing the stranger offered and realized it was a thin clay tablet in plastic wrap; Countie fished a wooden stylus out of a pocket and handed that up as well. Touched, Snookie scratched his name deeply into the damp clay and gave it carefully back. He watched as the man brushed his fingertips over the ingrained signature and smiled.

    “Thanks,” Countie said. Uncle Deadly shook his head, but with a tolerant smile.

    “Hey, back at ya,” Snookie said, trying to sound nonchalant, as though he gave out autographs to groupies all day long, the feeling of gratitude abruptly unwelcome as the circumstances of his life all crashed back when Pew yelled again for places, walked into the fence corralling the performers, and cursed loud and long in Mock French. Snookie took a deep breath, dusting off his knees. “Enjoy the show, kiddies.”

    Deadly cast a baleful eye on the host as he strode off. “Kiddies! That upstart wasn’t even a bit of felt in his father’s coat when I was gracing the boards…”

    “I think the show’s starting,” Countie said, taking Deadly’s arm again. “We should probably find a seat.”

    “Good point,” Deadly agreed, “Before all the good ones are eaten!” Together they hurried around the stage to the audience rows, managing the steps far better than Pew as the director shoved a soundfrackle aside, tripped over the cord the monster had been trying to tape down, and berated a post for the offense.

    Gonzo sighed, looking around at his competitors. “Guess that guy was a VIP or something. That looked like Uncle Deadly with him, but I thought he couldn’t leave the theatre…”

    “Habba pagga,” McGurk explained.

    “Monster hall pass? Oh, okay. Hey, did you remember to grease the cannon barrels?”

    McGurk nodded; it had made the guns almost impossible to maneuver, but for some reason Gonzo had wanted them slippery. “Faraggabba buh.”

    The Whatever nodded, then froze, eyes shooting open wide. “You…what? No! I meant the insides!”

    “Ulp,” McGurk said, then tried to get out of the pen, but a very large purple-furred thing with sharp teeth beat him back. “Mugabba frah buggah!” he complained, but his voice was drowned out by the opening theme, loudly if somewhat raggedly played by the Mutations.

    The audience roared. Ropelights chased across the stage edge and around the judges’ table, and Snookie, with his widest smile, stepped into the spotlight. “Gird your loins, grab your Dramamine, and go find your TV remote, folks! That’s right, it’s time for the next ipecac of an episode of the scariest stunt contest anywhere – it’s – Break a Leg!” he shouted the intro, and what sounded like two or three hundred monsters yelled the title along with him. “Tonight, for the first time, we’ll be taking votes from you, the viewers! After each performer survives, assuming they do, we’ll show you the number to call to vote for them, and tomorrow night in a special show the lowest-ranking contestant will be exterm—er, eliminated! All local taxes surcharges and fees for gullibility from your phone company will apply.” He kept smiling through the wild cheering and snarling and yipping coming from the vast sea of fur and claws and teeth just beyond the bright lights, strictly holding in his urge to flee screaming from so many ravenous monsters. At least they were more interested in the show than him, he thought, deeply glad Muppets couldn’t sweat; that camera closeup on him would’ve shown a host dripping with nervous perspiration otherwise.

    He checked his cue cards. “Your contestants tonight, culled from the auditions and the first round of burnups, blowouts, and bombs, are…” He paused dramatically before each name in order to give the camera ops a chance to actually zoom in on the daredevils. “The magnificent mystery of the Near East, the presumably lovely and definitely dangerous Jasmine Fatwah!”

    “Frahhhh,” McGurk sighed, his screwup with the cannons forgotten as all eyes turned to the veiled and otherwise scantily clad sword-swallower. In contrast to the other performers crowded into the pen, she had no one stepping on her toes, her brandished blades keeping everyone easily at bay. Her fierce eyes glared at the camera.

    “The Muppet with a thousand lives, the Great Gonzo!”

    Gonzo beamed and waved, thinking, Right here, chickie! Hope you’re watching!

    Surprised, Countie turned to his guide for the evening. “Gonzo’s here? In this…reality…stunt…whatever show this is?”

    “I was going to advise you to get his autograph,” Deadly sighed.

    “Maybe we can catch him after the show,” Countie mused hopefully.

    “I don’t think dead Muppets are able to employ their best penmanship…”

    Snookie continued onstage: “The man with the bronzed tongue –earplugs now, folks – Jimmy Joe Bob Fred Ebeneezer McCoy!”

    The rustic Muppet removed his chaw a moment to warble tunelessly, “Oh, th’ suuuun shiiiines bright, on my ol’ Kentucky boooones…melanoma on my neck, I do feeeelll…” The small brown goblin assigned care of that particular stunt singer didn’t even get a chance to groan when a shoe hurled at the thrumming throat flattened the smaller creature instead. The other performers protested the hail of objects and screaming rats raining from the audience into the holding pen; Gonzo ducked under one of the taller monsters, and the sword dancer cleared a swath toward the karaoke mangler.

    Snookie checked to make sure the sword now at the nose of the singer was actually persuading him to shut up, and carefully removed the thick wads of cotton from his ears. “Make sure your remote has a mute feature for that one! Also back with us, the most disturbing thing I’ve seen since someone thought Hasselhoff’s judgment skills rated high enough to host anything, the master of self-immolation, Mungus Mumfrey the Finnish fungus!”

    Shifting, bouncing masses of whitish cells piled up into an armlike appendage which waved at the camera. Gonzo shook his head, drawing McGurk closer. “He’s good, but I still think we’re better! After all, when he catches fire, he puts it out!” Gonzo told his assistant smugly. McGurk thought of his bet with the other monsters, and sighed. He’d actually started to enjoy the company of the odd little curly-nosed thing…

    “The rambunctious rodent who…who…” Snookie paused, frowning. “Actually, we have yet to see what Montrose the Mouse actually does…”

    “Watch it, bigears!” a voice squeaked, though the camera was having difficulty pinpointing it. “You just wait! My act will tear ‘em all up!”

    “Sure it will,” Snookie responded, his smile registering a ten on the insincerity scale. “And wrapping things up, we’ll see the legendary street fighter—“

    “Yo. That’s sheepfighter, short, yellow and plaid-tastic,” rumbled a deep voice; Gonzo looked around to see a large-horned ram with pierced ears and gang symbols carved into his charcoal-hued wool.

    “Lamb!” Snookie said, a little awed despite himself. This guy was indeed a legend, a blast from the past; he recalled seeing sheepsploitation films in Times Square theatres years ago, and this ram had been in quite a few. “Well! John Lamb!”

    “Man, that Lamb is one baaaaa…” began B.D., also impressed at having a celebrity on the show.

    “Shut your mouth!” Hem growled.

    A wet, shivering Shakey offered tentatively, “H-he’s just talking about Lamb…”

    “We most certainly can dig it,” Snookie chimed in, and the crowd cheered as the ram flexed his considerable hooves for their admiration. “Okay! Well everyone, tonight it is on! no matter how much we wish we could turn it off. Now, time to say hi to our judges…”

    “Whaaaat abouuuuut meeee?” asked a snail as it began the slow trek across the stage.

    Snookie gave it a dubious look; the snail sported a gunbelt with two six-shooters and a two-gallon hat perched behind its eyestalks. “Uh, and you are?”

    “Wyyyyyatt Sluuurrrp, the wooooorrld’s faaaastest snaaaiil, maaaster of the quiick draaaww,” the snail replied. “Iiiis thiiis where I auditiooon foooor Breaaaak aaa Leeeeg?”

    Snookie shook his head. “The auditions were over a week ago!”

    “Awwww, nuuuts,” Wyatt muttered. “Aaaand I leeeeft the hooouuse eeaarly, toooo!”

    Snookie tossed an incredulous look at the judges, then at Pew, but the director was busy ranting at the folding chair which according to him had failed to put two creams in his coffee. B.D. and Hem looked at one another, ignoring Shakey until the tiny red creature spoke up: “C-can you actually sh-shoot those things?” Interested, the other monsters stared at the snail.

    Wyatt wiggled his eyestalks, paused, then suddenly a blur of movement swirled around his shell, which seemed to remain stationary. Snookie flinched as the shot pinged and panged off the trusses overhead, bringing down a shower of sparks along with one of the smaller lights; a second and third shot bounced the light midair over the judges’ table and then flipped it to land precisely at Snookie’s feet. He took a shaky step away from the smoking, dented instrument. When he stared at the snail, the creature seemed not to have budged an inch. It blinked slowly at him, blew the haze of black powder away from the muzzle of the gun, and took another full minute to reholster the weapon.

    “Sure, why not?” Hem said, and the audience muttered and clapped.

    B.D. shrugged. One of the stagehand monsters guided the snail offstage, and Snookie tried to resume his intro. “Well, looks like a late entry will be accepted, frog help him… Your judges, whom we just can’t get enough of or away from, are the usual offenders: the irascible Beautiful Day!” B.D. grunted, picking his teeth, frowning at the glob of green sludge on the end of his toothpick. Snookie didn’t comment; didn’t want to know… “The gourmet of limited taste and unlimited appetite, Behemoth!” Hem paused in the act of slathering mint jelly on Shakey to wave and grin. “And, briefly, Shakey San—oh, never mind, he’s gone. We’ll also pretend to enjoy a musical performance by the Good Clean Kids! Now have your phones standing by, and remember, the fees associated with every call-in vote will go directly to the charity supporting a goop kitchen for homeless monsters! One living creature will feed a monster for every ten dollars in call-ins, so keep tapping that ‘call’ key as though anyone really cares which of these numbskulls you prefer!” Snookie paused for a breath, never letting up on his wide smile. “We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors! Run now while you still can! It’s voter night, right here on Break a Leg!”

