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

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

  1. Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I am unbelievably happy that Gonzo managed to pull off his amazing (ly stupid) stunt, but worried about whether or not harm will come to him.

    I enjoyed the back-stage interaction between the guys, and then the mention of the upcoming interaction between the girls, er, ladies. Here's hoping that Camilla gets a chance to actually feather that nest at some future point.


    Yay for candied gnats! Kermit will be sorry they got burnt, but you have to watch that brown sugar carefully or the whole thing can go wrong....

    Waiting for Newsie to come to the rescue! (Or Kermit. Or Anyone!)
  2. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Eleven

    “What can I getcha?” the bartender asked.

    Uncertainly, Newsie glanced at the rows of exotic liquors and liqueurs interspersed between racks of test tubes and Pyrex glassware, all lit with blacklight. “Er…uh…just a ginger beer, please. Bleinheim’s, if you carry it.”

    A frosty bottle plunked onto the counter before him. The Newsman paid for it and immediately took a long gulp. Gina had introduced him to the heady, potent brew during the summer heat; he usually didn’t go right for the strong stuff, but tonight he was feeling unnerved enough to want a panacea. His gaze traveled around the tavern, passing over a crowd of students performing some kind of experiment with a full rig of bottles, tubes, and a gas burner in the corner; a few professorish types puffing on e-cigs while they quaffed strong mugs of stout; two bespectacled, lab-coated young women at the bar clearly ignoring the two young men in argyle sleeveless cardigans who kept trying to start a conversation with them. There were a few tables still empty, but the Newsman was feeling too skittish to turn away from the bar and its long, mirror-tiled periodic table of the elements which gave him a good view of the whole room. Not that he thought it likely a monster would come in here…but better safe than sorry.

    He took another swig of the ginger soda, coughing a little, reminding himself to slow down. His throat burned. The TV over this end of the bar showed some sort of pulsing, horrible fungoid blob wielding a blowtorch while a trio of monsters watched. Startled, Newsie gestured for the bartender’s attention. “What the heck is that? A horror movie?” he demanded, pointing to the blob onscreen; it appeared now to be doing some sort of ballet in excruciating closeup.

    The bartender laughed. “Uh…no, I thought it was some kind of new talent show. Weird!”

    “Well can you change the channel, please?” Newsie asked. Shrugging, the man wiped his fingers on his apron, found the remote, and turned the station to one of the major networks’ evening news broadcasts. “Thank you,” Newsie nodded. He jumped, almost falling off his barstool when someone patted his shoulder. “Ack!”

    “Well hello, Newsman!” Dr Bunsen Honeydew exclaimed. “Fancy meeting you here! I didn’t realize you had an interest in chemistry!”

    “Meep meep,” Beaker added, nodding familiarly.

    “Er…hello, Dr Honeydew, Beaker. No, I…I’m meeting Gina. This is one of her favorite taverns,” Newsie explained. “Uh…do you come here often?”

    “Tsst, tsst! Does that mean you want to buy me a drink?” Honeydew joked; Beaker tittered. At the Newsman’s obviously confused expression, Bunsen patted his shoulder again. “I’m just joshing you, of course! Excuse me, barkeep? One radiator coolant!” Beaker meeped at him. “Oh, sorry. Make that two, please!”

    Two tall lab mixing beakers of thick, greenish liquid appeared quickly on the bartop; the bartender used metal tongs to carefully drop a chunk of dry ice into each of them, and then slid neon curly-straws into the glasses before pushing them over. “Mee!” Beaker said happily, slurping his noisily.

    “Excellent! Keep the change,” Bunsen said, handing a bill over. He turned once more to Newsie. “This is our favorite bar. Most places simply don’t understand the research scientist’s need to enjoy a mildly toxic beverage after a long day in the lab! But here, even the drinks cater to our tastes, right, Beaker?” His lab partner made happy noises, the straw still stuck in his mouth.

    Newsie gave the green stuff a dubious look. “Er…that isn’t really…”

    “Radiator fluid? Oh, ho, ho! Of course not! No, this is a rather potent combination of green apple schnapps, Angustora bitters, absinthe and diet lime soda, with just a teensy touch of paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde! Would you care to try a sip? I can ask for another straw…”

    A girl’s high peal of laughter from the experiment in the corner made Beaker look up so fast his straw jerked up, leaving the glass but still in his mouth; when one of the lab-coated ladies at the bar noticed Beaker and gave him a very frank study, and then a smile, Beaker blushed and tried to smooth down his hair. His arm knocked his straw from his lips and onto the floor. He looked from the now-contaminated straw to his drink, shrugged, and drank straight from the glass.
    “Uh…I thought dry ice was poisonous?” Newsie asked.

    “Oh, not really! But one does need to make sure one’s felt doesn’t actually come in direct contact with the frozen carbon dioxide! It can cause rather bad burns.” Newsie nodded, glancing at the door, hoping Gina would arrive soon. He knew he was early, and although it was nice to see a colleague, he’d never been entirely comfortable around these two…less so since the incident with them and the psychokinetic reverse field energy generator earlier this year.

    Beaker started, hastily removing the drink from his mouth, but the bubbling, slowly evaporating chunk of dry ice refused to unstick from his upper lip. “Meee! Meee!” Frantically he tugged at it with one hand. His fingers stuck to it. “Meeee!”

    “Oh, honestly, Beaker! If you like her proportions too, why don’t you offer to buy her a drink?” Bunsen grumbled, not looking at his assistant. He leaned closer to Newsie. “I keep encouraging him to have more of a social life, but you know Beaker! Totally devoted to his work!” He smiled. “It is very nice to know you and your Romany sweetheart get out together once in a while! It makes for a nice break from your news work, I would imagine.”

    “It does,” Newsie agreed. He cast an uncertain glance at Beaker, who was now reeling between the nearest tables, meeping and flailing his elbows, his drink abandoned on the bartop. “Is…is he all right?”

    Bunsen shook his head wearily. “Regrettably, my colleague sometimes forgets he shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach!” He nodded at the Newsman’s nearly-empty ginger beer. “Will you and Ms Broucek be eating here as well? They have some truly wonderful sandwiches! I highly recommend the organic metacarbon au jus – it comes with a side of the most delightful ammonium-iodide pommes frites!”

    Irritated exclamations came from the table holding the experiment in the corner. Trying to keep up the conversation but feeling somewhat distracted, the Newsman sipped more of his ginger brew. “Ah…sounds very…culinary.”

    “Why don’t you join us for dinner? It would be a pleasure to catch back up with the two of you,” Bunsen offered. “Oh! Speaking of joining…will you be participating in the charity walk on Halloween?”

    “The MADL event?” Newsie shook his head. “Dr Honeydew, I really can’t. It would compromise my journalistic standards to actively take part in a special-interest group’s fundraising.”

    “Oh, of course. How silly of me! I never considered that. I suppose you must have to walk a very fine line between us and the non-felted, what with your mainstream news job.”

    Uncomfortably, Newsie shrugged. “No, no, my station probably wouldn’t mind…it’s just… Well, you try to be completely objective in your labwork, don’t you?”

    “Absolutely.” Honeydew smiled at him. “I think I see your position! Well, might you give us some coverage on the news? Surely a few mentions leading up to that night, and perhaps a live report on the walk that evening, couldn’t hurt?”

    Newsie considered it. From the back corner, high-pitched meeps gave way to shouts of “Watch it!” and “Look out!” and a series of glass-shattering crashes. Discomfited, he looked around, but couldn’t make out precisely what was going on amid the frantic movements of the student crowd; he glimpsed Beaker’s fiery orange hair above the melee only an instant. He tried to focus on Honeydew. “Well…uh…no, that sounds fair enough…”

    “Splendid! It will take place Halloween night, on Doyers Street, at the old—“ An especially loud BOOM from the corner had the bartender shouldering past them, a fire extinguisher held aloft. Newsie started at the sight of Beaker’s hair actually aflame. “Oh, dear! Excuse me, Newsman! Beaker! For heaven’s sake, you forgot your drink!” Honeydew hurried into the surging crowd, excusing and pardoning himself numerous times to navigate the gawkers surrounding the blackened lab equipment.

    “Um…are they all right?”

    Relieved at the familiar voice, Newsie turned to see Gina staring worriedly at the white-coated carnage. “As much as they ever are,” he replied, setting his drink down to give her a strong hug. He nuzzled his nose against her shoulder, sighing, and took comfort in her arms around him.

    “Goodness. Bad night?” she asked, settling onto the barstool next to his. “I thought you liked being weekend anchorman?”

    Since the departure of former star anchor Bart Fargo under a cloud of humiliation and a green tint he never could quite dye out of his hair, the station manager had appointed the Newsman as weekend anchor for the six o’clock news. The former weekend anchor, a veteran who’d been angling for the main seat for years, did certainly deserve his shot, the Newsman thought, but he still felt a twinge of irritation that he himself hadn’t been picked for the more important slot. However, it was still a step up, and even a small salary bump, so he wasn’t complaining – no matter how much Rhonda did. He sighed again. “No, the news was fine…I mean, presenting it…”

    “Gotcha. So…what fell on you?” She discreetly checked the top of his head for bruising as she stroked her fingers lightly through his thick auburn hair.

    He blushed. “Please…I’m fine…it was only a dozen or so cantaloupes.” He blinked seriously at her. “Naturally, I had them destroyed! Listeria is terrible!”

    “Naturally,” Gina agreed, biting back a smile. She gestured at the bartender. “Dark and stormy, please?” She nodded at Newsie’s drink. “You want another of those, or something less potent?”

    Newsie set the empty bottle on the bartop. “One more, I think.” A small rustling noise made him jump and nervously look all around, but it turned out to be only a couple of soused penguins bumping through the crowd’s legs as they passed by.

    “Okay…you really are keyed up,” Gina observed. “Newsie, what happened?”

    The bartender returned, setting another Bleinheim’s before Newsie, but then indicated Gina’s Day-of-the-Dead-evoking outfit. “Hey, if you want, we got a special going on for Halloween drinks all month! Want to try a ‘dark and stormy hayride’?”

    “What’s that?”

    “Same drink, but with pumpkin-spice liqueur and vanilla rum.”

    “Oooh...yeah! Thank you!” She smiled briefly as the man poured out the drink for her in a large pumpkin-shaped glass and topped it off with a straw and a skewer of candy corn. “Mmm…wanna try?” she offered Newsie a sip.

    He shook his head, casting an anxious look at the noisy young patrons carrying on their party or experiment or both, despite the faint haze of smoke still lingering. “Can we…find someplace quiet in here? If that’s possible?”

    “I see an empty booth. Come on.”

    The Newsman followed his beloved back to a cramped booth, and climbed onto the vinyl seat across from her. The fake cobwebs and tacky strings of skull-shaped lights everywhere did nothing to alleviate his mood. Gina took his hand in hers, concerned. “Is your aunt okay?” Seeing his expression instantly change for the worse, she stroked his fingers. “Oh…Newsie. I’m sorry. How is she?”

    “She’s in the hospital,” he muttered, staring at the table. “The doctor doesn’t know if she’ll recover or not. She’s…conscious, but not at all aware of where she is. Less than before. She’s not even talking.”

    “Newsie…I’m so sorry.” Gina kissed his fingers gently.

    “They said she fell –“

    “Geez. Wasn’t anyone with her?”

    “Those two freaks were!” Newsie spat. Startled, Gina sat back, eyes widening. “They – they tripped her, or pushed her, or something! I caught them hiding in her room at the hospital!”

    “Those two furry things? The…yipping jellyfish with the big mouths?”

    “Yes! They hurt her! They – they called her ‘bad’!” He stared grimly at his worried love. “I’ve arranged for police protection for her, but something awful is going on, Gina. I’m sure of it! I saw them leave through the sewers! The sewers!”

    It took her a second to realize what he meant. “This…this is connected to those stories of people disappearing you’ve been researching?”

    “It must be!” He shook his head, and held tight to her hand. “Gina…if monsters really are invading the city…I have to warn people! I have to find out what their horrible plot is, and expose them!”

    “Newsie…why would those two creatures want to hurt your aunt? They seemed to really like her, I thought. It doesn’t make sense…”

    “It does if there is some master plan, and those two are part of it! Maybe…maybe Ethel found something out, or saw something about them they’d rather the public not know! What if there are terrorist monsters? What if there are hideous furry insurgents hiding in the New York City subway tunnels? Think of the damage they could do! It would be worse than Spain! It could potentially be bigger than 9/11!”

    “Aloysius,” she said softly, holding his fingers tight in her own, “calm down. Take a drink, take a breath, let’s start this over, okay?”

    Frustrated, Newsie nevertheless did as she suggested, downing two long gulps of the ginger beer, then suffering hiccups. Gina leaned over and smacked his shoulderblades; he gulped, took a deep breath, nodded thanks, and tried to organize his racing thoughts. “I haven’t seen you this anxious in a long while,” she said, watching him wrest himself under control with a concerned frown. “You’re jumping at every little noise.”

    He shivered. “I saw them, Gina. They…dissolved right down the storm drain! It was grotesque!”

    “Okay…but that doesn’t mean they attacked your aunt. Or that they’ve been dragging people into the sewers to eat them, or whatever.” She sipped her drink, eyes narrowed over the rim of the glass at her clearly shaken Muppet journalist. “So…how many people have gone missing in the sewers? Provable, I mean – that can’t be explained any other way?”

    “At least seven,” he replied, then thought about it. “More likely nine or ten. And those are just the ones that have been reported by co-workers or friends of the missing! Remember when a whole enclave of homeless people were discovered living in an abandoned subway tunnel, a few years ago? If the monsters attacked a group like that…dozens would be simply gone and no one would be the wiser on the surface!” Distraught, he glanced around the room, not sure what he should be looking for but nagged by the disturbing feeling he ought to be on the watch for something. He downed the rest of his ginger brew, and cleaned his glasses with a small cloth; his vision seemed a trifle blurry, and he wanted to be sharp in every way right now. When Gina took his hand again he jumped slightly.

    “Newsie…relax. Please,” Gina begged softly. “There are no monsters here. None.” He nodded curtly, still restless of eye and movement. Gina sighed. “So what are you going to do about it? Start yelling for everyone to go monster-hunting in the subway?”

    “That would be irresponsible.”

