Here it is! The very first story out of the NEW Marvelous Muppets series! And there are plenty more to come! To New Beginnings Sprawled out on the asphalt, surrounded by near-pitch-blackness, was a young, beautiful, and unconscious blonde in a grey sweater that hung off her right shoulder – exposing the right strap of her black bra – tight black jeans, and white knee-high socks worn beneath dark brown boots. The number of seconds, minutes, or hours she had been lying in the dark alley were unknown. No one cared to notice her there – this is New York after all. Her clothes were damp, along with her long golden hair. Soon her eyes, noticeably blue in the dark atmosphere, opened. Their first view was of the starry sky, which appeared hazy at first but clear after a few blinks. The young blonde breathed in and out, the wind blowing her peppermint-scented breath back into her nostrils. She began to sit up yet found incredible difficulty doing so, her head aching on the way up. Her joints had stiffened, popping and cracking heavily as she stretched them out. It was an excruciating task, but she managed to return flexibility to her body once more. Getting to her feet was easy but staying on them was a challenge, particularly with dizziness setting in. She balanced herself against the brick wall to her right with both hands pressed against it. She felt nauseated to the extreme, feeling the desire to vomit but unable to do so. There was not much in her stomach to come up at the moment. BANG! Without even realizing it, her right knee hit against a garbage can, scaring away an orange alley cat that sat atop it, wearing an eye patch over its left eye. “Hey! What’s goin’ on out there?” A grouchy voice blared from inside the garbage can. “I’m tryin’ to get some sleep in here!” The lid popped open in front of the young blonde. A filthy, furry, bushy-eyed green monster rose up, glaring right at her. “Hey, bright eyes, watch where you’re goin’!” Her vision partially misty, the young blonde saw the grouchy monster and a warm smile grew upon her exquisite face. “Oscar? Oscar the Grouch!” “Yeah. And who are you? Meg Ryan?” She did not seem to hear his sarcasm, too preoccupied with reaching at the grouch and giving him a warm hug. Oscar instantly protested the kindhearted gesture. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I don’t do hugs, Bright Eyes!” The blonde frowned. “Bright eyes? Why do you keep calling me that? My eyes aren’t anywhere near ‘bright.’ They’re dark brown.” Oscar shook his furry head. “Nuh-uh, kiddo. Those peepers are as blue as a sky on a sunny day.” He covered his mouth and made a gagging noise. “Ugh, just starin’ at them makes me sick to my stomach.” Alarmed by the grouchy monster’s observation, the blonde requested, “Can I have a mirror?” “I dunno. Can ya?” Oscar said with a snicker. “I’m serious, Oscar! Give me one!” “Well, since you did ask so nicely…” He temporarily lowered himself back into the garbage can and reemerged with a faded black handheld mirror. “I should warn ya that it’s broken.” He then added with a wicked cackle, “Seven years bad luck.” Taking the mirror, the blonde right away looked into her cracked reflection, terrified to see a whole different person looking back at her. Sure enough, she had bright blue eyes, as well as long blond hair. However, the most stunning aspect most of all to her was that she was a woman. She gazed at her body, noting the curvy, feminine shape of it. Her bright blue eyes widened with shock. “How did this happen?” “That’s a question for your mommy and daddy, kiddo.” Looking back at the grouch, she said, “Oscar, this isn’t who I am. You know who I am. I’m Sean Thomas of The Daily Bugle. I’m tall, I’m as black as Gordon and Chris Robinson combined, and I’m 36 years old. I don’t look like…this!” She gestured to herself for emphasis. “Look, kid, none of that stuff rings any bells for me. I don’t even know what a ‘Daily Bugle’ is. That some kinda trumpet you play every morning you get outta bed?” “It’s the newspaper I work for with Kermit the Frog, Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear! You should know this! The Bugle’s covered Sesame Street more than numerous times!” “Wrong again, kid. The only newspaper that’s ever been to Sesame Street is The Daily Chronicle.” The blonde frowned again. “The Bugle’s chief rival news business?” “How many times have I got to tell ya? This ‘Bugle’ newspaper doesn’t exist. Here, look at this.” He descended into his garbage can once again, rising out with a crumpled newspaper that he handed over to the blonde. She looked at the front page copy of The Daily Chronicle with a headline that asked the question: “Has the reign of mutant-kind come to an end?” Below it was a photograph of silhouettes with question marks labeled on each figure, some of them she recognized as members of the team of mutants known as the X-Men. The article was written by a journalist named “KaeLeigh Marie-Cecilia.” There was a photo next to the byline of a woman that looked exactly like the young blonde herself. “I’m KaeLeigh?” She whispered in confusion and surprise. “I’d say it’s nice to meet ya, but it’s not.” Oscar growled. Stricken by this discovery, KaeLeigh tossed the newspaper aside, much to the delight of Oscar, who watched it fall to the asphalt with the rest of the garbage that cluttered the alley. KaeLeigh rushed out of the area to find herself right into a street corner in the heart of Times Square. She hailed for a taxicab and one came to a screeching halt right in front of her. The nature of it all reminded her of Beauregard, one infamous cab driver in New York City known for his insane driving throughout the streets. She looked through the driver’s side window and, sure enough, the Muppet cabbie sat there. “Where to, Miss?” KaeLeigh smiled, tears welling up in her eyes. “It’s so good to see you again, Beauregard.” “It’s good to see you, too, Miss. Whoever you are.” Her smile fell the instant he failed to recognize who she really was. She was not certain how she ended up as this new person in a world where neither The Daily Bugle nor Sean Thomas existed, but she intended to get to the bottom of it, and there was only one place she knew to go to get her answers. Getting into the backseat of Beauregard’s cab, she told him, “Take me to the Chronicle HQ.” Beauregard blinked once, as if to keep the location memorize in his limited mental storage. “Got it.” KaeLeigh had not even got her door shut the second Beauregard hit the gas. The rear tires screeched wilder than a banshee, kicking up clouds of smoke from the burning rubber. Within a millisecond, Beauregard was back to driving the streets in his maniac fashion. Without proper seatbelts, KaeLeigh was left to clinch the seat cushion with her hands, as well as her butt cheeks, to prevent herself from bouncing around the cab. Ten minutes later (a new record for Beauregard), they pulled up right at the front of the Daily Chronicle HQ building. A neon sign situated at the very top was the biggest clue of the location. KaeLeigh paid for the cab fee – she was amazed to discover she had any money on her at all – and rushed right into the HQ. Arriving on the twentieth floor, which was the newsroom floor, she found a plethora of reporters gathered together under balloons hovering against the ceiling and streamers hung in various places. There was a banner hung over the entrance to the editor’s office that once belonged to the late Mike Tarkanian. The words “Welcome, Ms. Banks” were painted in a rainbow of colors on the parchment. Standing just beneath it was a 50-year-old blond woman wearing a light blue silk blouse and black dress pants. She raised up a glass of sparkling champagne and exclaimed, “To new beginnings!” “To new beginnings!” The reporters repeated before roaring into applause for who KaeLeigh could only presume was the new editor of The Daily Chronicle.