    ---------------
    “So, uh, ladies! How nice you’re all looking toni—oh hey, popcorn!” Rizzo exclaimed as though he’d only just noticed the bags and bowls of freshly-popped, fake-butter-saturated stuff.

    Camilla gave him the evil eye, and Rizzo’s friendly smile faltered a bit. “Uh…c’mon, you girls ain’t gonna eat all dat, are ya? C’mon, give a starving rat a break!” he begged, and the chicken relented.

    “Bawwwk buh-buh-bok bok,” she ordered him, and Rizzo shrugged.

    “Yeah, sure, I’ll vote for the fearless freak…hey, wait! Vote for him for what?”

    “Popcorns! Why did jou not tell me there was popcorns?” Pepe demanded.

    “It ain’t mine, kelpbreath! Da girls have alla it, but maybe if ya ask nice, they’ll let ya have a bite,” Rizzo shot back, then started snickering. “Popcorn shrimp…”

    “Who is jou calling shrimp?!”

    Camilla’s stern cluck silenced them both, and both glared at one another but then gave the chicken grudging nods and settled in among the plump feathery showgirls all staring at the television. “So what is this, movie nights?” Pepe asked. Velma the chicken shushed him, and he mumbled an annoyed apology: “Sorry, okay? Jou could clue a guy in once in a whiles, though.”

    “Eh, it’s somethin’ about Gonzo,” Rizzo said, but just then, the commercial for Joe Ho’s Gerbil Hoagie House ended and a yellow-felted Muppet in a brown plaid sports coat filled the screen with his grin, making the rat, the prawn, and a few of the chickens cringe away in surprise.

    “Welcome back to Break a Leg! Up first tonight, the mistress of the mystic, the woman who makes beds of nails look comfy, the seductive and seditious Jasmine Fatwah!” the host barked at the camera.

    “I would not ever have guessed dat someone else could wear da Newsgeek’s coat even worse dan he does!” Rizzo said, and Pepe nodded emphatically.

    “For seriously, okay! What the holy camerones is this show?” But then, as the lights onstage dimmed and two followspots centered upon a vision in Middle Eastern veils, both boys’ jaws dropped. “Ai hot mama!”

    “You said it!” Rizzo murmured, all petty disagreements abandoned. Camilla sighed, claws tapping. When would they get past these other amateurs so she could see her daring Whatever? On the screen, Jasmine Fatwah began an intricate dance using an enormous scimitar as a partner, whirling with it, rising on tiptoe so gracefully and leaping so airily she seemed more a sylph of the smoke than any earthbound creature. As the sweet tune lent itself to romantic, dangerous whirls of the sword all around her barely-covered, lithe form, the performer began to sing, her voice throaty and smokily seductive.

    “Pachalafaka, pachalafaka…they whisper it all over Turkey; pachalafaka, pachalafaka…it sounds so romantic and quirky…” Fatwah threw the sword in the air, suddenly fell in a back-bending dip so that the falling blade thunked into the stage directly between her legs and in the next instant she whipped her entire body forward to yank it free and twirl it before sending it skyward again. “Oh, I know that phrase will make me thrill always, for it reminds me of you, my sweet! Just the mention of, that tender word of love…” The sword chunked into the stage again, vibrating, as Fatwah paused, her garments swirling gently around her, to pat her barely-hidden bosom. “Gives my heart a jerkish, Turkish beat!”

    “Holy cow!” Rizzo gasped, clutching at his own chest.

    “Jou said it, amigo!” Pepe breathed.

    Camilla rolled her eyes, annoyed; this contestant wasn’t really all that impressive. It’s all about made-up eyes and a fluttery outfit, and they all fall down drooling, she thought, disgusted. Hope the judges can see past their hormones and save their praise for some genuine talent! All the same, she worried; the audience both here in the green room and there at the TV studio was loudly cheering, and she knew how competitive Gonzo would be if he thought someone else was being unfairly favored. What could he do to follow on the heels of the Triple Lindy Sushi Roll? Won’t he go MORE dangerous? But what could be more…oh no! Not the cannons! She drew down into her feathers, realizing that would be extremely likely, not happy in the least. The cannon act had never gone off without a hitch! But if she knew Gonzo, something involving large muzzles and explosives was almost certainly on the menu tonight…

    Deeply worried, Camilla set down her bowl of popcorn and tried to keep her wings from trembling. She noticed Velma and Cherie giving her sympathetic glances, and tried to hold her head up while the exotic dancer on the screen continued to prance around with that ridiculously symbolic blade. Tawdry, she thought with a cluck. Rizzo and Pepe, however, saw a number flashed on the screen to vote for the dancer, and pulled out their cell phones, and only an angry bawk from Camilla reminded them why they’d been allowed a share of the popcorn in the first place. Both at least had the grace to look sheepish, but Camilla felt even more alone; these two were so easily bought, and the other birds were only here because Piggy had told them to sit with Camilla.

    The chicken sighed. Was she the only one here who hadn’t forgotten Gonzo?
    -------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  9. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Eighteen (II)

    Rosie McGurk completely forgot his assigned daredevil when Fatwah danced closer to the back of the stage, wiggling the flat side of the sword down her entire body with a concerted shimmy as she bent over in a half-circle, still throatily singing: “Pachalafaka, pachalafaka, takes me back with you to passionate desert scenes…and it’s here to stay til the very day, we find out what pachalafaka means…we find out…”

    “Blagga mah!” McGurk cried, enraptured, leaping onstage, ignoring the protests of Gonzo and the nearest stagemonsters. The pinkish monster, all three eyes full of that enchanting mirage in flimsiest gauze, threw out his arms to catch the dancer as she fell backwards, tossing her sword in the air one last time. The monster seized her and planted a long, deep smack on her mouth, tearing off her veil, overjoyed to discover the long furry whiskers and horsey teeth it had hidden; Fatwah squealed, struggling, a second before the sword thunked right through the top of McGurk’s head. Dazed, he dropped her, and with a gibbering snarl, she, he, or it scuttled offstage and out the back door, shoving aside the startled guards.

    “Well! That was…different,” Snookie offered, trying to recover his composure. Behind him, two stagemonsters strained to pull the sword out of McGurk, who was trying his best to chase after his newfound crush despite being pinned to the stage. “Let’s go to our panel! B.D?”

    “Eh, clearly that sword wasn’t sharp enough; the stupid critter’s still alive,” the blue cynic grunted. “Kind of a letdown, really.”

    “Shakey?”

    “Was th-that monster p-part of the act or not?” the tiny monster asked, prying open Hem’s jaws long enough to peer out at the still-stuck, still-whining McGurk. “I’m all for bigger m-monsters being skewered for a change!”

    “Shut up!” Hem growled, stuffing Shakey back down his throat and stifling a belch. “I dunno, I kinda liked the gender ambiguity! I vote claws up, and here’s the extension to my dressing room…”

    “Oh-kay!” Snookie said hurriedly, hoping the feed would focus on him instead of the number Hem was trying to wave at the camera. “Well, if the contestant doesn’t return to the stage within ten seconds, he or she will be disqualified no matter what anyone thinks of dances-with-swords! Up next…Mungus Mumfrey! We’ll be right back.” He shook his head, astounded at the persistence with which McGurk still struggled, and hissed at the monster in passing, “Let me guess, didn’t hurt a bit? Get off the stage, will you!” He strode off to grab a gulp from his water bottle, grimacing at the taste; he tried hard not to think about rumors he’d heard about graywater. A grunt and a yelp from the stage informed him they’d finally unstuck McGurk. Sighing, he straightened his tie, smoothed down his coat hem and his sleek hair, and bounded back into the spotlight as the music blared.

    “All right! Time for the fungus a-Mungus, heh heh…hello Mungus! And what amazing stunt will you be performing for us tonight?” He kept grinning despite the musty smell wafting up at him from the shifting, slithering thing undulating across the stage. He really hoped this thing didn’t lose, as it was a sure bet Carl would want to do something culinary with the remains, and Snookie was deeply allergic to mushrooms…

    The fungus made no sound at all, but formed part of itself into a rude gesture, and Snookie backed off. “Uh, right back at ya, buddy! Hope the two-second delay caught that…at any rate…our next contestant, folks!” He gladly retreated to the side as the house band of purple monsters in color-coordinated suits and berets launched into a Parisian jazz number.

    In the audience, the befuddled visitor gently nudged his reptilian friend. “Uh, Deadly…what is this performer?”

    “It appears to be a sentient fungus,” Deadly mused, staring curiously at the writhing, globby mass.

    “Okay…and what’s it doing?”