    “Good. I’m glad you realize that.” Gina shook her head, but stroked his fingers in hers. “Look, maybe there is something to all this, but sitting here worrying about it instead of enjoying a nice dinner isn’t going to help matters, or calm you.”

    “I’ve already begun research. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the library.” He scowled. “All the blueprints are at City Hall, though, and they won’t be open until Monday! I did find a number of books on the subject, however…”

    “Urban myths? Alligators flushed down toilets turning feral in the sewers?”

    “Of course not! No…I mean material concerning the history and construction of the tunnels. Subway, abandoned lines, sewer systems, gas and power conduits, deep water routes below the bedrock…everything.” He swallowed the last trace of ginger, feeling suddenly sheepish. “Uh…I piled them all on the coffee table. I’ll organize when we get home.”

    “So you’re not going to go on the air and declare the city has a monster infestation under the streets?”

    “Absolutely not!” he said, shocked. “They…they might see the broadcast, and be ready for me!”

    “Newsie…I kind of doubt monsters watch the local news.” Gina started to smile, then the implication of what he’d just said sank in. “Newsie. Please tell me you’re not planning on going down there yourself!”

    “Um. Er…”

    “I thought all that was off-limits? Only city services workers, subway technicians, those kind of folks allowed down at all?” She frowned, her petite nose wrinkling in a way he would have found adorable in other circumstances. “Not to mention it’s dangerous! Live wires, nasty gunk in the water…why would you want to risk it? Please tell me you’re not even considering that!”

    “Er. Uh…”

    Gina sighed, watching him squirm and fidget with his tie and his shirtcuffs. “This really smells like a story to you?”

    Unhappily, he met her gaze, and nodded. “That ‘nose for news’ thing isn’t really a joke. I honestly did pick the profession that best suited my natural talents…”

    With a wistful smile, Gina stroked a finger down the sharp edge of his long nose. “And suited you are, my dedicated journalist. Uh…what does this story smell like, exactly?”

    Newsie shivered all over. “Like dirty wet fur,” he muttered. “Like horrible things under the bed.”

    Gina’s boot kicked something under their table. “Sheesh!” a fairly large orange-and-green-striped spider complained as it scuttled away, “Lousy service, spilled beers, and rude customers! See if I ever spin a web here again!”

    The both stared after it a moment. Newsie pushed his empty bottle away, feeling mildly ill. “Spider,” Gina pointed out. “Not monster.”

    “Close enough,” he grumbled. He felt her touch on his chin, and looked up into soft grey eyes.

    “Do you know I love you, and I want you happy?” she asked.

    Despite his anxiety, he melted inside. He nodded.

    Gina smiled at him, though she appeared hesitant. “Then if you really think this is some kind of big conspiracy, do your homework and look into it. Just…be careful. Don’t go down there unless it’s with some kind of official guide, okay? And not without telling me first. Please.”

    “All right,” he agreed, and leaned over the table to meet her proffered lips in a kiss. “I love you.”

    “Homework first. I know how much you dislike monsters; just don’t let it color your judgment, okay?” She smiled more openly. “Hey, if there is something we need to worry about, I’ll play Paul Revere with you! But I think you need a lot more evidence than a couple of weird rag-things yipping down a storm drain.” She laid one hand on the as-yet-unopened plastic menu on the table. “Have dinner with me?”

    “Of course,” the Newsman said, embarrassed at having been so gung-ho, and looked over the menu with her, the two of them passing it back and forth and finally waving down the harried lone waitress. Gina’s right, he thought. This did merit a great deal more investigation first…but he was still convinced malevolent monsters were lurking somewhere down there…plotting. Waiting. Maybe silencing those who discovered too much. He would have to be very, very careful, he realized. However, that didn’t mean he shouldn’t do something to warn people immediately…

    Rhonda disagreed completely.

    “Are you completely insane?” she squeaked, tiny eyes wide, when on Sunday afternoon she came storming into his dressing-room at KRAK, his news script for the night in hand. “Goldie, what the heck is this?”

    Annoyed at her barging in without knocking, the Newsman finished buttoning up his dress shirt; he’d removed it to brush his teeth, always sensitive to his appearance on-camera. “Looks like tonight’s script to me. Something wrong with it?” he demanded.

    “Oh, geez, lemme see. Hmm. Story on Occupy Wall Street, check. Story on Libyan rebel government, check. Story on listeria breakout –“

    “Not more fruit,” he muttered under his breath, reflexively smoothing down his hair.

    “Check,” Rhonda continued, ignoring his interruption. “Story on people vanishing in the sewers, check – oh wait a minute, am I wrong or does this story have absolutely nothing at all to do with reality?” She smacked the papers down on the long makeup counter in front of his mirror. “Obviously you wrote that one – I asked Art and Murray and neither of them knew anything about it! So what gives?”

    “Rhonda,” he said, taking a deep breath, “in the past month, at least seven people have gone into the tunnels beneath this city, witnessed by others who were with them at the time, and have not re-emerged! That’s too many to be accidents and too many to be coincidence!” He glared at her. “And I personally witnessed a couple of suspicious, possibly homicidal monsters escaping down a storm drain in Queens!”

    “Homicidal monsters?” She glanced through the reports again. “It doesn’t say anything in here about that!”

    “Of course not! Do you think I don’t know the consequences of starting a panic? Or of alerting the monsters that I’m wise to them, before I have all the facts in hand?” Snorting disgustedly, he lifted his chin to see his tie in the mirror, and knotted it with quick, angry movements. “For all I know, there could be monsterist cells operating in this very station!”

    Rhonda rolled her eyes. “Oh, right, of course, silly me! Hey, I bet there are monster spies around here who are keeping an eye on you, and who are all in a secret sinister plot to take over the airwaves and force a TV-addicted populace to its knees for their secret monster agenda!”

    Newsie paused, giving her a worried look. “Really? You think it goes that deep?”

    Rhonda jumped up, thwacking him over the nose with the news script. “Have you completely lost your mind?” Newsie stumbled back a step, one hand instinctively protecting his nose, startled. “Oh my frog! You really have been clobbered by too many falling objects! Newsie, come on! Do you think Sweetums is involved in a terror plot? Or Big Mama? Or the Mutations?”

    “I never trusted those guys,” Newsie muttered. “Their singing is so bad it has to be a cover for something else!”

    “Oh, please! What about the cute ones from that kid’s show – Cookie Monster? Herry Monster? Elmo? They’re monsters! Think they’re all plotting to take over the world?”

    Newsie shot her a glare. “Well, the first two are probably all right, but that Elmo character…”

    “I do not believe I am hearing this!”

    “Oh no? Well what about this? Remember those two ConEd guys who filed the police report a week ago? No one has seen them since! They never even made it to their homes! I checked!” He scowled, feeling entirely justified. “Doesn’t that strike you as scary?”

    “No, you know what’s scary? Scary is the fact that our nightly news is so poor, we’re being beat out in the ratings by some local-indie-channel talent show thing!” Rhonda pulled the latest Nielsen printout from a pocket, and Newsie blinked; where did the rat even have pockets in that tight miniskirt and bolo jacket? She waved the sheet in his face, although she had to jump onto the makeup counter to do it. “I mean, I never even heard of this station before! MMN? What the heck is that? And they’re beating us by two full points!”

    Irritated, Newsie brushed the ratings sheet away. “I’m in the news business, not the entertainment business!”

    “Oh, well la dee dah,” Rhonda sniffed. “Like you getting pummeled by stuff even on the regular news gig isn’t entertaining! Look, why don’t ya do a piece on cows or something?”

    “Cows?”

    “Sure. Or sheep. Sheep are funny.”

    “D—it, Rhonda, I’m not here to be funny!” he shouted. “I’m here because people need to know about things which could affect their lives! And that certainly includes the possibility that monsters may be invading the city right underneath their feet!”

    Rhonda’s whiskers bristled, and she put her nose right up to his. “I’ll tell ya what’s affecting my life right now – my just-became-a-real-anchor news partner is too caught up in his personal phobias to put any energy into making his broadcast more watchable, and what happens to him happens to me because I’m his stupid reports producer!” They glared at one another, fuming. Rhonda pushed her hair out of her eyes, trying to regain her professional mein. “Newsie…look. Drop the monster stuff. It’s just not credible. You wanna chase after missing people, fine, great, we’ll set up a two-unit shoot this week. Tromping around in other people’s waste sounds delightful and I can’t wait to ride shotgun on that! But meantime, can you please, please, please just stick to real stories that people actually wanna watch?”

    “I won’t say a word about monsters,” he promised grudgingly, lowering his voice. “But I will present my findings on missing persons in the tunnels. People need to be warned not to go down there, Rhonda. I’m serious.”

    “I hadn’t ever noticed,” she sighed in return, but there was no venom in her jibe. “Okay, fine. Now can you work this in somewhere?” She handed him a sheet of paper with some news copy typed on it; he took it, read it quickly, and frowned, confused.

    “Uh…an ad about Happy Harvey’s Hamster Hamburgers?”

    “I was thinking maybe use it as a lighter-tone piece. Just don’t put it anywhere near that listeria story.”

    “Rhonda…is this a sponsor?”

    “They’ve offered us freebies off their lunch cart every weekday. Not a bad trade. The boss wants it worked into the broadcast, okay?”

    Surprised, the Newsman stared hard at the blasé little rat. “Sponsorship? Are we labeling it as such, at least? Should I say this segment is brought to you by Happy Harvey’s?”

    “Nah, you don’t need to go to that much trouble. Just…maybe…what if you ate one of their burgers on-camera, and mention they opened a new joint on the Upper East Side? I’ll make sure the front of the bag is facing camera two…”

    “Rhonda! No!”

    “Oh. Already had dinner? Okay – pretend to eat it. Really, it’s the bag that counts the most; you can fake the rest.”

    “No!” Astounded, the Newsman drew himself up to his full three-foot-six (seven, with his shoes on) and gave her his deepest scowl. “That’s not news! I will not present it in any way which might even suggest that! If they want ads, have them talk to the station’s ad department, not the news division!”

    “Newsie…” Rhonda sighed. “Look. You like being anchor, even on weekends, am I right? It’s nice?”

    “What are you implying?”

    “I’m not implying anything!” She leaned closer, glancing toward the closed door to the hallway. “Uh…but Blanke told me to tell you he wants all his anchors to earn their nicer pay. Capiche?”

    “That’s blackmail!” he sputtered. “That’s…that’s compromising the news! I won’t do it!”

    “You wanna go back to the only-Muppet-news gig? A few seconds a night on-camera, instead of being behind the big desk to introduce every story? You want to give up this cushy dressing-room?”

    Shocked, Newsie stared at her. “But...but this is my dressing-room!”

    Rhonda shrugged. “Hey, I’m not saying I like it either! Frankly, those hamster burgers kinda creep me out…and they taste terrible. But ratings are down, and if we don’t pick up some more ad revenue quick, cuts will be made, and people will be demoted if they aren’t locked into cushy contracts, and you know I was only able to negotiate schedule for you with them – not a guaranteed anchor position.” She took a deep breath, smoothed down her skirt, and crossed her arms over her chest. “So do the danged report already. It’s a small enough price to pay for all this, I think. And it’s the way everybody does the news these days. Sordid, I’ll grant ya, but established practice. So mention the nasty burgers and you get full funding for your special reports, including two cameras all week to go squishing through the sewers if that’s your cup a’ java. Okay?”

    The Newsman didn’t reply, thoroughly disgusted. Without a word he tucked the reprehensible ad copy into his news script pages, and Rhonda patted his arm. “That wasn’t so painful, was it? No to monsters, yes to burgers, you’re due on set in two minutes, we all good?”

    “Fine,” Newsie muttered. “Can I finish dressing in peace?”

    “Ya know, I don’t know why Gina buys you nice coats. It’s only gonna need dry-cleaning,” the rat called over her shoulder as she trotted out of the room.

    Angrily, Newsie read the ad again. An idea struck, and he woke up his PowerBook and logged on to the Web, typing in a search for the happy hamburgers. He found what he’d hoped for in seconds, and with a smile, turned his printer on and started feeding webpages to it.

    “Good evening! It is Sunday, October the sixteenth. I’m the Newsman, and here are tonight’s top stories…” The newscast went fairly smoothly; he was prepared for the cantaloupes pelting him this time, and managed to stay more or less upright and focused on the camera after the last one had thumped his head. The brief about NATO air strikes had him flinching and crouching as frightening sounds seared the air over his head; he didn’t look up, not wanting to know whether it was missiles or attack drones this time. Finally, in local news, he swallowed dryly and launched into his warning: “A series of unexplained disappearances of workers in the city’s vast underground tunnel system has some at Consolidated Edison worried. Although workers keep their own maps of the extensive network of subway, service and water tunnels in order to facilitate their routine repair and maintenance tasks for the utility company, the company has been hearing reports of unusual things in the tunnels! Two workers actually filed a police report claiming to have seen some sort of creature briefly in a maintenance tunnel, and having heard continuous, unexplained noises while working in a seldom-used stretch of the tunnel.” Nervously, he checked the studio floor, but saw no monsters present. “KRAK News followed up on this report, and tried to contact the workers; however, they did not show up for work the following day, or any day since, and efforts to reach them at home have failed. Neighbors and family members are worried, saying the two men who filed the report have not been home since the day they did so! It has now been ten days since this mysterious chain of events began. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of either of these men,” (he glanced at a monitor to make sure the men’s names and photos were being displayed behind him; they were) “is asked to call NYPD. But this is not the only case recently of disappearances underground! Two weeks ago, a homeless man encamped near a disused subway station at Rockefeller Plaza claimed a friend of his went foraging for papers to use as heating fuel down into the subway, and never returned. Others have claimed to have heard strange sounds, like wild animals, and there may well be more people vanished off the streets of the city than the seven positively documented by police as missing persons last seen in the vicinity of sewer openings, subway tunnels, or the aqueduct route through Central Park. If you have any information on cases like these, please call or email this reporter, care of KRAK News.”