    “The backstroke! Ho ho, no, I’m only joshing you,” Deadly snickered, then peered up at the stage. “Actually, I believe that’s the samba.” A loud whoosh and the feel of heat overhead made the shaded man flinch, and Deadly added thoughtfully, “With flamethrowers.”

    “I can’t believe you did that!” Gonzo berated McGurk as the dazed monster sat down on a crate of TNT next to him, still woozy, still sporting a long blade between his feathery ears. “Did it even occur to you how up a creek I’d be if you came down with tetanus? Sheesh!”

    “Fugabba,” McGurk sighed. Something itched; he reached up a paw to scratch his head, but a very irritated Gonzo smacked him.

    “Don’t scratch it, it’ll never heal!” Gonzo scolded. “Now come on, I think we’re up next! Help me load the explosives into the pans. And where’d you put the fuses?”

    The next few minutes proved to be doubly frantic when McGurk was forced to dash between the cannons and the pile of supplies for the act; he kept forgetting to pick something up, or put something down, or…did he load three charges or six into that gun? Irritated, he finally managed to scratch loose the blade protruding from his furry skull, and felt much better after that, but then he couldn’t recall what order the flaming hoops went in…

    Scattered, bewildered applause accompanied the smoldering fungus offstage. Countie leaned toward Uncle Deadly, a little unnerved at the strange caws, growls, and grunts he could hear all around. “Uh, Deadly? Is the next act some sort of wild animal tamer?”

    The dragon peered up at the giant screen behind the stage area. “Hm. Rather hard to tell, but I don’t recall hearing any mention of vicious trained creatures. We are going to drop in on my theatre tomorrow night, though, where I assure you more than a few bears, pigs, and chickens make a rather sad attempt at show business…”

    Countie grinned, knowing full well what theatre the ghostly monster referred to. “Oh, good!” he murmured, unconsciously sounding a great deal like another denizen of that performing-animal troupe. He sniffed, and frowned. “Deadly, please tell me there isn’t a moldy sheepdog next to me…I keep smelling dirty, wet fur.”

    The judges bickered about whether using four flamethrowers during a jazz samba really qualified as a new act, since the fungus had previously juggled flamethrowers in his last appearance, but grudgingly decided claws-up with a warning for the sludge to present something more original next time. A stagemonster waved at Gonzo, and the breathless daredevil, bouncing in place, tried a few shadow punches to warm up. “Brahabba ugg,” McGurk remembered to wish him.

    “Thanks! Come on, let’s get the cannons up there! And bring the hoops!” Anxiously, Gonzo darted everywhere at once until both cannons were placed at opposite ends of the stage, with McGurk stationed in between, a pile of gel-coated wire hoops on poles and the ends to the chain-fuses all at his pawtips. He looked confusedly from one cannon to the other, not sure if he’d knotted the timed fuses correctly; was it, the monster goes around the tree three times, then down the trapdoor to be eaten by the rabbit, or four times? He tried to get Gonzo’s attention, but Snookie was already grabbing the foolhardy star by the shoulder to drag him into the spotlight.

    “And now, for all you fans of the foolish and devotees of the death-defying, up next is the Muppet voted Most Likely to Become a Wall Hanging, the Great Gonzo!”

    “Hello, all you danger fans!” Gonzo crowed, and the monster audience cheered.

    “I’ll try to describe it for you,” Deadly said hesitantly, but his companion shook his head.

    “It’s okay…I think the screams and explosions will give me the general picture.”

    “Er…he’s using cannons. And there appears to be a flaming hoop between them.”

    “Cannons, hoop, flames,” Countie said, “Got it.”

    --------------------------
    In the green room below the mainstage at the Muppet Theatre, Camilla wrung her wings and watched in a mix of excitement, terror, and morbid fascination as Gonzo stripped off his boxer’s robe, revealing the shimmery green-sequined leotard underneath. He fastened a matching latex cap tightly on his head, looking more like a Ziegfeld Follies swimmer than someone about to be shot out of a cannon, and threw his arms in the air. “Greetings, mere mortals! I, the Great Gonzo, will now attempt no less than six passes through ever-diminishing flaming hoops, my feet never touching the ground once I am shot from this first cannon, to the tune of Mozart’s overture to the ‘Marriage of Figaro’! Maestro, if you please!”

    Camilla felt the floor wobbling up at her, and reached out to lean on anything which might keep her upright. Unfortunately this proved to be the rat and the shrimp, who both squirmed and grumbled until she whacked them once with her wings. They fell silent, despite throbbing skulls, and the worried chicken stared at the TV. Gonzo climbed into the ten-pounder gun (Camilla had learned artillery designations the hard way, and thereafter had declined all offers to allow her to be the one shot out), waving at everyone with a mad grin, then wriggled himself down. “Ungh…ergh…this really…would’ve been easier…if you’d greased the insides…” he muttered at McGurk.

    “Labba frow?” McGurk asked, perking, and lit the first fuse off the already-flaming hoop dead center stage.

    “Okay…now wait a sec ‘til I…” Gonzo heard the hissing sound, and looked down to see the spark swiftly traveling along the fuse. The Mutations and a few additional musicians on violin and cello were already two bars into the overture; the first blast was supposed to be timed exactly, but – “Wait! I’m stuck!” Gonzo yelled.

    BOOM!

    Camilla clucked in terror, desperately wanting to shield her eyes but compelled to stare as Gonzo flew end-over-end gracelessly, barely clearing the sides of the hoop, landing at a bad angle in the second cannon so his arms were pinned. Frantically the daredevil tried to turn himself around in the barrel, but this one, though slightly larger, proved just as tough to maneuver in without lubrication; he felt sequins tearing. The crowd hooted, cheered, booed, and thumped on the seatbacks of the monsters in front of them. McGurk grabbed the next hoop on the pile, lighting it off the first one just as that sputtered out; neon green sparks showered down on the startled monster as he yanked the old hoop out of its stand and plunked the new one in. The fuse on the second cannon touched the powder-pan a split second before Gonzo expected it.

    Camilla flinched; she knew that yodeling shriek as Gonzo somersaulted back across the stage through the second hoop meant things were not going as he’d planned them. To everyone else, it might appear no different than most of the stunts he’d attempted, but there was a slight change of octave her sensitive chicken aural organs could detect in Gonzo’s scream. “Bukawwwwk,” she moaned, squeezing the creatures on either side of her tighter in her concern.

    “Ack! Ugh…can…can ya let go of my throat, please?” Rizzo choked out.

    “Sí, sí, breathing is good, okay?” Pepe agreed. Camilla released them both, but then the first cannon went off again before Gonzo had barely thunked into its smoking barrel, sending him rocketing right at a very startled McGurk only just lifting the next hoop into place. Camilla clucked loudly in horror, reactively beating her strong wings, smacking the two diminutive Muppets.

    “Agghh…” groaned Rizzo, sinking into a heap.

    “Someone get the license number…” Pepe muttered before flopping facefirst onto the floor.

    “Waaaaaaaggghhh!” Gonzo shrieked, plowing nose-first into the hoop. It knocked the still-flaming one, then toppled onto the pile of the kerosene-gel-coated props.

    Then things became interesting.

    ---------------------------
    Snookie cringed behind a lighting truss pole, watching in shock as the entire pile exploded in a rainbow-hued fireball, colors shifting prettily; Gonzo shot straight up, his leotard sparking crazily as chemicals intermixed; the cannons, multiple fuses overloading as explosive trays dumped into their powder-pans out of synch, boomed deafeningly and dragged trenches in the stage floor as they recoiled off stage left and right, respectively, taking out two of the cameras. McGurk was beaned by a flaming, flying hoop-stand and went down, his fur smoking blue. The judges stared in awe as a whooping Gonzo sailed over the main lighting truss, smacked hard into the giant plasma screen, and fell almost delicately toward the stage…as the screen toppled. The whole thing felt surreal and slow-mo to Snookie, but he was out of immediate danger; the judges realized at the last second the screen would flatten their table and scrambled out of the way. Hem and B.D. wound up clinging to a support post, panting, but the tiny red-collared monster Hem spat out as he ran proved less fleet of foot; Shakey regained his balance just in time to look up and see fate bearing down on him. He didn’t get the chance to even blink.

    The cannons, at last out of powder, lay wrecked and slowly melting holes in the concrete floor past the stage platform. The screen sparked twice, then went completely dead. The band, oblivious, played through to the last note of the sprightly overture, and in that final silence, the audience began to murmur. Smoke sifted gently over the remains of the stage. A hooded figure in a long dark cloak slowly rose from a front-row seat and approached the platform. Snookie, spotting it, gulped and ducked behind the post.

    “Tah-dahhh!” Gonzo cried, popping up from a broken section of the huge screen covering half the stage. His eyes were dazed, his cap hanging off his chinstrap, parts of his spangly green outfit were torn, parts were in tatters, and parts were fused to his fur, but triumphant he stood, arms wide, grinning.

    The hooded figure shook its head and returned to its seat.

    Snookie looked at the judges; they seemed equally stunned. Shaking, he tiptoed out, smoothing down his hair. He spotted a camera still frackled, and addressed it: “Oh-kay! And there you have it, folks – the Great Gonzo, still with us!” Gonzo, glowing with triumph and five of the six ingredients for Chinese fireworks, gently fainted. “Uh…maybe. Remember, you can vote now or after the show! Every call is more money in the producers’ pockets, so vote and keep voting until your grubby little fingers lock in place on your smartphones! We’ll take a short break here, and if we come back, music from the Good Clean Kids!” The feed cut off, and Snookie blew out a breath, amazed at the extent of the damage.