    He took a deep breath, hoping more leads, real leads, would surface. “And also in local news tonight: chain restaurant Happy Harvey’s Hamster Hamburgers is being investigated for what health department officials say is a potential food code violation! Numerous customers throughout the five boroughs have brought complaints to the health department, as well as the Better Business Bureau, for having found alleged gerbil hair in the purported all-hamster burgers. To investigate these claims, KRAK has obtained a random, sample burger from Happy Harvey’s, which Muppet Labs will independently subject to various chemical and spectrographic tests. We’ll bring you the results tomorrow night, right here on KRAK Big Apple News! For the record, Happy Harvey’s is a sponsor of this program.” He smiled, easily ducking the apples which fell from the ceiling as well as the squeaking gerbils suddenly dashing madly underfoot. “Coming up: sports with Lewis Kazagger!”

    The feed cut to commercial; Newsie could only perversely hope it was for Happy Harvey’s. Rhonda had one paw plastered over her eyes, her head thrown back in a why-me posture. Art the news floor director was shaking his head. In the control booth, Newsie could see one of the producers already on her cell phone, looking very stressed. He leaned back in his chair – ah, so nice to have an actual chair – and shuffled the papers on his desk, bringing to the front the national news and the script for the interview via live feed on-the-scene at the park where the Wall Street protesters were camped tonight. Rhonda darted forward.

    “Blanke wants to talk to you after the show,” she hissed. He only smiled at her, and she put her paws on her waist and glared. “You better not get my parking space revoked! I earned that danged thing!”

    She NEEDS a parking space? he wondered, curious, but then the feed was back in the studio, and he turned to the camera, and calmly went on with the news.

    The black furry long-tailed bat with orange ears and wide yellow eyes crawled wing-over-wing from the stage lighting truss up into the ceiling, and scraped its way stealthily along until it reached the building’s ventilation shaft, then flew down toward the basement. It didn’t need to stick around for the rest of the show…it had heard enough.
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    The Count likes this.
  3. Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Ooh! Lots to enjoy here.

    Beaker's newest hapless (and apparently hairless) attempt at dating....

    I'm enjoying the way you are parsing words about whether or not ALL the monsters are evil or bad or just inordinately hungry. I am holding out for the harmlessness of the yip-yips...but keeping on eye on the sewers near my house.

    Um, let's just say that my taste buds enjoyed the sound of the pumpkin liqueur more than the thought of hamster burgers....

    Wondered about the possibility that the studio was bugged, er...monstered....

    I also realized, given your explanation about the digestion issues that most monsters have, how Cookie has managed to hold onto his girlish figure all these years....

    Post more!
  4. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ----------------------
    Er...Cookie has a girlish figure? *biting tongue*

    I'm not sayin' a word about the monster motivations. :grr:

    I'm buying pumpkin liqueur, vanilla rum, and (sadly, not Bleinheim's, no one in this town carries it) ginger beer for my own spooktail this weekend! Hey, anyone wanna join me? BYO hamsters... I have a grill... :hungry:
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    Fragglemuppet likes this.
  5. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Twelve

    “Scooter, did we –“

    “Already checked in, Chief. Here’s your boarding pass, we have ten minutes to get to the gate before they’ll even start boarding, it’s all good.” Scooter smiled at the frog. “Heck, forget good—this is probably the most leeway we’ve ever had for one of these trips!” He noticed Piggy giving her husband a resigned smile, and tactfully gestured at the airport security portal. “Uh, why don’t I go on ahead and make sure the plane is on time? I’ll meet you there, okay?”

    Kermit nodded, not bothering to point out the obvious arrival/departure board just a few feet away, which said their flight was already at the gate. Scooter smiled at Piggy and hustled off, scooping off his shoes and emptying the change from his pockets with the practiced ease of the frequent flyer. He’d said his goodbyes this morning to Sarah back at their place, and knew better than to come between a pig and her frog in a moment of tenderness. Kermit gazed fondly up at his wife, and she softly caressed his shoulder through the light coat he wore.

    “Call every night,” she murmured so no one would overhear.

    “I will,” he promised, stealing a kiss. When he pulled back slightly, the look on Piggy’s face said Buster, you can do better than that! With a chuckle, he leaned up and gave her a proper kiss, long and sweet. “It’s only a few days. We’ll be back by Fozzie’s party,” he added, seeing the bear puffing up the carpeted ramp to the airline hub.

    “Okay, Kermit, I got da car parked, and I just want you to know dat while you’re gone we will take care of everything! So don’t worry about a thing!” Fozzie assured him.

    “Oh, good,” Kermit said. He turned to Clifford, who was having trouble tearing himself away from a somewhat one-sided conversation with a female security guard. “Hey, Clifford! Got a minute?”

    “Heh heh, duty calls,” Clifford said ruefully. He tried to hand a hastily scribbled piece of paper to the guard. “But I’d love it if you called instead!” Backing away as the guard gave him a very icy stare, the former show host smiled. “Ciao, baby!”

    “Sheesh,” Piggy muttered. “Are you sure about this, Kermit?”

    “Everything will be fine,” Kermit assured her. Scooter had already done all the legwork, so to speak, going through property photos and film boards’ production fees for Vermont, New Hampshire, and even up into Ontario until he’d narrowed down the rural cabins-by-lakes which seemed the best bets for filming on location. They hoped to actually start the outdoor shoots in a couple of weeks; a studio set was already lined up for the interior scenes. “It should only take a few days before we nail down where the cabin scenes will shoot. I’m sure one of these places will prove to be the perfect location! …Clifford, if there’s anything you need while we’re gone, feel free to call, okay? And I’m sure Scooter will be checking in…”

    “Kerm, no worries!” Clifford said, smiling. “I’ve run a show before, you know. It’ll all be smooth as Miles Davis.”

    “Wait,” Fozzie said, confused. “Uh…I thought I was gonna run da show while you guys were gone?”

    Kermit exchanged a glance with Clifford; at least, he was fairly sure the purple Muppet read his expression loud and clear even through those dark shades. “Uh, well, Fozzie, I thought this way you could focus more on your act, okay?” Kermit said.

    “Oh,” Fozzie said, crestfallen. “Okay…wait! Do…do you think my act needs more work?”

    “Well, a good comic is always adapting, right?” Kermit offered. Fozzie nodded, though he seemed less than pleased.

    Piggy embraced her frog, and said cheerily, “Moi is quite sure we will not need to bother Kermit with silly details about the show! We are all professionals and we can keep everything going well for just a few days, certainment?”

    “Darn straight,” Clifford agreed, clapping Fozzie on the shoulder. “Tell you what, Fozz: with both Kermit and Scooter gone, I’m sure I won’t be able to be everywhere at once, so you be my eyes and ears, okay?”

    “Oh, you bet! I’ll be the most alert eyeballs and…and nosy ears you ever saw! I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to da theatre, Kermit,” the bear promised.

    “Thanks, Fozzie. I’m sure everything will be fine,” Kermit said, and pulled Piggy close for another hug and kiss right as the first boarding call sounded over the intercom. “Uh, I think that’s our flight! You guys…don’t let the penguins into the fly loft! And – and make sure Animal brushes his teeth; he scared that lady in the front row last week after his spinach soup! Uh – and make sure Robin does his homework, and—“

    “Everything is under control, mon capitan,” Piggy told him, with a withering glare at the other Muppets present. “I’ll make sure of it.”

    “Safe flight, Kermit! Find us a great spooky cabin!” Fozzie called after the frog hurrying up to the security checkpoint.

    “Find us a cheap cabin,” Clifford murmured. He didn’t wave like Fozzie did, but watched with them as Kermit passed security, gathered up his things and hastened on into the terminal. Piggy stood and watched until there couldn’t be the least pretense that Kermit was still in sight, then sighed, tossed her silk scarf jauntily over her shoulder and turned to the others.

    “Well! I certainly hope their trip is a success, and they find something properly scenic and rural,” she announced, and led the way out. “It would be a nice change to actually start filming this thing on schedule.”

    “I hope they find one without too many bugs,” Clifford mused.

    Piggy paused. “Bugs?”

    “Yeah. Or grisly histories, or bodies buried on the property, or moldy preserves left in the root cellar,” Clifford continued. “You know, a lotta them places have stuff like that, for real. I just hope they don’t pick something all creepy.”

    Piggy sniffed. “Apparently vous has forgotten this was supposed to be the set for a scary film!”

    “I know! I’m just saying, I hope it’s not too covered in dust and decay!” Clifford shook his head. “And it better have a bathroom! I really can not dig outdoor plumbing!”

    “He better not,” Piggy grumbled, trotting along, making her five-inch-heeled cranberry suede shoes look easy to navigate.

    Fozzie didn’t pay much attention to the discussion, still feeling disappointed by the announcement that he wasn’t going to be the one running the Muppet Show this week. Does dis mean Kermit doesn’t trust me to run things? But…but I’ve done it before! Suddenly he thought about singing firemen, bucket brigades, acts all onstage at the same time… Geez. Maybe…maybe Kermit’s right to put someone else in charge. But…but Ma always says to use what I got, and do my best… yeah! Dat’s it! I’ll do such a good job dis week, da frog’ll be impressed, and next time, I’ll be da one calling da shots! Yeah! His mood lifting, Fozzie glanced ahead at Clifford, who was shaking his head in response to something Piggy had said. Sure, Clifford’s a pro, but he doesn’t get involved enough! I’ve been at da theatre longer and I know all da routines much better dan him! I’ll show Kermit I’m bear enough to do dis! I’ll have it all locked up, and tied down, and…and…

    “Yo, Fozzie! Where’d you park the car?” Clifford asked, interrupting his internal pep talk. Fozzie stopped, staring out at the rows of cars: as he’d followed the other two along, lost in thought, they’d reached the front lobby of LaGuardia.

    “What, you think I don’t remember where I parked?” Fozzie demanded, and Clifford’s head jerked back a touch.

    “Nobody said that,” Clifford protested. “Just wanna know which way to go, man.”

    “Oh,” Fozzie said, embarrassed. “Right. I knew dat. Uh…it’s…it’s…” He turned slowly, looking out the windows, then stepping forward through the sliding doors. “Uh, it’s…” Helplessly, he took off his hat, covering his eyes. “I forgot where I parked!”

    Clifford shook his head. Piggy rolled her eyes. She took Fozzie by the elbow. “Come on, ya walking carpet. Lucky for vous I had Scooter install a tracking app for my phone!” Pulling forth her sleek little electronic guru, she tapped lightly a few times on the screen, and held up a simple map with a blinking dot. “This is the car, and that arrow says we should go…this way!” Confidently, she trotted across the cab pickup lanes, causing a loud screeching of brakes and at least one angry shout. “Oh yeah? Don’t even pretend you didn’t see me in this dress, buster!” With a haughty head-toss, she continued on to the short-term parking lot, the others hurrying in her wake.

    Fozzie jammed his hat back on his head, disliking the traffic fumes immensely, eager to get back to the theatre…where, if luck favored him, he would get the opportunity to show the frog just how responsible and dependable this bear could be.

    -----------------------------
    “Broadcasting to you from a dank cave far below the city streets, it’s Monsters Tonight! Our guests tonight: the Luncheon Counter Monster! Famed journalist Walter Cranky, on the crisis in Dumptopia! Seventy-eight wriggling worms! And musical guests Footie and the Blowflys!” Snookie beamed at the applause, not at all happy about standing alone on this peninsula of a platform in a sea of audience monsters, but doing his professional best not to show his fear. They could sense fear, he well knew. Many of them treated fear as a preferred snack. “Aaaaand your amazing host, the clever, the talented, the debonair…” With a nervous glance at a large green thing with a fishy mouth leaning toward him in more than anticipation for the show, Snookie decided to skip ninety per cent of the intro Carl had written for himself. “Heeeeeerrre’s Carl!”

    “Hi, everybody!” the raspy-voiced creature yelled, bounding onto the stage and waving happily at the roar of approval which greeted him. “Is anybody hungry in here?” A louder roar; Carl suddenly grabbed Snookie by the arms and made as if to heave him bodily into the audience. Snookie shrieked, fighting; so did several monsters at the edge of the set, falling claws atumble over one another into a snarling furry heap. Carl laughed, plunking a shaken Snookie back onstage and smacking his shoulder in a pretense at friendship, grinning all the while. “Eh, you guys are such suckers!” Carl chided, and the audience laughed. Snookie hastily retreated to his chair off to the side of the main set, near the band, although he noticed one of the Mutations eyeing him in a way which made his felt crawl. Nervously slicking his hair back with one hand, Snookie wondered why on earth he’d agreed to this dangerous nonsense. Although he was supposed to be exempt from monster appetites for the next couple of weeks at least while the reality-daredevil show was running, he wasn’t entirely reassured that every monster here would remember to obey that edict…

    Carl stood on the short platform directly before the audience, hands on his stomach as he rocked slowly on his heels to deliver his opening monologue. “So! Did you guys hear about the monsters camped out under Wall Street? Hah…apparently they’re protesting the fact that ninety-nine per cent of all humans refuse to be eaten by even one per cent of us!” Laughter. “Yeah, I even heard that Gorgon Heap was actually kicked out of his sit-in at a famous economist’s house! I guess his name really isn’t pronounced Warren Buffet!”

    The monsters hooted and screeched. Snookie winced, trying to shrink down inside his sports coat. At least the spotlight was on Carl; heck, let him have it for once! Snookie had no desire to play McMahon to Carl’s show-host fantasy. I can’t believe it’s come to this. Sweet Monty Hall, what fresh heck is this? His eyes wandered slowly around the set, from the mock-cave walls of the backdrop, dripping with phosphorescent lichen and studded with blind spiders in crazily-woven webs, to the crew of ubiquitous camerafrackles looking mildly amused as Carl rambled on with his grim jokes, to the white-jacketed band members leaning bored on their instruments, the drummer flicking his wrists for the occasional rimshot. Nowhere to run. He wondered, with a despair so familiar as to be almost comforting, whether anyone in the normal world even saw his shows anymore on this wretched station; it had been so long since anyone had allowed him to look at a newspaper, he had no idea whether his work was even being reviewed. This stuff has to be too terrible to even be worth a mention in a pan, he thought.

    “Time for the Top Eleven!” Carl announced, stirring Snookie from his unhappy thoughts.

    On cue, Snookie asked brightly, “Hey, any chance I can do the Top Eleven tonight, Carl?”

    Carl snickered. “Be my guest, Snookie old pal!”

    Snookie looked at the TeleMonSter screen just offstage, nearly choking to a halt before he even started when he saw the category. “Tonight’s Top Eleven is…Ways a Short Yellow Muppet Can Be Prepared for a Low-Fat, Low-Sodium Diet!” If he’d been able to break into a cold sweat, he would undoubtedly have done so. Every monster in the room was staring at him…rather fixedly. He could feel Carl’s wide smile behind him. His hands shaking so much he clasped them together across his chest, Snookie read unwillingly off the prompter: “Number One: Truss my arms and legs together, pour spider broth over me and slow-roast at two hundred and seventy-five for six hours!” Oh frog…I can’t do this…I’m going to be sick…

    “Hang on,” one of the camerafrackles, a green-beaked thing with black eyes, muttered to another nearby. “I t’ought it was supposed to be read from da bottom to da top? And ain’t it s’posed to be da top ten?”

    The blue camerafrackle rolled his eyes, snorting so the feathery tuft atop his bony skull waved like a tiny pennant. “Sheesh. Don’t you know nothin’ ‘bout show biz, monstah? This one goes to eleven!”

    Snookie stammered out the next entry: “N-number Two: use the Forge Gorman panini press to make a tasty sammich that knocks out the fat!” Sporting enthusiasts in the audience familiar with the monster boxer-turned-chef chortled. “Number thruh—three…ugh…um…” Snookie glanced up, and saw well over a hundred hungry eyes, eyestalks, and unnamable compound visual collectors staring at him. He could feel his knees beginning to tremble, and fought to stay upright; falling down would not be a good idea on this set. “Uh…marinate me for two hours in Italian dressing and then pan-sear…” he gulped, his bland porridge lunch wanting to come back up. Carl edged closer and closer to him, and he didn’t dare move away, as that would put him within reach of the audience instead. “Heh, heh, who writes this stuff? I hate Italian dressing!” he joked, but the monsters weren’t amused.

    “Four!” one yelled.

    “Keep going, I’m writing these down!” another shouted, to appreciative laughter…and more than a little drooling.

    Snookie threw a worried look at Carl, who was standing just over his shoulder, huge yellow eyes staring down and wide green lips stretched into a truly intimidating smile. “You can’t eat me!” Snookie hissed at him. “I have to be on the Break a Leg set in two hours!”

    “Keep reading, you wuss,” Carl muttered in reply, his grin fixed in place. As Snookie, shivering, started to read off the next outrageous item, he felt a large paw on his head, and flinched. Carl was licking his paw and using it to smooth down Snookie’s already-sleek hair, drawing laughter from the audience.

    “Uh…Number Four: distribute me to the…the audience…because then no one will get more than a low-calorie bite…aaaghh!” He jumped when Carl put both furry-clawed paws on his shoulders, the monster’s long thick neck dwarfing his body easily. Trying to shrug free of that loathsomely shaggy grip, Snookie protested aloud, “You can’t eat me! I’m important around here!”

    Howls from the audience -- though whether of mirth, anger, or hunger, Snookie had no way of knowing. “Number Five!” Carl crowed, “Brown him in canola oil, drain, and sauté with onions and garlic for a wonderful stir-fry!”

    Snookie tried to pull away from Carl, but the monster held his shoulders tightly while reading off the rest of the list. The audience clapped and cheered every time Snookie obviously attempted to wriggle free or looked distinctly uncomfortable, so finally he desisted, standing still except for a shiver he couldn’t stop, listening to the sickening litany. “And finally, the Number Eleven way to cook Snookums here so that even picky Jane Frondah could enjoy his tastiness: Air-dry him for a day and bake him with spices, then toss over a spinach salad as little felt croutons! Thank you! Thank you! We’ll be right back after these brilliant attempts to con you out of your money!” The crowd cheered, the feed went to a commercial, and Snookie collapsed in a yellow and plaid lump when Carl dumped him back into his chair.

    The trumpet player blared in Snookie’s face as the band launched into an instrumental version of “Nowhere to Run.” Snookie, for once, couldn’t manage his trademark wide smile. The audience seemed to think that was even funnier.

    “And we’re back! Our first guest tonight is known to many of you for his delicate appetites, which have landed him cover articles on Ghoulmet and Spooking Light magazines! Let’s welcome…Luncheon Counter Monster!”

    The band played “Owt rof Eat” as a rounded, scraggy-furred monster with purple hands and big yellow horns similar to Carl’s shuffled out and waved briefly to the audience before climbing slowly into the padded chair nearest the host’s desk. Carl glanced over his cue cards, tapping them on the desk. “So, hey, I understand you just go by ‘Lunch’ now? What, like Prince or Feist or something, you’re going all artsy on us now?”

    ‘Lunch’ snatched the cards from Carl’s paw, stuffing them into his wide red maw. “Hey!” Carl said, but since the crowd was laughing he decided to play along. “Here, you want something to wash those down with? They’re kinda dry.” He offered a glass of water to Lunchy, who promptly ate the entire glass. “Uh… So! You’ve just landed your own cable foodie show! Tell us a little about that.”

    Seemingly more interested in the objects around him, Lunchy ripped a chunk off of his chair arm and began wolfing it down. Carl tried to elicit an answer again: “I bet that’s great fun for you, seeing as how you were at the forefront of the local-food movement back in the seventies, right?”

    Lunchy broke a corner off Carl’s desk, crunching it loudly. Snookie, far enough away from the ravenous monster to feel somewhat secure – at least until the thing had worked its way through the rest of the set – took what comfort he could in Carl’s annoyed expression. “Hey, c’mon Lunchy, I just had this set built!” Hoots and chortles in the audience. Carl shoved the hungry beast away from the desk, and without a pause the monster started on the coffee table instead. “So, I take it you prefer wood products?” The other glass of water on the table vanished down the vast black throat. “Uh…or is glass tastier?” Carl glared at the audience. “Tell you what, since Lunchy seems to have missed all seventy of his regular feedings today, let’s move on to our next guest! We’ve all seen him covering major breaking – or broken – stories on GNN, and now here he is: please give a loud round of boos for veteran Grouch Walter Cranky!”

    A chorus of unhappy sounds came from the audience as the grey-furred Grouch in a sloppy, stained suit slouched unhappily onstage and plopped himself onto the other guest chair. The band, oddly, blared out a few bars of Chicago’s “Make Me Smile.” Cranky glared at the band, then the crowd, then Carl. “Grrrrr!” he snarled, and the crowd went wild.

    Carl’s grin turned sour, displeased to see his thunder stolen on his own show. “Well, it’s a real downer to have you here, Walt!” he snapped. The Grouch leaned forward, dismissively gesturing at the Big Mean Host.

    “Grrrrr!” he added for clarification.

    “Hey, I didn’t book you! I’ve never been a Grouch fan – you guys think you have the monopoly on bad moods!” Carl complained, and the Grouch shrugged, looking smugly pleased.

    “Grr,” he offered neutrally.

    Lunchy broke off another chunk of Carl’s desk, startled when the monster host slapped his hand away. Grumbling, Lunchy turned around to eye the Grouch curiously, but flinched back when the veteran GNN anchor snarled at him.

    “Well, whatever, it’s not like I care. I’m only having you on the show tonight to tell us about the growing problem in the grandest City Dump of all! Is it true, Walt, that Grouches are leaving the dump by the truckload because they don’t want to be aligned with the monsters here at MMN?” Carl demanded.

    Snookie shook his head, crouched in his chair, forgotten by all for the time being and happy to keep it that way. Good grief: a monster interviewing a Grouch for a late-night talk show taping. What’s next, a bunch of female goons chatting up a kaffeklatch and calling it ‘The Grue’? He dared a look at the back door of this particular studio, but at the moment there was a large squirming puddle of what appeared to be violet-and-puce worms between him and possible escape from this insanity. With a frustrated sigh, he settled father down into his chair, watching the weirdness on-set.

    “Grrr-arrrr! Grrraaahhh!” Cranky argued, and the audience booed, which only made the Grouch more pleased with himself. Carl threw his paws in the air.

    “Oh, come on! Just think of the chaos! While all the people of the city are running around like headless humans, just think how much garbage they’re going to leave strewn all over the streets! You can’t tell me Grouches won’t like that! Am I right?” Carl demanded of the crowd, and they cheered and pumped fists and claws and…things…into the air. Carl yanked his mike cable away from Lunchy, to no avail: the hungry monster swallowed the whole thing, foot by foot, like spaghetti. “I mean, why wouldn’t you all want to be on our side when the big night arrives?”

    The Grouch snorted, shaking his head. “Grrrr!”

    Lunchy polished off the table, making Cranky shoot him a puzzled look. Carl tried to draw him into the discussion: “What do you think, Lunchy? Shouldn’t the Grouches all want to pledge their allegiance to us monsters now, while the plan is still in motion? I don’t think the boss is going to be too happy with anyone who tries to join in at the last minute since we need all the able, frightening bodies we can get ri—hey! Don’t eat that, you idiot!”

    The small blue-scaled monster which had been attempting to affix another mike to Carl’s fur squonked as it disappeared, mike and all, down Lunchy’s throat, the purple hands stuffing the kicking feet eagerly all the way inside. “Umf…umf…umf!” Lunchy munched, his slurps amplified suddenly by the still-live mike.

    “Grrr!” Cranky objected, though Snookie wasn’t sure to what. To this entire farce, if he has any brains, Snookie thought, managing a small smile.

    “Now stop that! We’re talking about the monster revolution here!” Carl scolded Lunchy, but jerked his finger away from that snapping mouth before anything happened to it. “Can’t you focus for one simple second? You don’t even eat anything good, like cute puppies, or woodland critters, or game-show-host Muppets!”

    Unperturbed, Lunchy picked up his chair, turned it this way and that a moment, then began ripping hunks of stuffing out of the seat and stuffing his mouth instead. “Oh, for crying out loud! That’s it! Get off my set! This is my big show and I won’t let it be ruined by some sloppy, indiscriminate trash compacter! Get out!” Carl yelled at Lunchy, waving his arms over his head. Lunchy cringed, but then turned around and gulped down the camera a frackle had eased in close to get better reaction shots. The frackle yelped and ran off before he could become the next course. Snookie ducked below the edge of the chair, hoping the glutton wouldn’t wander over this way. “Argh! Stay with us – seventy-eight squirming worms, up next!” Carl yelled, and the feed once again cut to commercials. Snookie didn’t want to speculate on what products could be advertised to an all-monster audience…assuming there were any at home watching this, since more monsters than he’d ever seen in one place before seemed to throng the bleachers beyond the stage. Maybe they’d all be home by the time the show actually aired. He had no idea what time of day it even was, trapped in this perpetual underground gloom.

    “Grrr ahh arr, grarr, graaah,” Cranky said in a thoughtful tone.

    Carl’s jaw dropped; it took him a second to put it in motion again. “What? Now that the camera’s off, now you got something to say?”

    The Grouch shrugged, and gestured at Lunchy, who was almost done eating the second camera, the green frackle manning it having been a little too slow; one flailing green hand stuck out of Lunchy’s mouth before the monster tossed a chunk of electronics in on top of it. “Grrr! Grrrrr grrrr!”

    “Oh,” Carl said, cocking his head to one side. “Yeah, I see your point. Sorry about that. I’m not kidding, though! You Grouches really need to pick a side here and fast, or it’s not going to be fun and trash for you much longer!”

    The worms startled Snookie as they crawled over him and around him to get onto the set; with a choked cry, he staggered out of his seat, shuddering, flinging stringy crawlers everywhere. One landed on Lunchy’s leonine nose, getting his attention; he plucked it off, slurping it, then perked up happily. He sniffed, turning to find the origin of the tasty morsel. Carl and Cranky looked over at the noise to see Snookie dancing crazily, trying to shake the worms off his jacket, his nose, and his shoes. Cranky frowned, and jerked a thumb at the Muppet.

    “Grrrr!” he complained.

    “Who, him? Nah, no need to worry, he’s not going anywhere,” Carl grinned. “Listen, why don’t we talk more about this soon as the break is over? I know the boss would really like to hear why Grouches don’t want to hop on the bandwagon here, when there’s so much great trash you could be in for if you guys just—“

    “Aaaagh!” Snookie yelped, tripping backward over a mass of fleeing worms as Lunchy lunged at him, mouth stretched wide.

    The floor director signaled the end of commercial, the band flubbed “New York, New York” because they were all trying to stumble away from the wildly gulping Lunchy and play at the same time; a trombone was lost to the gullet. “Welcome back!” Carl said, trying to keep the mood upbeat. “I’m talking with Walter Cranky here about Grouch participation in the upcoming Event you all are waiting for with baited breath…all the better to catch something, hah hah!”

    “Grrrr!” Cranky said.

    “Oh, drat it! Not the worms!” Carl smacked a fist on what was left of his desk, seeing the last of the worms slucked into Lunchy’s lips. “Dang it, Lunchy, can’t you just find something to eat over there that isn’t on my guest list?”

    Snookie shrieked as the monster grabbed his arm. Frantically, he pounded on its floppy face with his other fist until the ravenous creature caught his hand between those implacable jaws and began pulling him in with every large bite along his arm. “No! No! I’m hosting ten other shows! I have a no-being-eaten agreement in effect! Let go! Auughhh!” Desperately, Snookie shouted at Carl, “Do something!”

    Carl shrugged, garnering laughter from the audience. “Hey, Babe? Babe’s our director,” he told the crowd.

    A tinny voice replied over the in-studio intercom: “Yeah, Carl?”

    “Can you throw down some nonessential personnel and lay a trail out of the studio for Lunchy? Oh yeah…and bring some castor oil?” Carl blinked at the sight of Snookie, terrified, gulped into Lunchy’s apparently limitless stomach. “Make that a lot of castor oil.” He grinned at the cheering audience. “He wasn’t kidding. He really does have other jobs around here!”

    “Grr?” Cranky asked, turning away from the carnage before the bass player Mutation followed Snookie down the hole, purple hands flailing and the dissonant note of the bass being crunched, strings twanging between thick teeth, audible throughout the room.

    Carl chortled. “Oh, you know…sidekick for me, host for some stupid game shows, token Muppet-to-be-tormented when things are slow around here…” He grimaced. “I hope Lunchy’s drool doesn’t ruin his hair, though! I was really hoping to work a nice glaze into that next month for the cookoff!”

    “Grrrr!”

    Carl shot the Grouch an annoyed look. “Well of course it doesn’t matter what Snookie hears! He’s definitely not going anywhere!” He turned his gaze to Lunchy, who was waddling offstage, lured by a couple of unhappy little spider-crabs forced to scuttle just ahead of him. Carl snickered. “Except maybe to the sewage treatment plant to get a disinfectant bath after that!”