    “Caffeh! Whair is mah caffeh!” Pew shouted, waving his empty mug until he whacked it backward into the face of the goblin trying to bring him a Thermos. The goblin collapsed, and Pew stomped off, complaining about the undependable p.a.’s around here.

    “That sounded bad,” Countie commented.

    Deadly shrugged. “He has actually done worse. Shall we go get some snacks? I believe I saw a gyro stand in the concession level…”

    “Do I want to know what they stuff gyros with here?”

    “Now, now, it’s New York! While you’re here, you should experience all the big undercity has to offer!” Deadly chided, leading his companion out toward the vendors.

    “I don’t know if my booster shots are current enough for that,” Countie muttered as he allowed the dragon to guide him out.

    ----------------------------
    Camilla looked up from her shivering feathers long enough to see Gonzo emerge from the wreckage, then she sank down once more, relieved but exhausted, wishing she could contact him somehow, could tell him to stop this insanity and come home! At the moment, she wasn’t thinking about eggs, or nesting, or all she’d discussed with Piggy about the stagnant relationship…all she wanted was her Whatever, home safe. Relatively safe, at least. This nonsense went well past what Kermit would have allowed! “Buh-baaaawwwk,” she moaned, and Velma patted her back awkwardly, trying to offer comfort. Camilla sniffled, then burst into poultry-sobs: “Buh-buh-buh-baww-awww-awwwwwk!”

    Immediately the other chickens crowded around, clucking softly. Pepe shook the feathers off, dragging himself mostly upright a few inches away, and saw the number being flashed on the screen for Gonzo before the station went to commercial. “Ai, are we supposed to vote for him now?” he wondered.

    Rizzo shook himself violently all over, puffing at his whiskers to dislodge a bit of chickenfluff from them. “Ugh! I nevah, evah, want to be dat close to anything with pinfeathers again!” Pepe’s query filtered into his brain, and he glared at the shrimp. “Are you kiddin’? After dat whack, she can dial her own danged phone! –and you can keep your yucky popcorn, I didn’t want it anyway!” he shouted at the chickens, and stomped off.

    Pepe hesitated. “Ah…if I don’t vote for anybodys, can I still have the popcorns already?”

    A flurry of batting wings and angry clucks sent him scurrying after the rat.

    ---------------------------
    Staggering back from the monster aid table backstage, McGurk overheard a two-headed monster with pink fur and small horns talking to a grumpy-looking orange spider with pens in four of its clawtips. “Ruh…rubbah gubba buh,” the first head said, and the spider scratched a mark on one piece of paper. The second head mumbled something into the Gruetooth headset it wore, then told the spider, “Uffa muh!”

    The spider nodded and marked another paper. Meanwhile the first head of the double-header was talking on its own Gruetooth, and presently reported to the spider: “Rubba ooba!”

    The spider marked a third paper. McGurk asked cautiously, “Bagga gazza muh?”

    “He’s leading by twenty-four,” the spider whispered.

    “Uffa,” the second head said, and the spider scratched another mark.

    “Twenty-five,” the spider told McGurk. “Now go away. I must concentrate.”

    The double-header continued to take calls and report the results to the spider, those busy arms scribbling tallies, and McGurk hurried back to Gonzo, excited. He jogged the Whatever’s arm to get his attention.

    “Ow,” said Gonzo, peering out from beneath the heavy compress on his eyelids. “Rosie! What did I tell you about getting the timing fuses in sequence!”

    “Nabba muh tubba,” McGurk argued, pointing happily at the tally table several yards away, where the monster and spider continued their business unaffected by the Frackles and other monsters scurrying, hurrying, and sloshing over the stage in an attempt to get it at least partially usable again for the remainder of the live show.

    Gonzo stared at him, slowly understanding. “Wait…what do you mean I’m ahead?”

    “Farabba! Twabba-fabba!”

    “You mean people are calling in?” Gonzo asked, joy suddenly reignited in his heart. “People are voting for me?”

    “Habba habba!” McGurk cheered, jumping up and down. His top eyeball, already damaged from the earlier sword-thunk, popped loose. Dismayed, he blinked down at it, then with a grumble bent to pick it up.

    “This is fantastic!” Gonzo yelled, leaping to his feet and grabbing his assistant by the shoulders, all disappointments forgiven. “We’re a hit!”

    “Raffa!” McGurk agreed. While Gonzo raved about kumquats and porcupines and singing cacti, already swamped with ideas for his next act, McGurk licked his loose eyeball and stuck it back into its socket, and decided then and there to tell the boys he was changing his bet. No longer would he bet that Gonzo would die by fire! No sirree…why, he was going to break that pool wide open and bet that the crazy Muppet who’d just survived this stunt would actually make it all the way to the end of the competition! Proud of his association with the Whatever, McGurk smiled and nodded and patted the little blue smoldering shoulder encouragingly. From now on, he’d really pay attention, and he wouldn’t let beautiful hairy-lipped temptresses in headscarves distract him, and he…why, they, together, would be a team!

    At the tally table, the spider threw a five-eyed annoyed glare at the doglizard sidling over to interrupt. Three eyes remained focused on the papers spread over the table while the double-header continued to growl out the phone-in results so far. “I’m busy,” the spider said in its papery voice.

    “Jusssst to remind you not to take the votesss too ssseriousssly,” Eustace spoke low, glancing over to make sure the two-headed monster didn’t overhear, but that dunce was too engrossed in his spiffy cellular tech to notice. “Remember, hisss ultimate darknessss requiresss the winner to be that bizarre sssscrawny thing!”

    Annoyed, the spider used one free leg to gesture over at an excitedly pacing Gonzo. “So tell him! Otherwise he may immolate himself before the show even has a next episode!”

    Eustace bit back a tart reply. Unfortunately, the spider was probably right. He frowned. Perhaps he ought to have a little chat with that idiot McSquirt, or whatever his name was. Eustace sighed through clenched fangs. That monster’s brother was an exemplary employee; who had assigned this loser to such an important task, anyway? Yes, Eustace decided, watching Gonzo trying to describe something to his monster guardian with waving hands and wide eyes: a chat was assuredly a good idea. A nice, friendly chat to remind that three-eyed moron where his loyalty ought to lay whimpering like a frightened chihuahua… Hungry suddenly, Eustace recalled seeing a hot dog stand among the vendors, and slunk off to find something grilled with its fur still on.

    Snookie stepped aside at the front edge of the stage, barely cleared of debris, to introduce the musical interlude of the evening: “While our crew tries to make sense out of the senseless slaughter, here they are, the pop sensations who say their greatest ambition is to record a single with Bustin Jeeber and then devour him piece by piece – the Good Clean Kids!”

    Amid wild cheering and not a few swoons among the pre-teen monsters in the audience, three small children bounded out front, waving, dressed in identical green jackets and with felt in hues of seafoam, aqua, and cyan. The two girls had sparkly barrettes in their curly brown hair, and the boy sported a cute yellow painter’s cap. Together they sang, as the house band struck up ‘60s-era electric organ chords:

    “Hello world, here’s some food that we’re makin’ – c’mon get hungryyy!

    A whole lotta Muppets is what we’ll be bakin’ – c’mon get hungryyy!”

    With their mouths opened wide, their huge white teeth gleamed in the stagelights. Monster girls shrieked. Monster parents rolled their eyes and shook tolerant heads; after all, at least this group was known for their wholesome family values…

    “We had a need, to be fillin’ up our bellies, and spread a little butter on each critter we catch!” the viciously cute little monster boy sang, the girls harmonizing. “Comfort food is always Muppet butter-and-jelly –“

    All three sang joyfully, arms outstretched to their fans, “We love Muppet cookies and we’ll bring you a batch!”

    Snookie, shaking, decided the show could go hostless for a little while. After all, the stage wasn’t fixed enough yet for the next contestant… With a quick look around, he ducked below the damaged platform and crawled on hands and knees toward the back door, but it would be a long time before the joyous ending chorus stopped echoing in his head, buoyed by the audience singing along:

    “We’ll make you hungry!

    We’ll make you hungryyy!

    We’ll make you hungryyyyy!”
    ----------------------
    The Count likes this.
  10. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Awwww. Leave it to the little blue weirdo to survive the unsurvivable and to endear himself to critters that eat little furry monsters. He should get a gold star, and may just survive this whole thing by destroying the theater before it can demolish (or devour!) him!

    I was entertained to think that even monsters make stupid mistakes--such as greasing the wrong side of the cannon. (Makes me think of Groucho Marx: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.") I was also tickled to find that the rather alarming attributes of the sword dancer actually endeared, um, it to the monster audience.

    I was thrilled that Ed got to attend the show, but perhaps more thrilled that he didn't see most of it, given the final state of the stage. I was sorry for Camilla's anxiety and fretting--it is difficult loving someone in showbiz, no doubt.