    The audience howled in delight, and Carl beamed, relaxing. Maybe this would be a good vehicle for his many talents, after all. He produced a cue card Lunchy had somehow missed. “Next up: the musical stylings of the worst band in the drainage pipes of all five boroughs: Footie and the Blowflys! We’ll be right back.” With a flourish, Carl snapped the card like a Frisbee through the fake portal-to-the-netherworld behind his chair, and the soundfrackle played a breaking-glass noise.

    “Grrr!” Cranky said, shaking his head in disgust.

    “Whaddaya mean it’s funnier when that human does it? At least I don’t wear a toupee!” Carl protested. “And my list goes to eleven!”
    ---------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  6. The Count Moderator

    Yeah... Carl's show is waaaaay funnier than that human hack. Top 10 indeed, only two out of the entire list are ever truly funny.

    *Leaves slice of pumpkin cheesecake for Kris.
  7. The Count Moderator

    *Checks MMN's current schedule to find something good to watch now in the afternoon.

    4:00 PM: Hammily Feud.
    Game show... Meh, heard wasteketball player Chris Pork's family got lambasted on that.
    4:30 PM: You Win a Fish!
    Game show... Not the same without either Goompah to root on his consecutive winstreak or Lew Zealand as new champ.
    5:00 PM: Chomped.
    Cooking show where the contestants get devoured until there's only one winner left... Nah.
    6:00 PM: Brake a Leg!
    Maybe they'll have some new acts or move on to Gonzo in the second round of competition.
    7:00 PM: Monsters Tonight.
    Talk show... With Luncheon Counter Monster, Walter Cranky, and Hooty and the Blowflies... Nah, that was last night's episode, caught it when it aired at 11:00 PM.

    *Shrugs. Well, guess I'll just wait till 8 PM to find if there's a decent movie playing while I've got to endure another after-dinner three-hour shift. If not, then I'll just go to Monster Central to see if any of my fave fics have been updated.

    Oh, Tales From the Vet will be on back to back at 12:00 AM and 12:30 AM, hope there's a new episode.

    Possibly one of my forum fiends can help with inspiration for more creatures to add or Muppet audio clips with mentions of the states of either Utah or Vermont, those are the last two I need to complete the 50 Muppet States project.
    *Goes to read up on other threads of interest at the forum. :scary:
    newsmanfan likes this.
  8. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Thirteen

    “Hey! Hey, is anybody gonna bring me that sandwich?” Gonzo yelled; his voice echoed along the row of drafty cells hewn by disturbing large claw-marks from the bedrock. When no one responded, he sighed, leaning against the bars. Sheesh…it’s not like I specified no red M&Ms or something! It’s just a lousy pastrami and cotton candy sub on toasted garlic bread! He was terribly hungry, and had requested the light supper from one of the odd monsters who worked here over an hour ago. “Not what I’d call five-star service,” he grumbled. “Oh, well…”

    He squeezed his nose, then his shoulders, then his feet between the rusty iron bars of the cell, brushed off the resultant dust on his chicken-print flannel robe, and adjusted the Muppaphone-fluffball trying to come off of one of his slippers. “Hey! C’mon, we’re bored too,” the orange puffball complained.

    “So let’s go find some chow,” Gonzo told it, and the slippers conferred in low tones a moment.

    “All right. But Mildred wants a Shirley Temple. The air down here is so dry,” grumbled the slipper, and Gonzo nodded agreement. The slippers thwopped against the hard floor as Gonzo picked a direction and headed along the corridor, until Gonzo, a little unnerved by the way the sounds echoed, asked them to thwop a little more quietly. “Everybody’s a critic,” the orange slipper muttered, but thereafter the two of them lowered their voices.

    After what seemed like half a mile of twisting, confusing corridors, the smells of mold and decay gave way to something more appetizing. “Oh, hey,” Gonzo murmured, sniffing excitedly. “Burgers and fries! Well…can’t be picky, I guess. Maybe they’ll have some anchovy sauce to put on ‘em…” He picked up his pace, letting his nose take the lead, until a side passage opened up into some kind of huge communal room. Monsters and frackles and goblins bustled throughout, rushing past one another with papers, costumes, sobbing pigs or muffled hedgehogs, and paper cups of coffee brandished aloft. The food smells overlaid a general funk of wet, dirty fur. Gonzo stood in the doorway, eyes wide, trying to take it all in until a pink frackle bearing a tray of smoking ribs pushed him aside.

    “Move it! One side! Ribs! Ribs are done!” it yelled, and eager monsters pounced, emptying the food and then devouring the metal tray as well. Undaunted, the pink frackle immediately hurried back out, presumably to fetch more vittles. Everywhere Gonzo looked, little TVs crammed every available flat surface and one sleeping monster’s belly, all tuned to different channels. A large sign of molded brown plastic attached loosely to the longest beige wall proclaimed: MARKETING RESEARCH.

    “Uh, excuse me,” Gonzo said, but no one looked twice at him. He tried to tap the shoulder of a blue-feathered thing with eyestalks as it sloughed past like a slug. “Excuse me! Hey, uh—“ The creature flicked an irritated eyestalk at him, but continued on its way. Fed up with rudeness, Gonzo took a deep breath and shouted, “FIIIRRRRE!”

    The room ground to a screeching halt; the sign on the wall creaked and one end dropped several inches. Eyes of every conceivable shape, color, and level of malevolence glared at him. “Cool,” Gonzo murmured. “I always wanted to do that.”

    The monsters grumbled and growled, returning to whatever they’d been doing, but one approached Gonzo curiously. “Gabba…frabba magga?” it wondered, gesturing back down the corridor.

    “Oh, good, it’s you!” Gonzo suddenly realized where he’d seen the fluffy mane of feathers before; the long horns, googly pink eyeballs, protruding tongue and fang overbite had reminded him of a theatre legend, but he’d been so excited about the talent show the last time it had slipped his mind to ask. “Uh, hey…aren’t you Thatch McGurk?”

    The monster shook his head, fluffy mane drifting over his eyeballs. “Ba habba fragga mugga blah!” it explained, then added in a more tolerant tone, “Frabba.”

    “Oh, your brother. Yeah, I guess you’re right…he is a little shorter,” Gonzo agreed. “Hey, I’m sorry to be a bother, but I’m really hungry. Is there anything around here I can…oh, cool, thank you!” he exclaimed when the monster handed him a fat burger on green buns in his broad, pink paw. Not wishing to be ungrateful, Gonzo nevertheless examined the meat gingerly, poking it with one finger; it didn’t seem to be quite inanimate yet. “Uh…what kind is it? I’m allergic to kumquats and goat milk…”

    “Grabba blagga. Frab-nagga,” the taller, rosier McGurk said.

    “Oh. I guess that’s okay, then. Thanks.” Gonzo chewed carefully, still not certain how digestible anything from Happy Harvey’s might be, and looked around curiously. “So…what exactly goes on in here? Everyone looks so busy! Is this for a show?”

    “Grah fabba malagga!”

    “Wow. The whole network? Nice!” Gonzo nodded, and tried some of the fried radishes. “Hey, these aren’t bad…got any anchovy sauce?”

    “Ba kabba.”

    “Oh, well, sure, if you like being ordinary,” Gonzo grumbled, and the monster shrugged. Resigned, Gonzo used a keg-pump at a nearby condiment station to pile some ketchup on a paper plate. Ketchup and something labeled “T.o.F.” were the only options available. Gonzo pointed to the other small keg. “Uh, what’s this?”

    The monster explained the acronym, and Gonzo shook his head. “Really? I’ve never thought ‘fear’ really had a ‘taste,’ but whatever…to each their own, I guess.” He munched his fries, following the monster over to a table where five small TVs blared out, respectively, the action-adventure program ‘Gulliver’s Anvils,’ the original British version of ‘Name That Fruit!’, a pedigreed hog-calling show somewhere in Arkansas, one of the major networks’ national news shows, and a program which seemed to be about the wacky adventures of a group of teenaged frackles living in an abandoned meat-packing warehouse. McGurk pointed out the MMN logo ghosting on the screen of the last one. “Oh…so that’s what’s on here right now?” He frowned, studying it a moment, trying to follow the storyline and tune the other, competingly loud televisions out of his hearing. “Huh…’Frackle Rock’?”

    “Gah rabba bagga boo,” the monster said proudly. He tapped the screen, then gestured at the others. “Frahgagga agga bo gagga banana fanna go bagga.”

    “A kids’ show. Okaaay…so this is all about seeing what’s competing with you guys every hour?” Gonzo asked, settling down on a chair which looked like it had fewer bite-marks on the seat than some of the others strewn around. McGurk continued to elaborate on the whole market-review process, and then indicated the bags of Happy Harvey’s Hamster Burgers piled around this particular group of TVs; all around the room, other such groupings also had fast-food bags, infomercial cleaning products, dessert topping/floor cleaners, and various other products scattered around. In one corner, a group of tiny, furry brown goblins seemed to have built a fort with bricks of vacuum-packed bags of dirty towels. Gonzo blinked. “Huh…I always wondered what you could actually use those space-saver bags for… So you have to figure out how to get the best ads for each timeslot? And compare it to what the other stations are all doing? Sounds really…uh…great,” he finished lamely, feeling sorry suddenly for the obviously weary monster.

    McGurk sighed. “Zah…mabba.”

    Gonzo patted his shoulder sympathetically. “Could be worse.” When the monster blinked all three eyes at him, Gonzo leaned in and offered, “You could be the guy who actually has to eat the burgers.”

    The monster laughed. At least, Gonzo was pretty sure that rasping, gargling noise was meant to convey amusement. Abruptly the monster let loose a sneeze which singed the hairs off the top of Gonzo’s head. When the smoke cleared, Gonzo coughed, “Geshundteit.”

    “Frabba,” McGurk thanked him. He sighed, looking around a moment at the bland but mold-stained walls. “Mugabba.”

    “Yeah, I can see how that might be bad. Try garlic and vitamin C.”

    The monster resumed staring glumly at the screens, then suddenly perked up and poked Gonzo’s shoulder. “Boo habba!”

    “My show? But they didn’t say anything about me being on tonight,” Gonzo said, puzzled. McGurk tapped the TV tuned to MMN, where a very drenched-looking Snookie Blyer was glaring at the camera, his grin looking rather forced.

    “Do you love mayhem, maiming, and Auntie Mame? Does the prospect of prosthetic surgery make you quiver in antici…pation? Then welcome to another astoundingly foolhardy edition of – Break a Leg!” The audience roared. Gonzo’s eyes widened as the monster judge panelists waved or smiled at the crowd, which seemed to all be monsters of various stripes…and solids, and plaids. “Tonight! After a stupendously ridiculous first round in which one of our contestants was nibbled to death by his own untamed animals, we’ll throw another four idiots onstage to compete for fame, fortune, and having their hospital bills paid in full! First, let’s say hello to our judges!”

    “Oh,” Gonzo said, “I get it. These are still the elimination rounds.” McGurk muttered a correction, and Gonzo blinked. “Er…termination rounds. Right.”

    He settled in, grabbing an unopened bottle of Flat Cow soda he saw among the cases and boxes of junk products, and watched avidly as the second round began. The camera cut from a very shivery Shakey back to Snookie, caught offguard; hastily he tucked away the hand towel he’d been using to wipe off his nose. Traces of some sort of slime lingered in his dark hair and at the tip of one round ear. “Heh, heh, little accident with a garbage disposal earlier. So! Tonight, your death-inviting candidates for advancement are – from sunny Paraguay, Roberto the Magnificent!”

    A large toucan with a tiny beak made a low bow upon the stage, then clacked the castanets on his wingtips as he struck a flamenco pose. “Spanish dancing? That doesn’t sound too dangerous,” Gonzo said.

    “Except he dances on the backs of hungry albino alligators!” Snookie said, making Gonzo blink. “Next up will be Mistress of the Somewhat Grayish Arts, the mysterious Jasmine Fatwah!” A slinky, vaguely feminine figure swathed head to toe in black gown and headdress demurely stepped to the edge of the stage, then suddenly flung herself into the air; a smoke bomb exploded, veiling Mistress Fatwah in sooty clouds. When they evaporated, the performer was balanced daringly upon a dozen curved swords – all with the tips poking into her as she held a belly-dancing pose, head thrown back and weapons lightly touching her toes, her fingers, and various hidden but no doubt sultry parts of her anatomy.

    “Holy Muppetanic Verses,” Gonzo gasped, impressed.

    “Garagga froo,” McGurk sighed, looking dreamily at the TV.

    “Assuming it takes less than half an hour to mop up the stage after that we’ll move on to the karaoke warblings of the unmatched wrecker of redneck bars worldwide…” Snookie continued, popping out the tiny earpiece the producers had insultingly insisted he wear to make his cues every time, and inserting thick foam earplugs in both ears, “Jimmy Joe Bob Fred Ebeneezer McCoy!”

    “Karaoke?” Gonzo shook his head. “I thought this was a stunt competition, not a singing show!”

    “Thank yew,” mumbled a lanky, overall-clad rustic with sleepy eyes and a straw hat pulled low over them. “In honor of this bein’ National Jailbird Month, ah’d like t’serenade y’all with a sweet ballad… Buuuuuurrrn freeeee…freeee as thuh windoooooow…free as thuh glaaaass mowwwws…”

    A hail of thrown boots, tomatoes, and entire seats greeted this taste of the singer’s talents. McCoy staggered, keeling onto the stage, but managed to drag himself off. Snookie cautiously lowered the Kevlar-reinforced umbrella he’d hidden behind, checking to make sure no other objects were hurtling toward the stage. “And finally in this round, the daring dancer of death, Montrose the Mouse!” He looked around, perplexed. “Uh…is Montrose here?”

    “Watch it, bub,” a tiny voice squeaked. The camera focused in, finally picking up a miniscule brown field mouse with a yellow hardhat. He folded his paws over his chest, nodding at the camera. “You’ll just have to wait and see. I promise you, I’m the most daring guy here!”

    “And there you have it! Stay tuned and see which of these daredevils moves on to the next round…and which don’t ever move again! Tonight – on Break a Leg!”

    Commercials filled the screen. Gonzo turned to McGurk. “So…how’d you get this gig, anyway?” Shrugging, the monster went on a complicated verbal journey; Gonzo listened until the station returned to the program. “Okay…sorry…I do want to hear about the thirty-eight blue bufoes…but I really want to see what I’m up against. Tell me more next break?” he asked, and McGurk shrugged again, neutrally.

    “So, B.D.! What are you looking for tonight with this group of stuntpeople?” Snookie asked, standing by the judges’ table, somewhat less slimy-looking than before; apparently he’d had some success in drying himself off during the break.

    The flat-headed blue monster grunted. “Eh…to be honest, Snook, I’m just not very impressed by anything I’ve seen yet. There’s gonna have to be some serious limb-breaking and muscle-popping before I’m gonna be able to give a claws-up, ya know?”

    “Heh, heh, such a picky guy! Hem? What’s your take on these contestants?”

    “Well, I’m trying not to be prejudiced, Snookie, but I have to admit, my money’s on that Middle Eastern mystic right off the bat! She just seems so…so…” Behemoth rolled his vast eyes, trying to find the right compliment.

    “Masochistically in love with sharp objects?”

    Hem grinned. “You have such a nice way with words, Snookie!”

    “Right…heh heh…and finally Shakey! Which act tonight are you particularly looking forward to?...Shakey?”

    “Whoops, sorry,” B.D. mumbled, and spat out a wet parcel of purple felt and red fur. “Thought he was part of that puu puu platter I ordered…”

    Snookie smiled widely for the camera, and gestured grandly at the stage. “There you have it! Our judges are all aquiver at the possibility of serious mishaps! So let’s get started!” He glanced surreptitiously at his cue card. “In the sunny jungles of South America, the biggest beaks in the jungle belong to none other than the tyrannical toucan tribe, who are renowned for their battles with howler monkeys, their uncanny ability to find sugar-encrusted breakfast cereals, and above all, their dancing! Here to demonstrate at least one of those vaunted skills, the incomparably tiny-beaked Roberto!”

    The monster backup band, all decked in sombreros and colorful serapes, launched into a thrumming, sensuous flamenco, the guitar strummed skillfully by a four-handed monster with brown-and-orange fur and a pair of large square glasses on its long nose. A section of the stage floor slid open and six ravenous jaws clacked, the alligators churning the shallow pool beneath. With a loud “Olé!” Roberto the toucan leaped straight onto the head of one of them, his booted talons rapping a lively beat against the hard scales. Gonzo watched a moment while the bird danced, tripping gracefully from one snapping snout to the next. “Gah vibba vabba veebba,” McGurk commented.

    Gonzo nodded. “Yeah, I remember that game…’Pitfall’, right? Except I never could get him to balance on the alligator heads right…whoops, speak of the devil…”

    “And let’s go to the judges! Hem, that has to be the shortest act we’ve seen so far! Thoughts?” Snookie asked, turning away from the closing pit with a light shudder, staying well clear of the water and mud spattered through the air by eagerly slapping albino tails in the feeding frenzy.

    Behemoth shrugged. “Well, I dunno. It really didn’t seem like he put his heart into it…except maybe right at the end there, when he put everything in! Too little too late, I say.”

    “Shakey?”

    “Why d-does it always have to be ab-about eating somebody?”

    “So that’s two claws-downs! B.D?”

    “Next,” B.D. grunted.

    “Well! Moving right along then, to our next contestant, the presumably lovely Jasmine Fatwah! Miss Fatwah, anything you’d like to tell the viewers at home before you perform for us tonight?”

    “Gahhh,” McGurk sighed, sinking into a blissful slump at the sight of the heavily veiled and robed figure as she brandished two swords in each hand, making Snookie jerk backwards out of her way as she strode onto the stage.

    Gonzo smiled at the stricken monster. “Cute, huh?”

    “Bee fragga mugga,” McGurk murmured, eyes growing all hazy.

    Gonzo nodded, returning his gaze to the TV, but not focused on it, his thoughts instead flowing back to the sight of a lovely young chicken at the Four-H displays at a fair upstate. How shy she’d been, how demure, embarrassed when Gonzo told her she was much better looking than the fussy showbirds who were actually competing. “Yeah…that’s kind of how I felt the first time I saw her…my chickie, I mean.”

    “Ba?”

    Gonzo sighed. “Well, see, there was this county fair I was called in to unstop the porta-potties at, and they had an exhibit hall, and there was a poultry competition…”

    Onstage, Snookie gaped as the whirling, shrouded dervishess did something insane with multiple swords and her robes described a figure-eight in her high-speed twirling. “Holy Salmon Mushdie, I haven’t seen that many near-misses with scimitars since the last Shriner’s Parade in Paducah collided with the Moonshine Barfighting Street Racers! How long can she keep this up?”

    Gonzo barely paid attention, lost in fond memory. “Camilla wasn’t even competing, and she was way classier than any of those birds with their silly blue ribbons! So on impulse, I asked her if she’d share a wild-rice funnel cake with me, and she said yes.” He smiled. “We spent the rest of the day walking around, riding the rides; she blushed so sweetly when I gave her a blue ribbon off a teddy bear I won by successfully shooting myself in one of those target-practice midway games…”

    “Varagga,” McGurk agreed. He cocked his feathery head sideways, two of his eyes blinking while one kept staring at Gonzo. “Phugga rah?”

    Gonzo shook his head. “You think I haven’t tried calling her? I can’t get a signal down here! For a communications station, you guys really have lousy cell service!”

    McGurk hesitated, glancing around; his fellow monsters were all preoccupied with their own TV-watching or eating. He slid an odd-looking device from under his fur and poked it at Gonzo. “This is a phone?” Gonzo wondered, puzzled; the thing appeared closer to a metal motherboard with pink day-glo rubber worms fused all over than like any phone Gonzo had ever seen. McGurk hissed at him, and Gonzo took it carefully into his hands, reluctant to touch it. “An iGrub? Well, okay…thanks…”

    After playing with it a bit he discovered how the keypad worked, and tapped in Camilla’s number. McGurk watched him with a hopeful expression. The ringing halted, and a lovely chicken voice cooed, “Baaawwwk?”

    “Camilla, sweetie! Listen, I’m—“

    But the voice was only a recording telling him she was busy and would the caller please leave a message after the cluck. He did. “Camilla, it’s me! I’m sorry I haven’t called before now… The show is fantastic! I really hope you’re watching. They’re still doing elimination rounds but they’ll start audience voting on…” McGurk gurbled something helpful, and Gonzo shot him a thank you look. “On Wednesday, when I perform again! I really…I really wish you were here. Uh…anyway. Please watch, and, uh, I hope you’ll ask everyone to vote for me, and…and…” He tried to think of something which would sound affectionate without coming across as pushy. “Uh…I just…just really wish you were here. Hope the show’s going well there. Hi to everyone.” At a loss, he hung up, stared depressed at the odd phone, and finally handed it back to the monster. “Thanks.”

    McGurk gave him a shrewd look. “Far hugga babba?”

    “Well…we…we were close. For a long time. I don’t really know what happened.” Gonzo shrugged. “She started talking about nesting, but we already had a place together, you know? And…and she kept hinting at eggs, and, well…” He glared at McGurk. “If you were me, would you want to pass these genes on?”

    “Er…agga…”

    “I mean just look at my fingernails! They’re always trying to ingrow!” Gonzo sighed. “We always got along so well together! Couldn’t we just have, well…stayed like that?”

    McGurk shook his head in sympathy. Gonzo sighed, turning back to the show on the TV. “Huh. See that? And Camilla always said no girl in her right mind would do what I do for a living…what do you call that then?”

    Mistress Fatwah finished with a flourish, swords standing up on point in her outstretched palms, balancing on her toes on the tips of two more, with one quivering stuck in the stage floor directly beneath her, and one down her throat. “Well!” Snookie said, nervously adjusting his tie. “That was…ah…enlivening! Let’s see how our judges rate that pulse-pounding and somehow deeply disturbing act!”

    The judges clapped, showed claws-up signs, and eventually remembered to pull their fallen jaws up off the table and push their bugging eyeballs back into their sockets. “Looks like the suggestive swordswoman is penetra---er, advancing to the next round! We’ll be right back after this word from our friendly sponsors!” Snookie shouted, mopping off his forehead, which apparently still bore some slime traces.

    “Fraaaahh,” McGurk groaned, melting into a small furry pool.

    Gonzo leaned over, surprised. “I didn’t know you could do that! Hey…wanna be in my act?”

    ------------------------------
    “Okay, Cyrano, ya can quit writing love letters – she’s yours already,” Rhonda quipped, hopping up on a chair to see what the Newsman was working on. Long scrolls of papers were spread out and weighed down with various objects, covering his small desk, and the golden-felted reporter was chewing on the end of a pencil. He shot her an irritated glare, which she ignored, staring instead at the numerous blueprints. “Wow. I had no idea ConEd’s stuff was so complicated. Ya know, that might explain why my neighbor always has cable even when all the fuses are blown again…”

    “He’s probably stealing it,” Newsie grumbled. “Rhonda, I’ve been going over the plans for the sewers in the area the workers went missing, and this is very strange…”

    “If the word ‘selenium’ comes outta your mouth, I am so out of here.”

    “What?”

    “Never mind. So what is all this stuff?” Rhonda peered one way, then another, at the mazes of tunnels with obscure notations all over them, some part of the prints, some in pencil. “This can’t all be the power lines. There’s too much stuff.”

    “Right. Power,” Newsie explained, tapping the sheet on top, then removing it to fully reveal another blueprint, “Gas,” and he slid that aside for another beneath it, “Water…sewer…subway…abandoned subway…phone and cable lines…Rhonda, I keep lining them all up and studying them just in this one part of town, and feel like there’s something I’m missing. Will you help?”

    His expression was so earnest that Rhonda bit off the smart reply she’d automatically thought of, and joined him in peering at each sheet in turn, slowly comparing them to one another. “You’re missing a blueprint,” she said.

    Confused, the Newsman flipped through each sheet, mumbling their designations under his breath. “Er…no, I don’t think so. I’ve accounted for every single system underground. I specifically asked the registrars at City Hall for absolutely everything!”

    “Then what goes here?” the shrewd rat asked, tapping an empty spot on the top sheet.

    “Uh…that would be the space for the J train, I think…”

    “No, it isn’t. Look.” Rhonda tugged the subway line map out, overlaying it with two others and struggling to hold them up to the bright makeup-table lights. “Gimme a hand, genius.” When Newsie picked up the opposite corners, and they looked together at all of the maps lined up and overlaid, in the southern edges of Chinatown a long vacant space showed, every single line of everything veering abruptly around it. “Look. There, and there, and there,” she said, pointing out with a well-manicured claw what seemed to be a number of large spaces all over the Manhattan map.

    Newsie stared at that, then looked at his news partner. “Rhonda…you’re amazing!”

    She smiled. “How nice of you to finally get that. So what goes there? All those subway and sewer and power tunnels look like they’re going around something big!” She peered closely at the overlaid maps. “Man, that’s almost four blocks! You could fit a couple of U.N.s and the Museum to boot in that and still have room for every commuter on the B train! Are you sure it’s not a disused subway terminal or something?”

    “No…those are listed here…and don’t copy this or pass it around to your rat friends,” Newsie warned. “You wouldn’t believe how much persuasion I had to use to even get it! I went on for twenty minutes about the possible threat to the whole city and the right of the public to know and my duty as a journalist to investigate and…”

    “Ya bribed them.”

    Newsie blushed crimson. “Five hundred. Do not tell anyone!”

    Rhonda regarded him with increased solemnity. “If you of all Muppets thought this was worth skewing the rules for…okay. I’m in. This could be big. Oooh…I hope none of the pencil-sucking leeches over at the Scandal have caught onto this yet…” she mused, and Newsie guiltily tucked his pencil away. She studied the odd empty spot present on every map, frowning. “Wonder how we get into that.”

    “Assuming it’s not just a section of bedrock no one felt like drilling through,” Newsie sighed, realizing they might be working themselves up over nothing.

    “Goldie, you may actually have a story here. That’s the exact same area the ConEd guys vanished?”

    “Right here,” Newsie said, unable to help a shiver as he pointed out the specific tunnel on the power-grid map. It abutted the mysterious blank spot in the Lower East Side.

    “Do you have GPS coordinates for that?”

    “Er…somewhere…” Newsie shuffled through the notes he’d been scribbling on the maps, and found the numbers. Rhonda tapped them into her phone. “What are you doing?”

    “This way, when we’re at the right spot, we’ll know.”

    “Okay,” Newsie agreed, then smiled at her. “You’re coming with me?”

    “Are you kidding? Goldie, baby, nose for news you may have, but you have no sense of dramatic presentation! I’ll be there to direct the camera shots.” She grinned. “An exclusive! We heading down tomorrow morning? I need to know so I can bring my galoshes.”

    “I thought that piece on the bacteria scare was pretty dramatic!” the Newsman huffed.

    “Yeah, ‘cause when I see you get pummeled by falling fruit, Shakespeare is the very first thing that pops inta my mind. Seriously. Leave the directing to me, okay?”

    “So, how’s everything going?”

    Both Muppet and rat turned, startled, at the gravely voice of the station manager, Harlan Grosse Point Blanke. “Er…Mr Blanke!” Newsie mumbled, unsure what to say; the conversation he and the boss had engaged in last night after the Happy Harvey incident had been somewhat less than friendly. “Uh…I have the lab results here for the burgers…turns out the allegations may be true. The lab found approximately ten per cent gerbil byproducts in the burgers…” Newsie frowned, feeling queasy as he read the report Honeydew had faxed over earlier, and which he’d ignored until now in favor of the undercity research. “Er…also ten per cent mollusk, possibly from a volcanic sulfur vent…five per cent Bolivian steamshovel beetle…”

    Blanke waved a dismissively large hand at him. “For heaven’s sake, don’t say any of that on the air! The company CEO called me at four this morning! Four! This morning! Does that sit well with you, Newsmuppet? Because I should tell you, it woke my wife up! And she had to come down to the study and drag me off of the couch to…er…” Suddenly changing topic, Blanke growled, “And I hope you’re finished with that ridiculous report on missing homeless people! They probably just moved on when they couldn’t panhandle enough to buy their liquor!”