    Keep going! I know the holidays limit your connectivity, but write, write, write! More more more! (Nom nom nom.)
  11. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    On the fifth fanfic I've read today...
    I give Kris five golden Newsies!

    *Is thrilled to no end with this double-beheader of a chapter.
    Able to read all fanfics in one single night? Yes, especially at the rate I'm going today in an attempt to catch up with the week that was.

    You definitely get points for having Jazmin be that masked girl/man-whiskered creature that now sang Pachalafaka.
    To think Rosie has a crush, and provided the final sting.

    *Laughs so much at the intro for John Lamb.
    Uh no Joel, actually, we can't dig it.

    The Good Clean Kids, I think that's who I thought they were... The same clean-cut kids that show up in the cantina of the Muppet Theater with Fozzie in the Alice Cooper episode when the bear asks for at least something normal on the show that night?
    And that they're singing a parody of Come On, Get Happy earns you extra ramchips.

    The wooden stylus... Actually used a metal one when I had to practice braille writting by hand before getting the typewriter. A typewriter that either Gonzo or that typist from the Neitherworld's waiting room could use, as it has only three keys for each hand. For signatures, I just pull out my little cardboard signer that has an open window near the top.

    *Is pleased that tomorrow will involve a visit to the Benny Vanderghast Memorial Theater. And yes, I do a passible version of :), among others.

    The tip of sampling what the big undercity has to offer reminds me of the joke Ilyssa asked of the hotdog vendor. Did you hear the one about the zenmaster? He asked "make me one with everything".

    Thanks and happy holidays.
    *Attempts to rouse self to visit next story on the list. :busy:
  12. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    "We miss you updating this one!
    We miss you updating this one!
    We miss you updating this one!
    So hurry back here!

    "Oh bring us some more of Gonzo!
    And Newsie and all the Yip Yips!
    And give us some furry monsters!
    Yes--bring them all here!

    "We won't go until we get some!
    We won't go until you write some!
    We won't go until you're finished!
    So get it in gear!

    (You know the tune.)
  13. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    --------------
    Holy camerones. Ed gets a couple ramchips right back for knowing exactly who the Good Clean Kids were! Hey, I just HAD to do a Partridge Family bit there. It begged for it. Who's the fic-crunching reading machine who's loved by all the authors? ED! *wakka-cha wakka-cha wakka-cha...*

    You're gonna have to wait for your theatre visit another chapter...I have to get back to KRAK and file this first! Uh...and Ru, There Will Be YipYips. Soon.

    You guys make me happy. Thank you! :news:
    ------------------
  14. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Gee, I hope that doesn't mean I'm now caught like I look like I'm trapped inside a wind tunnel.
    Mittens?
    :coy: But Gobo forgot his mittens!
    Wait, does that say "Mitchell"?
    :halo: Mitchell!
    Bet Snookie wishes there were an escape pod/secret prize inside that box of Hamdingers/Happy Harvey's Hamster Burgers.
    :shifty: No wonder that ting was in dere, nobody likes that stuff!

    Oh great, now we're gonna need a new host.
    Hmmm... *Wonders if we have any green jumpsuits in Beaker's size. Nah, noone would understand his meeping.

    Hope to read when you can get it, have a great holiday season Kris.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  15. newsmanfan

    newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Nineteen

    The lobby of Blucher Memorial seemed drowsy, even the nurses and techs ambling through the halls moving at a just-woken-from-a-nap pace. The Newsman, by contrast, couldn’t keep still as he waited for the elevator. He glanced over at the large bronze of a woman posed with a fiddle upraised on her arm, her aged face frozen in a disturbing sort of smile as she forever paused in the middle of a song, a cigar clamped between her teeth. Shivering, Newsie shifted from foot to foot, holding tight to the enormous arrangement of fall mums, red daisies, and asters he’d picked up at the florist on the way here. His aunt had always been fond of her flower gardens, both the tiny one at the house she and Joe had shared in Jersey and the more rambling one up at the lake house. He wondered what that must look like now; he doubted anyone had tended to it for a long while.

    He continued to fuss with his tie and cuffs and glasses, and to adjust his hold on the flowers, all the way up to Ethel’s room. Fortunately he hadn’t encountered that skeptical nurse again, and after he’d signed in at the front desk nobody had paid him any attention. However, when he reached the correct room, he was flabbergasted to find absolutely no one standing guard! Voices from within the room at once drew his ire, and he jerked the door open and strode angrily in. A man with gray and receding hair stopped midsentence to glare at the Newsman; the woman wrapped in furs and holding a stylish pocketbook on her lap also stared at Newsie in surprise a moment before she said, “Oh! It’s…isn’t it…Aloysius?”

    It took him a moment to recall their names. “Er…Mary? Fred?” It had been over a decade since he’d seen either of Uncle Joe’s grandchildren. Last he’d heard, both of Joe’s sons by his first wife were deceased; he’d been much older than Ethel. Newsie had rarely been in contact with any of this branch of the extended family, having only run into them a few times during those lakehouse summers and the occasional Christmas dinner. Startled but pleased to see them checking on Ethel, Newsie carefully set down the flowers on a table where Ethel would be able to see them, and offered a fuzzy hand to Mary, who smiled wanly at him. “It’s…it’s so good to see you! It’s been…ah…since, um, 1994, wasn’t it? Ethel’s birthday?” Newsie asked.

    “Good memory,” Mary agreed. Newsie turned to Fred, but the man scowled, ignoring the outstretched hand.

    “I didn’t realize you were in town,” Newsie said, trying to regain some composure despite the snub. “Did the hospital call you? I…I should’ve notified you, I guess…”

    “Doesn’t matter,” Fred snorted. “I’m her executor. They’d have called me soon at any rate.”

    “Fred,” Mary scolded gently. To Newsie she explained, “We dropped by the nursing home for a visit, and they told us –“

    “Nursing home!” Fred snorted again. “Loony bin, you mean.”

    “She’s not crazy,” Newsie argued. “She’s just…er…old. Dementia of some form isn’t uncommon at her age.”

    Fred made no reply, standing apart from everyone and glaring at the still, frail Muppet woman in what seemed a sea of bedsheets and blankets, her tiny form almost hidden among them, the oxygen tubing down her throat hissing in measured pulses softly the only indication she was still alive. Newsie came closer, gazing at her shriveled face, remembering instead a handsome woman with bright eyes and a ready smile. This hardly seemed the same person… “How…how is she?”

    “Really?” Fred snapped. Newsie started back at the venom in that voice, then glowered at his step-cousin.

    “Those are lovely flowers,” Mary said. “I’m sure she’ll like them.”

    “Will you stop acting like she’s going to wake up and everything’ll be better!” Fred burst out.

    “She might,” Newsie said hotly. “The doctor said she might! And – and – she wouldn’t want her family to be at odds!” He swallowed hard, and tried a more neutral tone: “Look, I know we were never close, but she’s my aunt and your grandmother –“

    “She’s my dead grandfather’s widow,” Fred snapped. “She made me her executor, lord knows why since it was always obvious she favored you Muppets more than her husband’s blood descendants! I’m just waiting for this to be over with so we can figure out what to do with the property! Don’t you worry, I’m sure she left you something. I’ll let you know at the reading of the will, okay?” Shocked at this antagonism, Newsie opened his mouth to protest, and Fred bent over to deliver one more piece of poison face to face: “You and I are not family, you – you – fuzzy yellow dwarf! And this whole business has dragged on long enough! I wish she’d just –“ He abruptly shut up, threw another glare at the sickbed, turned on his heel so sharply his designer loafer squeaked on the linoleum and left the room.

    Stunned, outraged, Newsie stood there, wanting to yell back a retort but remembering his poor aunt was right there. One of them had to act like a grown-up, for the sake of this woman who’d wanted only harmony among all her relations!

    Mary swore very softly, then stood and touched a hand to Newsie’s shoulder. “I’m really, really sorry. He’s…this whole thing has been really hard on him. I don’t know why he’s saying these awful things; he always loved Grandma Ethel!” She looked at the half-open door, fuming at her brother. “Just ignore him, okay? He’s not thinking clearly. We just…haven’t known what to do with Ethel, since she…since she started losing her grip on things. It’s hard, to see someone you’ve loved just go downhill like that.”

    Newsie nodded, staying silent, still feeling slapped. Mary rubbed his shoulder lightly, then sighed. “I should go catch up with him before he tries to drive in that mood. It honestly is nice to see you again, Aloysius. You, uh…you take some time with your aunt, okay? Maybe she does know we’re here.”

    “I hope not,” Newsie muttered, casting a dark look at the door.

    “He didn’t mean it,” Mary said. “He’s just really angry at all of this. I should go.”

    Newsie nodded, and clasped her hand one more time before she left. Once she’d gone, he stood looking into the hospital bed a long while, seeing no change on Ethel’s face, no indication she’d heard any of the altercation. Just as well, he thought gloomily. The lack of a guard returned to his awareness, and in growing unease he checked under the bed, in the wardrobe, and every corner of the room, but found no sign of the yipping monsters, or of any other untoward creature. He was sitting on an uncomfortable chair when a nurse came in; Newsie looked up worriedly, but it wasn’t the one who’d threatened to throw him out last time. “Just checking vitals,” the nurse murmured at him. Newsie nodded, relaxing slightly.

    After a minute of watching the nurse log readings from various displays over and around the bed, Newsie asked quietly, “Do you think she’s going to wake up?”

    The nurse gave him a sympathetic smile. “Hon, you know, I have seen miracles around here, once in a blue moon…but in her case I don’t think it’s likely. If she’s not breathing on her own by next Wednesday…” She shrugged.

    “What…what do you mean?”

    “Oh, I’m sorry, I assumed you were her nephew,” the nurse said, then gently began to explain, “She has a limitation order for artificial methods of life-prolongation we didn’t know about until her step-grandson informed us of her living will. If we’d known about that she wouldn’t even be here now, hon. I’m so sorry.”

    “I am her nephew!” Newsie said, hopping down from the chair to confer more closely with the nurse. She pointed out the neon-green piece of paper taped above the bed which spelled out his aunt’s wish not to continue life hooked up to a machine. “When – when did she order that?”

    Sighing, the nurse checked the file clipped to the bed. “Says here she signed the directive years ago; a Fred Muppman witnessed it. We told her nephew about it as soon as we were informed –“

    “But I’m her nephew!” Newsie insisted again, then realized he wasn’t the only one. “Er…do you mean Chester Blyer?”

    “No, no Blyer listed…this says we told an Aloysius Crimp. I’m really sorry nobody contacted you about it…would you like us to add you to the contact list as well, Mr…?”

    Shaken, Newsie gulped out, “But –but I am Aloysius Crimp!” What the hey was going on here? This is starting to feel like an Abbot and Costello routine! If one of the yip-yips had popped up and chimed in, “Third base!” he wouldn’t have been at all surprised. “Nobody called me! What the hey – that’s the second time someone said they called me and nobody did! What number are you people calling?” Could there possibly be two people with the same archaic name in this city?

    “You’re…” the nurse stared at him uncertainly.

    “Let me see that,” Newsie demanded, reaching for his aunt’s chart. The nurse jerked it up out of his grasp.

    “Only immediate family are –“

    “D—it, I am her closest family!” Newsie shouted, then wrested his anger under control again. Fuming, he dug out all his ID to show the unhappy nurse. When she was at last persuaded of his familial relation and birth-name, she allowed him to copy down in his reporter’s notepad the phone number the hospital believed to be his, and for good measure he wrote down for her his home phone, cell phone, and the main number at KRAK. “These are the numbers you should call if anything happens! Not that one! I never gave you that one and I don’t even know who that is!” he growled.

    The nurse shrugged. “Fine, I’ll pass it along to records. I’m sorry about the mixup, Mr Crimp. And I’m sorry about your aunt.” With a frown, she left the room.

    Newsie stared at the number he’d copied down. They’ve been calling some total stranger? But...but who would say they were me? Who wouldn’t correct their mistake, instead of being given reports of…of… Chilled, he raised his eyes to his aunt, still motionless, the machine breathing for her as she slept, and slept, and slept. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, fear sinking into his stomach. His fingers fumbled through his coat pockets until he found his cell phone, silently thanking his beloved yet again for making sure he took it with him this morning. Slowly he dialed the unknown number, put the phone to his ear with a trembling hand, and listened.

    After three rings, the line clicked. A scratchy voice said, “Main office. What extension?”

    Newsie paused, then tried to clear his throat, and said hoarsely, “A-aloysius Crimp, please.”

    “One moment.”

    Some truly ghastly hold music warbled through the phone, then the line clicked again. The voice which answered was deep, smooth, and somehow very, very cold: “Yes? This is Mr Crimp.”

    Newsie choked, inhaled, struggled to regain his speech. “You – who are you?”

    Silence filled the open line. Then Newsie heard a very, very faint, very deep chuckle, and the line went dead. “Who are you?” he shouted, frantic, even though he’d heard the other person hang up, and now a beeping tone sounded in his ear. Frightened, he hastily punched redial.

    After a second, a recorded, snide voice informed him: “The number you have dialed has been disconnected. If you would like to place a call, please hang up and dial again. If you require assistance, please hang up and dial zero…”

    Shaking, Newsie closed the phone and tucked it back in his pocket. He stared at his aunt. Silence filled the room, save for the steady hissing of the machine. He looked at the notepad with its simple, local, and now very disturbing number. The fact that it now appeared in his own handwriting on his notepad seemed somehow very wrong. He pulled his phone out once more, and after a moment of racing thought and worried hesitation, called his detective friend. Once again he reached voicemail. Newsie used one of the curse words he’d picked up from Gina, although quietly, and then found the main number of Detective Pendziwater’s precinct in his contact list.

    “He’s on administrative leave,” the desk sergeant informed him.

    “Admin…what? Why?”

    “I’m not at liberty to discuss that, sir. If you’d like another detective to –“

    He’d met some of the others once, on a visit to the precinct chasing a story about a rash of burglaries; none of them had seemed friendly. “Er—no. Can I – can I just report a – a case of identity theft?” He had no idea what else to call the troubling thing he’d just discovered.

    Some other detective who sounded even more tired and bored than the sergeant took down his information and said they’d look into it. Frustrated, Newsie hung up and paced the room. What can I do? Oh frog, what the hey can I even do, to keep her safe? Once more, he made a circuit of the entire room, checking for anything lurking, but found nothing. Whom could he recruit? Ethel needed a guard now more than ever! Penguins? No, too noisy, they’d be thrown out! The chickens? No…there’s probably laws against that in Queens… Sweetums came to mind, but he shuddered. No! A thousand times no! Despite what Gina had told him of her odd but friendly conversation with the troll, he couldn’t bring himself to accept the idea of anything even slightly monsterish here…and Sweetums was more than slightly. He shivered hard. No, he needed someone trustworthy, someone who would take this all with the utmost seriousness…

    Brightening somewhat, Newsie quickly checked through his contact list, found the number he needed, and hurriedly punched it in.

    -----------------------------
    Thirty minutes later (the eagle was nothing if not prompt and punctual), Sam nodded grimly as the Newsman ran for the elevator before the doors closed. Now there, Sam thought, is a Muppet who understands that time is money…money is the absolute base of our society – why – it’s the BASEST base, oh indeed…and the news is…is…the news is very important! Even if I’m not sure how falling sofas actually affect Wall Street. Nodding again sagely, he leaned forward to follow a passing intern with a fierce glare until the spooked doctor-in-training was out of sight. Well! I certainly hope this ‘Frau Blucher’ doesn’t know of the lax security measures at the hospital bearing her… “Why am I hearing horses?” Sam muttered aloud, looking up and down the hallway. When no explanation presented itself, and there was no one around to ask, he shrugged. “Weird.” He checked the lock on the doorknob behind him; it remained firmly shut. “Good,” he rumbled, satisfied. “Those nurses will just have to prove they’re really nurses by using their special hospital key! Hm!”

    He straightened his feathers, checking himself once all over just to be certain he was maintaining a proper guard appearance. By gum, they should never have sent a man to do an eagle’s work! But no matter. Now I am on the job, and nothing will get past these steely eyes! Nothing, and certainly not one of those long-furred weirdos!

    Inside Ethel Muppman’s hospital room, a shimmer in the air was followed by the materialization through the tiny window of a pink, many-tentacled thing and its blue twin, goggle-eyes wide, mouths downturned in unhappiness. “Eth-el, yip,” the blue thing mumbled.

    “Yip yip yip,” the pink thing agreed, then put an appendage to its wide mouth. “Shhhh! Qui-et! Mmm! Shhhhhhh!”

    “Shhhhhhyipyipyipyipyip!” the blue one echoed, the two of them shushing one another, progressively louder and with many competing yips until both finally subsided. “Shh. Mm.”

    Slowly they drifted lower, closer to the bed with its unconscious occupant. Wide-eyed, and with only the slightest twitching of their quirked antennae, the monsters studied the frail, pale Muppet woman a long time.

    “Eth-el,” the pink one muttered.

    “Shhhhhh! Yip,” the blue one shushed it, and again they fell to quarreling: “Shh! Yip yip yip yip!” “Qui-et! Yip yip qui-et! Shhhh!” “Yiiiiip yip yip yip yip aaawww…”

    The woman in the bed didn’t stir, didn’t open her eyes, made no acknowledgement of them whatsoever. The creatures, silent finally, stared at her. One turned to the other, and they exchanged a wide, serious look before returning to their study of the woman they were ordered to terminate.

    “Mmm,” said the blue one, shaking its head.

    “Shhh!” said the pink one.

    ----------------------
    Rhonda had the flashdrive in her paw, tapping her darling little open-toed high-heeled patent-leather boots as she waited for the Newsman to argue his way past security. His scowl didn’t change when he spotted her. “What’s with all the guardposts?” he demanded, gesturing back at the beefy guard in short sleeves and a tie lounging purposefully at the corner desk to the news studio offices.

    Rhonda tossed back her just-highlighted hair, reflexively smoothing out the bangs. “Eh, some kinda new policy the boss put up. Apparently there’s been some kinda terrorist threat against local news stations and he’s not taking any chances, no matter how much he has to cut our salaries to pay these oafs.” She wrinkled her nose. “Frankly, I think it’s all bullpuckey.” Both of them cast a dark look at the polled Angus guard before Rhonda grabbed Newsie’s sleeve and tugged him toward his dressing-room. “Get in here. We gotta go over this report.”