    “That’s an unfair prejudice,” Newsie protested. “Many of them honestly can’t find work! To paint them all as opportunistic scam artists is—“

    “Did I ask for your opinion? No! You don’t do analysis, you just report! Is that clear?” Blanke demanded, towering over the much shorter Muppet.

    Fuming, Newsie gritted his teeth in reply: “Yes sir.”

    “Good. Now, because our major sponsor withdrew their support due to your little act of insubordination last night, I am withdrawing your special reports budget for the foreseeable future.” Blanke remained stonefaced while Newsie and Rhonda both blanched, then became indignant.

    “You can’t do that! We need a camera crew tomorrow! It’s a potentially fantastic scoop and if we don’t have the resources—“ Rhonda began shrilly.

    “This amounts to unfair punishment! If any establishment is cheating the public, even if they sponsor us, the public—“ Newsie shouted at the same time.

    Blanke waved his hands over them, irritated. “Enough! Shut up, both of you! No funding for your silly little Muppet expeditions! We need more hard news around here!” He thrust a sheet of copy at Rhonda. “You. Make sure he covers this tonight, or you’re done as his producer. Got it?”

    Silent, angry, they glared at the station manager as he stomped out, slamming the dressing-room door behind him. Rhonda blew out a heated breath and took a look at the ordered coverage. Grimly, Newsie muttered, “Hard news?”

    Rhonda snorted. “Yeah, sure. If you consider a celebrity showing up late to the morgue to be of vital interest to the working public.” She flipped the sheet up at him in disgust; Newsie caught it, read it, and dropped it upon his stack of story copy for the night’s broadcast.

    “Why am I covering that tonight? I’m only doing Muppet news; Joe’s anchoring,” Newsie complained. “I hate fluff pieces.”

    “But you’ll read it anyway?” Rhonda asked, looking worried.

    Newsie nodded. “I don’t want you fired. You’re the best director and reports producer I’ve ever had.” He smiled wanly at her, and she sighed.

    “I’m the only director and producer you’ve ever had, and if you even try to hug me I’ll bite you. I am so mad right now!”

    Newsie nodded, scowling at the closed door, then looking down at the blueprints. “Bring your galoshes tomorrow. We’ll meet at the Canal Street Market at nine.”

    Rhonda blinked. “Uh…did I miss the part where bossman suddenly had a change of heart and pulled you with praise and gratitude into his arms and his pocketbook?”

    “Tell Tony to meet us there, and bring low-light lenses or whatever you think we’ll need for the tunnels.”

    “You mean Tommy. How exactly are you intending to steal the funding for this little venture?”

    “I’ll fund it,” Newsie insisted, smoothing down his tie, trying to calm himself. “We need to look into this, Rhonda.”

    “What’ll Blanke say?”

    “I don’t think there’s anything in our contracts preventing us from going after a story on our own time with our own money, is there? He can’t stop us!”

    “Good point,” Rhonda said, slowly grinning. “Hey, how did you do that teeth-gritting thing, anyway?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Newsie, you don’t have—“

    “Nine o’clock,” he repeated, blushing, gathering up all the blueprints and rolling them safely into a protective metal tube. “Bring your…your gadget there.”

    “It’s called a phone. Honestly…we moved past rotary dial a while back, Goldie.” Rhonda paused, watching him tuck all his research into his private locker and secure it with a heavy combination lock. “What does Gina think of all this?”

    “Oh,” Newsie mumbled, realizing that was a conversation he didn’t particularly wish to have, but should. “Er. Um. She…she believes in me…”

    “Of course she does. That nose is not exactly imaginary. So she’s okay with you chasing after possibly dangerous story leads in the sewers?”

    “We’ll go down the ConEd tunnel, not the sewer.”

    “Stop the wordplay. You know what I mean!” Seeing the journalist fidgeting, Rhonda shook her head. “She doesn’t like it, huh?”

    “She…she seemed to think I might be extrapolating my hunches a bit much,” Newsie admitted.

    The rat brushed back her blonde waves, considering his best approach. “Well, why don’t ya tell her…it’s for the good of the public? Or that this could be a big story? Or that this could finally be the one that makes you permanent anchor – or even nabs you better offers from the big boys uptown?”

    Embarrassed, the Newsman picked up his copy and shuffled through it, although he knew every story in the pile. “I doubt that. And I’m not doing this for fame, Rhonda.”

    The rat sighed, and patted his shoulder before jumping down from the chair. “I know ya don’t. Makes ya even more of a pain in the tuchis to work with, since I can’t appeal to your vanity.”

    Newsie lifted his head proudly. “All my satisfaction comes from doing my job right.”

    “Why don’t ya just tell her to come with us, then?”

    That might work. Newsie brightened. “That’s a great idea! But…” Immediately worried, he added, “But what if it’s dangerous? What if…what if there really are monsters down there? Rhonda, I did see those freaks from the hospital go down the drain!”

    “Again with the monsters,” Rhonda groaned. “Newsie! There are no monsters living in the undercity! And besides…I seem to recall seeing a photo of one tabloid journalist hung by his heels by your sweetiepie. I think she can handle herself if things get weird, okay?”

    “I’ll…I’ll talk to her about it tonight,” Newsie said, and Rhonda smiled.

    “Good. And bring two grand in cash.” At the startled look on the Muppet’s long face, Rhonda frowned. “What? You think Tommy’ll take something he’ll have to declare on his taxes for doing something potentially messy under the table? I’ll set it up, but you’re gonna have to keep that offer of payment!”

    “Fine,” Newsie growled.

    Nodding, Rhonda started to leave, but shot over her shoulder, “Oh…and you have a spot of mustard on your tie. You’re due on set in five.” She grinned when the anxious Newsman turned to his mirror behind her, skewing his jaw this way and that, trying to see the nonexistent stain. “Ha. Not vain my butt…he is anchor material!”

    Blanke had barely returned to his office when his private line rang, the one his secretary was not allowed to answer. “Blanke here,” he grunted importantly, then turned pale and slowly sat down. “Uh…yes. Of course I did.” He listened, growing more uneasy by the second at the low, sibilant voice on the other end. “Absolutely! We can’t have irresponsible…” He swallowed when the voice cut him off curtly, and listened in silence another minute. “No, no, don’t worry about that! I just cut his funding, as a matter of…” The voice turned deeper, sleeker, and Blanke felt cold beads of sweat breaking out across his brow. “No, no. Nothing to worry about, I’m on top of…” The line went dead. “It,” Blanke finished, and stared at the phone before softly hanging it up.

    He sat at his desk, fingers tightly interlaced, thinking, worrying. Finally he buzzed his secretary. “Gladys? Uh…I’m going home. I don’t feel well. Thank you, I’m sure it’s just that cold bug going around. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Hastily he shoved his hat on his balding head, picked up his briefcase, and left, forgetting his coat, his mind swirling with uncertain fears, and the threat of his job loss feeling like a razor-edged pendulum swinging ever closer above him in that story…Stephen King or someone, wasn’t it? Right…get a grip, Harlan, you’re doing just what you’re supposed to, for the good of the network. For the good of the parent company! That’s all that matters here.

    That, he thought suddenly, chilled further, and his own neck. That mattered very much to the man who’d never even told his employees about their new parent company. As long as everyone did what they were supposed to, everything would go as normal, and no one would lose their job…especially him. Full of a sense of his own indispensableness, Blanke hailed a cab to go home, resigned to a long drive through heavy traffic.

    He didn’t like taking the subway. Not anymore.
    ----------------------------
    The Count likes this.
  9. The Count Moderator

    *Drinks in the chapter. Aaaah, now that's the good stuff. Was worried that there hadn't been any updates in almost two weeks.

    Actual Muppophone slippers, cute, cute touch.
    Yeah, I'm pretty much the same way when I get a platter of ribs, scraping and scrapping at the bones. :insatiable: That the best part!
    Frackle Rock... So that's what it was. Guess I've had my head too much in Power Ranger fandom lately.

    Hmm, I think I recognize Roberto the Magnificent's act from another of those stretching portraits. Too bad he terminated himself just like Weevil.
    Jazmin Fatwah, now there's an interesting act. Was kinda considering something similar tinkering around with the concept of Rosie the Pinhead from the movie Freaks as I'm unsure if the term "pinhead" refers to the fact that she's got a number of pins pierced through the top of her head.
    BTW: If you've ever watched that movie you know what a weird yet quirksome thing it was.
    Looking forward to what other acts show up.

    The quote of "selenium", made me grin. Although, the layering of blueprints on top of each other also reminded me of the part in Police Academy 6 where they find out about the old city busline matching up with the properties along the new planned subway which was why the crooks were committing their crimes... Just before Tack slams the table, launching his reassembled grenade out into the carpark flaming Captain Harris's vehicle.

    And we get a further glimpse of how deep the conspiracy behind the monsters network goes. There are a few instances, perhaps most notedly the comment about Blankie feeling his own indispensability, that make me think of all the developments with the Penn State case. I'm pretty much stuck to my ESPN shows watching as much of it as I can get. But let's get off of those heavier subjects and further down into the section of undercity Newsie found. Bring your galoshes Rhonda... And some slime-repellant uniforms, that psychokinnetic pinkish slime can cause you to turn rabidly on your camerasloth.

    Hope you enjoyed the piece of cheesecake. Please post again soon!
  10. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    ---------------------
    Thanks! I ALWAYS accept cheesecake. Well, okay, I prefer them not too muscle-y... ;)

    Ed...it worries me that you watched that far into the "Police Academy" franchise...

    More soon. I'm half through writing ch 14 as we speak. Appreciate ANY feedback, you guys! :news:
    -----------------------------
  11. The Count Moderator

    Are you kidding? I loved that franchise. Never got to see the seventh movie though. And I know there's an MST3K reference there, just can't remember it.
    BTW: You get ramchip points for Jazmin Fatwah, I got that joke after thinking about it.
  12. Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    Well--just goes to show that Gonzo can make friends anywhere! And that he's interested in other weirdos.
    Poor Snookie--I feel sorry for him and the repulsive existence he is having to live. And I am looking forward to more revelations about the weirdo/chicken relationship! If Gonzo and Camilla have kids, even the eggs would be weird, I'll betcha!

    Keep on posting--I want to see what happens next! (I would say I'm waiting with "baited" breath, but then Lew Zealand might start hanging around....)
  13. The Count Moderator

    Hmm, I seem to recall other authors tackling the weirdo/chicken offspring, though I agree it would be intereschting to read Kris's attempt in such a field.
    BTW: Ru, congrats on getting your post total to 1234, chickens just back from the shore. :cluck:
    Also, I don't think I gave your prize for getting to a thousand, when we still had the Senior Member distinctions. Will save it for KG's momentous milestone for which only two chapters remain. :batty:
  14. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -------------------------
    *scratching head* Er...actually, no...no MST jokes that time. How neglectful of me!

    But I DID intend Jimmy Joe Bob to be a bit reminiscent of a certain country Muppet who just wanted another log on the fire...and some bacon and beans... :)

    Mmmm ramchips! Hope to post next chapter tomorrow...AFTER I have a chance tonight to read Ru's newest...sheesh...
    ----------------------------
  15. The Count Moderator

    Heh, I was talking about I think it's Joel's observation on how the the Eye creatures would keep shelling out money to see the Police Academy movies when they're aired for nothing every night on cable TV instead.
    The Hillbilly Singer from "Put Another Log On The Fire"... Yep, we know him as Jimmy around these parts, mostly cause that's the name he was refered to by Layla when she roomed with him back at the MC Dorms.
    And hey, you're close to getting that reward too, just a few more posts to get to a thousand.
    newsmanfan likes this.
  16. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fourteen (I)

    The maître-d’ quirked one perfectly plucked eyebrow, but then coughed discreetly, gaining the chicken’s attention. “Ahem. Miss the Chicken, is it not? Mrs the Frog told me to expect you.”

    Camilla clucked quietly at him, and allowed him to take her faux-fox stole; he tried to hide his unease when one of the stuffed fox heads snapped at him. “I’m so sorry. Please, follow me, Ms the Chicken.” Camilla bobbed after the smoothly weaving man among the tables and then along a series of more private booths until they reached an intimate room separated from the restaurant by curtained French doors. “Right this way, Ms the Chicken,” the maître-d’ offered, holding open a door for her.

    Piggy reclined by a toasty fire, which at first surprised Camilla, but then she realized that of course Piggy would have ordered the hearthside room for this little tête-a-tête. The blaze in the rustic brick fireplace was a welcome treat after walking through the cold street on this overcast Tuesday morning, and the chicken gladly settled into the plush armchair opposite Piggy’s divan, clucking a greeting.

    “Oh! Camilla! I’m so glad you could make it – kissy, kissy! Though of course I would have stayed for the spiced persimmon coffee cake regardless, ah ha ha ha!” Miss Piggy exclaimed, beaming. The firelight made her look absolutely radiant even though the pig wore what she no doubt would modestly disclaim as “some old thing she threw on,” a silkily draping burgundy velvet pantsuit and an embroidered, tasseled wrap which now lay casually over one shoulder and the back of the divan. Camilla reflected ruefully that Piggy had aged more attractively than she herself, through the decades both had been in show business…and the chicken knew those rumors of plastic surgery were completely false in the diva’s case. She felt suddenly very conscious of the shadows under her eyes, and hoped the eye cream she’d hastily applied before venturing out of the nest this morning was working. “Bukawk?” she wondered, eyeing the artful arrangements of candlesticks, sprays of dried berries and miniature pumpkins upon the table. A steaming teapot already graced the settings of fine china, and Piggy poured for them both.