    “Rhonda, the results on the monster goop came back negative,” Newsie muttered at her, obediently trotting in her wake. They wove between a couple of station interns ferrying coffee mugs and one copywriter dashing between meetings before reaching the relative safety of the Newsman’s room. “I don’t know how, but it didn’t register as monsterish! So we’ll…we’ll have to go back down there and get better –“

    “Like holy flamin’ Hades we will! Goldie! What is your malfunction about this monster stuff?” Rhonda squeaked angrily.

    Newsie flushed, and pointed at the floor. “They are down there, Rhonda! I saw them! I just –“ He smacked his palm in frustration against a pile of paper stacked on his desk. “I just can’t prove it yet…ow.” He tried to shake the sting out of his hand. “What the heck is all that?”

    The rat sighed, exasperated. “Remember you asked our loyal viewing public for leads on disappearances around town? That is the email your little request generated, all printed out for your enjoyment, and believe me, you had better be really nice to Elisa at the front desk for a long while for sorting through all of it for you!”

    “Leads? We have leads?” Newsie muttered, flipping through the stack. “I’ll…I’ll start right away! I guess making sure all of them involve disappearances near a sewer or subway entrance is the first step, weed out the crackpots…”

    “Do you ever listen to yourself?”

    He gave her an uncertain look. “Er…well, I do review my newscasts sometimes, to make sure my presentation skills are compelling enough…”

    Rhonda rolled her eyes. “Oh my frog, I ask of thee patience.” She held out the flashdrive. “Will you please sit down and let’s go over this actually newsworthy report? I submitted it to Murray twice already and he kept requesting more edits. This is what I came up with. Rubber-stamp it so we can throw it on tonight, will ya, and then we can move on to the other stories you’re gonna cover tonight on your segment?”

    “I suppose it ought to be the priority,” Newsie grumbled agreement, setting up his laptop. “I just wish it could include a warning about the monsters…”

    “I am not even dignifying that with a reply. Boot up and let’s go.”

    Newsie blinked, surprised, at the finished report, which was barely a minute and a half long. “Uh…I thought this was our featured piece?”

    “Yeah, you’d think so. But Murray kept sending it back, asking for cuts. My guess is they’re decreasing your segment overall to put in more commercial time.”

    Newsie snorted. “They’d better not! If Blanke does that, I’ll…I’ll barge right into his office and—“

    “And say what? ‘Please sir, may I have some more newstime?’ Come on!” Rhonda shook her head, disgusted. “Like he’d care! Ya know, he only reinstated Muppet News, I hear, ‘cause of some sort of lawsuit threat by the ACLU.”

    “You’ve heard that too?” Newsie frowned. “We ought to investigate that!”

    Rhonda sighed and rubbed her tiny eyes. “Later, sunshine, later. You want coffee? I’ve been up since four. My brothers moved in, temporarily they say, and their screaming toddlers kept me up…all three hundred of ‘em…”

    Taken aback, Newsie stared at her. “You’ve never mentioned your family before.”

    “And I never will again, believe me. There’s a reason I got into the news business: it was calmer than my home life!” Rhonda paused at the door. “Regular or with that froofy cream you like?”

    Newsie scowled at her. Rhonda nodded. “Froofy cream. Got it. Be right back. Your stories are on the makeup table.” She trotted out, squeaking indignantly at some technician who nearly swept over her with a camera rolling out for repairs. “Hey! Eyes down here, genius!”

    Tearing himself away from the graphic animation of the ConEd tunnel’s possible collapse proved somewhat difficult; the disaster-film-style scenario was certainly compelling viewing. He couldn’t imagine Murray or even Blanke wanting to cut any more of that, as astoundingly grim as it looked. He wondered whether water really would flush the sewer contents into the streets of Manhattan, as the animation showed, if and when that cracked tunnel wall fell in… The tiny animated society matron screaming as a flood of garbage and swimming rats swept her up Fifth Avenue was particularly fascinating… Shaking himself out of his morbid frame of mind, Newsie picked up the short stack of printed story notes for tonight and began reading them. ‘Suggs receives vote of no confidence from American Fertilization Society’…’MADL makes a stink with cow pies at Occupy camp’, hoo boy…’NYPD detective on administrative leave following cow-pie incident with protesting Muppets’ –what? Oh no! Glumly, Newsie read the details of his friend Detective Pendziwater’s suspension from the force for responding to the pie attack by a MADL member (he could guess which one) by grabbing a kid’s can of spraypaint and coating the Muppet with Krylon Glossy Flamingo. Oh for crying out loud! He glanced up when Rhonda returned, and accepted the mug she held up for him. “Have you read this idiocy?”

    “Every day, sweetheart, every day.” The rat sipped her black coffee, watching the Newsman glower as he read through the whole stack. “Isn’t that your contact on the force? Nice move, coating that mouthy wench. Can’t say I blame him; those pies are really hard to wash out of a nice jacket.”

    “The Muppet is suing for assault, claiming she’ll never get her felt back to midnight blue,” Newsie replied, shaking his head. “What do they think they’ll accomplish by harassing people?”

    “Eh, there’s a bad apple in every barrel. So, ya like the tunnel danger story?”

    “It’s…er…”

    “’Must-see’ is the phrase ya want, Goldie. I’m thinking, we lead with that, then the MADL muck-up, then Suggs, ya know, get the local stuff outta the way first. After those, talk about the rumors of anti-Muppet laws still on the books in Yemen and Syria, and the Muppet peace mission to Libya. Ya know, those guys are really brave, trying to get those shipments of water, medicine, and rubber chickens through the lines,” Rhonda observed, chugging her coffee every other sentence.

    “The international stories are much bigger news than MADL and Marvin Suggs,” Newsie argued. “Although I agree: lead with the tunnels. Maybe emphasizing what we caught on film will persuade the authorities to mount a full-scale expedition down there, and root out some of those creatures! At the very least, it should deter people from venturing down there without backup and protection!”

    Rhonda put one hand on her slim hip and glared at her reporter. “You’re still thinking of going back down there, aren’t you!”

    Newsie blew out a breath in annoyance. “Someone has to! Rhonda, I – I heard about another possible angle to all this. Sweetums says there are some sort of monster pests infesting the subway!” Rhonda stared at him, speechless. “We should check it out! Can you get Tony to meet us at Rockefeller Center tomorrow morning? There are a bunch of disused tunnels down there; I think that would be the perfect place to start looking!”

    “Looking for what? Newsie! You only just got over a case of congestion that woulda made an Easter Island statue look healthy, you did not get any evidence of so-called monsters, and—“

    The Newsman’s attempt at a reply was interrupted by the door swinging open. Blanke stood there a moment, looking uneasily from the rat producer to the Muppet journalist, until both of them realized he was there. “Uh…do you two have a minute?”

    “Of course,” Newsie muttered, throwing a scowl at Rhonda.

    “Absolutely,” Rhonda snapped, twitching her whiskers in disgust at Newsie.

    Blanke saw the tunnel-disaster film paused on Newsie’s laptop screen, and tapped it with a round finger. “I need to talk to you about that. Just how did you think you would get away with using station equipment to produce that without running up your costs?”

    “I paid for it out-of-pocket,” Newsie said quickly. “It didn’t cost the station a thing!”

    “Well…good. Because I’d hate for us to waste money on a piece that’ll never air,” Blanke grumbled. Newsie jerked, startled, and Rhonda leaped onto the desk where she could glare at their boss from chest-level instead of foot-level.

    “What do you mean, never air? Do you know how much work went into that?” the rat yelled. “We saw ample evidence of ConEd’s total neglect of that tunnel! It’s a danger to all of lower Manhattan – maybe even the whole city! You gotta air this! Besides…we have animated sewer trash flow!”

    “I have seen your film, and I have been in contact with upper management at the utilities company, and they assured me they are already aware of the problem and—“

    “And they’re dragging their feet while the city is in imminent danger of being overrun by monsters?” Newsie demanded. “Ow…” He winced, putting a hand to his chin where Rhonda had just thwacked him.

    “Monsters? What are you talking about?” Blanke asked, eyes widening.

    “Nothing. He didn’t say nothing. But you gotta air this! It’s…” Lost, Rhonda borrowed a phrase Newsie seemed as fond of as that stupid eagle: “It’s our civic duty as journalists to present this to the public!”

    Blanke’s lips tightened in a pouty frown. “Absolutely not! To go on air and suggest that a company is putting the city in danger, with such flimsy footage? Do you know how much flack we’d get from the Mayor’s office about that? Reyney over at ConEd golfs with the Mayor, for heaven’s sake! He’d call City Hall, they’d call me, I’d have to air a…a retraction…” Blanke looked as though the very word gave him an ulcer. “No. This does not air. Not tonight, not ever! And furthermore, for that little end-run stunt, both of you are suspended from any and all reports which are not handed to you here at the station by Murray or myself! Got that?”

    “You can’t bury this!” Newsie protested, gesturing at the screen. “More people will go missing! The city could be flooded! Do you really want all that on your conscience?”

    “You’re assuming he has one,” Rhonda muttered under her breath.

    “It’s irresponsible, it’s unprovable, and it is not airing!” Blanke shouted, leaning over the shorter Newsman to get his superior position across. “No more special reports for the foreseeable future! Try that little stunt behind my back again, and you’re both fired! Now get back to work!” He glared at both of them before stomping out.

    Angrily, Newsie shouted after him, “This disaster will be on your head! Your politics will not protect you!” No response came; apparently Blanke was satisfied with having laid down his law. Despairing, Newsie sank into his desk chair. “What are we going to do?”

    Rhonda sighed deeply. “What else can we do? We run the other stories. And we do not go trolling through the sewers again!”

    “Please find some other term to use,” Newsie muttered.

    “You,” Rhonda yelled at him, “are completely paranoid!”

    “I am not!” Newsie retorted, his voice rough, feeling slammed on all sides. “D—it, rat, do the math! People vanishing! Monster goop in the tunnels! Other monsters afraid to ride the subway! Even your brethren are fleeing the undercity! Add it up and tell me there’s nothing to it!”

    Nose to nose, they stopped, small brown eyes glaring up into squinting dark ones behind thick glass. Rhonda opened her mouth, froze, shut it. She blinked, and grudgingly eased down. “I never saw any monster goop,” she argued, “but…you have a point. My brothers never dared to ask to stay at my place before…” Newsie leaned back in his chair, shoulders still tense, but feeling less under attack as his producer slowly nodded. “And there were those rats protesting the other day… Did Sweetums really say he was afraid to ride the subway?”

    “Well, he did say he never went into the undercity. He told Gina, and I quote: ‘It’s scary down there!’ Does that sound normal to you?” Newsie stared at Rhonda until she sighed and shook her head.

    “I can’t believe that hulk of fur would be scared of anything. All right, just for the sake of argument, say there are monsters under New York. So…what could they possibly be doing except just avoiding paying rent at Trump Tower?”

    “I don’t know, but it can’t be good! That thing tried to bite Gina –“

    “Well, even if you actually saw that, which I still find questionable given your temperature yesterday, so what? They kinda have a rep for biting, ya know.”

    “I was not feverish! It was just a nose cold! And those stringy things were threatening my aunt, Rhonda! I had to post a guard today just to make sure she’s safe, even if she might not…might not…” Choking to a halt, he slumped, and Rhonda saw the change in his expression from outraged to grieving.

    “Hey…hey. Easy there. I’m…I’m sorry your auntie’s not doing well.” Awkwardly, the rat patted his hand.

    “Rhonda, there’s something else,” Newsie said, his voice dropping to a scratchy whisper. “Someone has been impersonating me!”

    She stared at him a long moment in silence. “Why would anyone do that?”

    “I…I think…it’s a monster,” Newsie said, and now Rhonda heard actual fear in her fearless reporter’s voice. “It sounded all…deep. And cold. And…and sinister.” He shivered.

    “Wait – you spoke to your identity thief?”

    “They left a number at the asylum and at the hospital, pretending to be me, to get updates on my aunt’s condition! I discovered the number today and called it, and I reached some sort of office, and…and that voice…”

    “Well don’t keep me in suspense! What did your mysterious impostor say?”

    “He…it…answered with my name. My real name! And then it…it laughed at me.” Newsie gulped. “And hung up. When I…when I tried calling back…the number was disconnected. That fast.”

    “Holy Bourne Identity, Goldie! What the heck did you stumble into?” Rhonda’s eyes were wide; Newsie grabbed her paws in his hands.

    “You believe me finally?”

    “Do ya still have the number?”

    Newsie immediately handed over his notepad. Rhonda frowned at the number, pulled out her cell and tried it. She listened a second, then shook her head. “No service, number disconnected. Did you call the cops?”

    “Yes, but they didn’t seem inclined to pursue it! Rhonda…why would anyone pretend to be me, and learn about my aunt’s condition, unless they were connected somehow with the monsters I caught in her room?” He jumped from the chair, nervously pacing. “Why would they want her hurt? She was never involved in anything shady! This is all since those weird yippy things started hanging around her! What if she learned something about them, something, I don’t know – compromising?”

    “As low as Scribbler is, I have yet to see a photo of a monster in a compromising position in that rag,” Rhonda said. “What could possibly be so bad and secret? They’re monsters! They…they eat critters, okay, that’s bad, but it’s hardly a secret! They hide under beds, they creep outta closets at night, they have really bad fashion sense in footgear…”

    “Hide under beds?” Newsie shuddered. “I’m glad Gina’s is a platform model!” He made a mental note to check their closet tonight, however…

    “Monster stories, injured aunt, people vanishing, cracks in a ConEd tunnel,” Rhonda noted all on her delicate claws one by one. “I just don’t see connections! But…as far as that phone number is concerned…we might have an angle on that.” She gave him a determined nod, and adjusted the sash on her angora cardigan with the air of a woman about to shove her way through a crowd. “I think I oughta introduce you to one of my old contacts, ‘Ma Bell.’ If anyone can track this number for ya, she can.”

    Newsie paused his anxious pacing and fidgeting. “Uh…won’t that go against Blanke’s order, if we work on a special report?”

    “Who said anything about a report? This is a personal favor for my dear colleague, the guy with the very large nose for news – even if that nose leads him up the wrong tree half the time.” Rhonda grinned suddenly. “Now if it happens to turn into a story, well…I do still know some folks back at the Times…”

    Newsie swallowed, fumbled for words, and finally took her paw in his hand. “Rhonda…you’re the queen.”

    She snorted. “Look, sunshine. Monsters you worry about on your own time. I will corner my brothers and find out why they suddenly wanna visit now, and you will find out why someone has been trying ta be you.” She tilted her head sideways, gazing up in some skepticism. “They actually used your real name? The, what is it, Alicious thing?”

    “Aloysius,” he muttered. “Yes. Outside of a few official records, and, er, Gina…that’s not common knowledge.”

    “That is deeply disturbing,” Rhonda murmured, grabbing her scarf and tucking it artfully around her neck. “Who the heck would want to?”

    “Exactly! I’m sure it must be connected to—“ Newsie abruptly caught the inference, and stopped cold, huffing. “Hey!”

    “Can it, Goldie. Grab your coat, Gina’ll kill me if I let you catch another cold. Let’s hustle.”

    “Wh-where are we going? The news…” Newsie stammered, looking back at the pile of items he was supposed to be mulling over for tonight’s broadcast.

    “Can wait. We have a doppelganger wannabe to track down.” She gave him a dubious look while he fumbled with his overcoat; the russet-and-gray hound’s-tooth wasn’t bad on its own, but he’d dressed after Gina had left this morning for her own work at the Sosilly, and his favorite brown-plaid sportscoat and the orange-and-brown argyle-patterned tie he’d chosen made Rhonda wish she’d brought her shades today. “Sheesh. I sure hope whoever he is, he doesn’t dress like you.”

    “Rhonda!”

    “Come on. Nose pointing this way, Cyrano. If we hurry, Blanke won’t notice we’re gone and back before he returns from his two-hour lunch! Move it!”

    Not sure whether to feel grateful or insulted, the Newsman followed the confident little rat out of the building by the back stairs. With any luck, perhaps he’d uncover the connection he just knew was there between the yipping things, the tunnels, the disappearances… Grimly, he hurried down to the street, where a modicum of sunlight fought the chilly breezes sweeping along the midtown sidewalks.

    Despite all Rhonda’s protests, he absolutely refused to take the subway.
    -------------------
  16. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    :eek: The plot thickens!

    At least Newsie finally found out about the identity theft and is now out and about on the trail to track down the number's origin.
    *Laughs at Sam as a guard outside Ethyl's room and the Martians shushing fights.
    And on top of that, Blankie's laying down his law on the yellow journalist. Hmm, I smell this personal favor that could turn into a story developing much the same way the PKE bruhaha at the end of Love Rain or News became a selling point for his career. What's that Mr. Blankie? You're not interested in this story? Well, we could always go to the rival news network...

    Loved the interplay between reporter and rat, she's really shining through in this story.
    Adding things up is my specialty... But I think the Holmes maxim might remind them that strange things are indeed afoot, or underfoot at least.

    Thanks for the chapter. :D
  17. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    The goop thickens! But at least Rhonda's on his side now. It was great to see Sam the Eagle making a heroic debut in your story.

    I'm not convinced that the yip yips are out to harm Ethel, despite the fact that the Evil Baddie obviously THINKS they are working for him.

    And the scariest thing of ALL? Identity theft! Arrgh! Eek!

    A worthy installment to a tale that keeps getting creepier!
  18. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Posted by fan of Newsman:
    "Well! I certainly hope this ‘Frau Blucher’ doesn’t know of the lax security measures at the hospital bearing her… “Why am I hearing horses?” Sam muttered aloud, looking up and down the hallway. When no explanation presented itself, and there was no one around to ask, he shrugged. “Weird.”"

    Again... I'm left to wonder if I'm the lone person getting some of these references.
    All I say about this is, check your Mel Brooks movies folks. :fishy:
    newsmanfan likes this.
  19. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    You got it! Yay!
  20. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks. BTW: It was made into a play if you need titles for upcoming KG chapters. :shifty:


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