    “I hope you like spiced chai…honey?” Piggy asked. Camilla giggled at the pun, and for a moment Piggy seemed like a schoolgirl sharing a silly secret, giggling as well. Camilla stirred a spoonful of wildflower honey into her teacup with her beak and sipped: the tea proved very good indeed, the perfect mix of exotic, warming spices and wake-you-the-heck-up black liquid. Piggy smiled. “I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of ordering just a few things. I never want anything too heavy in the mornings…”

    “Bawwwk,” Camilla agreed, shrugging, and Piggy picked up a glass bell and rang it delicately. The door swung open and two waiters swiftly set a feast upon the table before vanishing once more. “Bok bok,” the chicken observed, her eyes widening a little at the variety and quantity of delectables crowding the floral arrangements for space. Silver-dollar-sized corn and pumpkin pancakes with warm ginger syrup, zucchini fritters with veggie sausages, crêpes smothered in apple compote, a tray of selected cheeses and another of sliced apples and pears and pomegranate seeds were just the dishes Camilla could identify by sight or smell. A twig basket of tiny muffins and a small sugar pumpkin with the lid sliced through also festooned the feast. This was a few things? Suddenly Camilla understood why Kermit always made that scrunchy face when Piggy was going over a plan for a party…

    “Oh, I had the kitchen make that especially for vous. It’s one of Kermie’s favorites but I thought perhaps it would appeal to your taste as well,” Piggy explained, indicating the pumpkin. Camilla plucked off the lid, and a glorious tangled scent of fragrant maple oatmeal and larger, crunchy-white things struck her nostrils, making her hungrier than she thought she was. “They’re…ahem…cinnamon-toasted grubs.”

    “Bawwwwk,” Camilla cooed, touched. How thoughtful! She hesitated, however, cocking her head sideways at the pig. “Bawk. Bukawk bok bawwwk?”

    “Wellll…” Piggy said, then dropped the coyness to launch right into her reasons for inviting the chicken to a private brunch. “I was thinking it has been so long since vous and moi simply had a little time for girl talk together…and I know there have been some important changes in your life this year.” She was pleased when her frank look was met by an equally direct stare from Camilla. “I know you’ve been…a little distracted of late, and I thought perhaps we could talk about it, over a little nibble, of course.” She smiled. “No reason we can’t enjoy ourselves when the menfolk aren’t around!”

    “Bawk,” Camilla shrugged. She sipped her tea, and sighed. “Buk bukawk bok bok buwwwk.”

    “Of course he’s an idiot,” Piggy agreed at once. “I could’ve told you that years ago!”

    They both laughed, and Camilla relaxed. They started in on the food, slowly at first, then eagerly munching, tasting treat after autumn-rich treat, taking their time to enjoy it all before they worried about a serious discussion. Camilla had always liked that about Piggy: she understood that difficult subjects were easier to tackle on a satisfied stomach. Under that polished showgirl there’s a farmgirl at heart, Camilla thought, pleased.

    “So, let me see if I understand your view,” Piggy said when they’d sated the first rush of hunger; both continued to leisurely chew or peck the pancakes and crêpes. Camilla daintily washed down her bite with more tea, and Piggy obligingly poured for her again. “Vous are at the stage in life, if vous will excuse moi’s directness, when it has come to your attention that we girls are only given a certain number of eggs?”

    “Baaawk,” Camilla said, shrugging.

    “And, naturally, you made the very understandable suggestion to Gonzo that perhaps the two of you begin considering potential nest sites?”

    “Bukawwwk.” Camilla gave Piggy a shrewd look; she’d never considered that Piggy might have had similar thoughts about domesticity. She’d always struck Camilla as being more May diva than June Cleaver.

    “And what did he say?”

    Camilla sighed in frustration. “Buk ba-kawk bok buk buk bawk!”

    Piggy rolled her eyes. “Sheesh. You wonder sometimes how they remember to breathe, they’re so dense!”

    Camilla clucked a sharp laugh, but then launched into a lengthy diatribe, explaining exactly how she’d progressed from dropping broad hints about eggs to showing Gonzo her developing brood patch under her breastfeathers to outright telling him to tear himself away from the latest episode of “I Can’t Believe I’m Still Alive!” to have an adult conversation…all to no avail. Piggy listened intently, quietly snacking on a fistful of black grapes. Occasionally she interrupted: “And he didn’t get it?... He thought the bare skin was cute?... Oh boy. He’s even dumber than I thought.” When Camilla finished her depressing litany, Piggy was silent a long moment, cutting off a hunk of veggie sausage and chewing thoughtfully while the chicken pecked listlessly at her last grub.

    “It seems to moi,” Piggy offered at last, “that your demands were quite reasonable. After all, vous and Gonzo have been together a long time now…almost as long as Kermie and moi…” Camilla refrained from pointing out she and Gonzo had been dating before the frog actually admitted he couldn’t live without that specific pig in his life. “And, well, we’re not getting any younger, though I have to say your feathers are even more thick and luxurious than they were when you came to the theatre, dear.” Pleased, Camilla ducked and clucked, but Piggy pressed on: “So if you really want a nest…and you must have that weir—er, artiste – for your significant other, then tell him!”

    Camilla blinked. “Buuuuk…bukawk!”

    Piggy was surprised. “You…told him you needed space, and all he does is pester you about his ridiculous daredevil act?” She snorted. “Thick as a brick! All right, Camilla, dear…although I cannot fault your decision to back away for a while and hope he grows up a bit…it’s not going to work.”

    “Bawwk?”

    “Trust me. I know men, and whatever Gonzo is, he’s still a guy. They all want to be teenagers forever, and they all think domestic life equals a loss of freedom!” Piggy shook her head, and stuffed a raspberry muffin in her mouth, taking advantage of her longstanding association with the chicken to chew and talk at the same time. “You’re gonna have to spell it out for the knucklehead! Let him stew for a while, and when he says he wants you back – and believe me, he does, you’re the only woman who puts up with him! – then you explain the facts of eggs to him.” Piggy suddenly wondered if the chicken actually wanted the freak to fertilize those eggs; shuddering, she decided she didn’t want to even ask.

    Camilla pulled out her cell phone. “Bawwwwk buk buk buk…”

    “He did?” Piggy blinked. “Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him around the theatre in a while. Where is Captain Bizarro, anyway?”

    Camilla told her about the daredevil talent show, described the Triple Lindy Sushi Roll (which made even the unflappable pig wince), and then played the message Gonzo had left on her voicemail last night while she was splashing idly in the chickens’ solar-heated birdbath in the remodeled poultry dressing-room. Piggy snorted loudly. “He wishes you were there? Good grief, how selfish is that? Oh, dear,” she said, her tone softening at the look of distress on the chicken’s face. “Camilla, darling, sweetie…it isn’t all bad…he did say he missed you.”

    “Bawwwwk,” Camilla groaned, staring down at her phone, depressed.

    Piggy reached across the table, taking the chicken’s wingtips in her gloved hands. “Well, perhaps more drastic measures are called for. Did you try returning his call?”

    “Bawwk bawk buk beeeek!”

    “Figures. Kermit seems to find the only dead spots for cell coverage in Manhattan all the time too,” Piggy muttered. “Well…then my advice to you, woman to woman, is go ahead and vote for him in this silly competition. That way he’ll realize you do still support his…ah…performance ventures. If he realizes you’re not wanting him to give up being an id—ah, I mean, to give up show business, ha ha…perhaps he’ll grasp that a compromise would be in his best interest as well as yours, for both your happiness’ sake.”

    “Bawwk,” Camilla agreed, mulling it over. Perhaps Piggy had a good strategy there: lead by example, and make Gonzo realize he was the one being foolish?

    “Do you want him to give up performing?”

    Camilla shook her head. “Bukawk!” Calming herself, she explained further: “Baaawk…buk buk.”

    Piggy snorted again, trying not to burst out laughing. “No, I don’t think flaming motorcycle jumps over rabid squirrels would be good for anyone’s family plans!”

    They both began giggling, then chuckling, then guffawing. Outside the private room, a passing waiter heard the loud clucking and snorking, and wondered just what sort of clientele had stopped in this morning…although it couldn’t possibly be stranger than the sheep socialite knitting tea circle every Wednesday afternoon…

    “Oh dear,” Piggy gasped, wiping her eyes, her cheeks rosy in the soft firelight. She grinned at Camilla. “So…anyway…be patient…to a point. Give him the opportunity to realize he’s an idiot, and show him you can be the grown-up. Believe me, if he has any shame at all –granted, that’s questionable, we are talking here about the guy who wears pink glittery Spandex – but if he does, he’ll come back all sorry and thank you for being so supportive of him while he was off indulging his inner little boy. Er, weirdo. Whatever he was as a kid, you get my drift.”

    Camilla nodded. She sipped her tea, running through in her mind the conversation she and Gonzo would need to have. Would he finally understand she didn’t want to curtail his love of danger, of adrenaline, of ridiculous skintight outfits (actually, she rather enjoyed the skintight outfits)…she only wanted him to understand it was important to her that he survive those outrageous stunts, not just for her sake, but for a family; that she wanted a family with him. “Bok bok bawk,” she mused aloud, and Piggy spluttered, tea nearly going up her nose.

    “Oh, sure. They’d have your feathers but his schnozz,” she grumbled, and Camilla crowed joyfully, amused at the pig’s clear reluctance to even imagine the lively products of that union. “And you’d better not say anything about figs or progs!”

    That set them both off again, and it was several minutes of hilarity later before Piggy summoned the waiter for a fresh pot of tea. “Now tell me…has Mitzi really forgiven Blackie for that public tryst with Goosie Gander?” Piggy asked as they resettled themselves. Camilla snickered, and launched into all the latest backstage gossip, and brunch dragged pleasantly into a late lunch without either of them caring a feather.

    -----------------------------------
  17. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    Part Fourteen (II)

    Gina looked up at the gloomy sky with some apprehension, feeling completely in agreement with Rhonda as the rat grumbled, “You had ta pick a rainy day for this!”

    “The power-line access tunnel is very close to the surface, and all the gutters should divert rainwater to much lower levels,” Newsie argued, tugging up his rainboots; he hadn’t heeded Gina’s advice to purchase new ones a few months back, and these had an annoying tendency to slide down his shins. “Even if it actually rains, we should be fine.”

    “This weather is messing with my perm already,” Rhonda complained, although none of them could even see said perm under the large, fashionable slouch hat she wore. Her London Frog coat looked slick enough to stop any water from drenching her. Newsie and Gina had matching russet trenchcoats and tall Wellington boots, and Gina had brought a mini umbrella and some other gear in a small backpack. Newsie fidgeted with his notepad and a pencil stub, checking his watch.

    Gina asked, “Newsie, are you absolutely sure the ConEd guy is going to allow us down there? Isn’t this supposed to be restricted?”

    “Their workers refuse to even go in this tunnel for routine inspections now,” Newsie said. “They’re more than happy to let us go check it out.”

    “Wait…so we’re going to be alone down there? No guide?” Gina asked. She crossed her arms and frowned down at her investigative love. “First I’ve heard of that.”

    “Er,” Newsie gulped.

    Rhonda shook her head. “Look, here comes Tommy. Even he beat your contact here.”

    “Uh…excuse me! Hello!” Newsie called out to a man in a white hardhat and a reflective vest as he wandered by, looking somewhat lost. “ConEd?”

    “Yes,” the man answered gruffly, then stared at the Newsman and the odd crew with him. “Uh…you’re not…”

    “The Newsman, KRAK. This is Rhonda Rat, my senior producer, my camerasloth Tony –“

    “Tommy,” Rhonda muttered.

    Before Newsie could introduce Gina, the bearded, dubiously-scowling man gave her a sharp look, clearly not pleased with her multiple earrings and fierce expression. “And what does this little girl do for you?”

    Gina put one hand possessively on Newsie’s shoulder. “I’m his bodyguard for this expedition. Someone needs to make sure we’re safe, since I hear your company is too scared to send an actual guide with us!”

    The worker laughed, though he didn’t sound amused. “Nice. Little bit of ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ for ya there, shorty?”

    “Are you gonna let us in or what? We need to see the place where your people supposedly saw things. Or would you like us to tell the public that ConEd doesn’t care about it’s own workers’ safety?” Rhonda growled.

    “Yeah, yeah. Don’t get your whiskers in a snit. This way,” the worker snapped, and headed for a manhole in front of a long open display of exotic melons and pickled squid and other, less-recognizable Oriental items common to this busy Chinatown street.

    Scowling deeply, Newsie muttered to Gina, “How did this jerk even know you have a tattoo like that?”

    She stifled a laugh. “He doesn’t. Don’t worry about it.” She smiled at him, and ruffled his windblown hair. “And don’t let idiots get you down. For a Muppet, you’re actually kind of tall, you know.”

    “Tall enough for you?” he mumbled, casting a discomfited glance at her as they crossed the street after the ConEd worker.

    “Definitely. Among other things,” she whispered in reply, bending over so her lips brushed his ear; Newsie fought back a blush, pleased nonetheless.

    When the four of them, in various stages of mood, reached the manhole, the worker wrested the cover off with a special crowbar and waited impatiently. “When you reach the bottom, turn left at the fork and go about three blocks south. That’s about where those guys said they saw an intruder.”

    “Their report didn’t say intruder,” Newsie pointed out. “They claimed to have seen some thing moving in the tunnel. And numerous others have filed reports about hearing strange sounds down there!”

    “Believe me, you guys weren’t my first choice to go clear out whatever bums are tryin’ to squat down there, but the cops seem to be too busy to bother with it,” the worker snorted. “If whoever’s down there is armed, I suggest you pack up your pretty little camera crew and get out…bodyguard and all.” He sneered at Gina.

    Newsie wanted to kick the man’s knees, but he felt Gina’s light touch upon his shoulder and settled for his fiercest patented glower. Gina gave the man a thin smile. “I’m sure, in that case, the civil suit will find in our favor against the neglectful utilities company who failed to provide adequate security in their own access tunnel. I assume you’ll be leaving the manhole open?”

    “No, but I’ll be here. Regulations.” The worker practically spat out the reply. “Ever since some idiot stole our barricades one time and some bohunk tourist fell in, we have to keep a man on watch whenever anyone’s underground. Just take your little expedition through there fast. Unlike what you’ve heard, I don’t actually love being paid to sit around and do nothing. So chop chop.”

    “You’ve been such a gracious help,” Rhonda sniffed. “We’ll be sure to mention you by name, Mr Grubber.”

    “That’s Gubler!” the worker barked.

    Rhonda showed her teeth in a grin. “Whatever. Come on, who’s first?” When everyone looked at Rhonda, she stomped a tiny, rubber-booted foot. “Just because I am a rat does not mean I want the point position in the sewer!”

    “I’ll…I’ll go,” Newsie said, swallowing down a sudden rush of anxiety.

    “Right behind you, cutie,” Gina assured him, and Newsie gave her a grateful look. Slowly he descended the iron rungs anchored in the concrete, and reached the bottom much sooner than he’d expected; the tunnel was indeed no more than twelve feet below street level at its curved bottom, and so tight a fit overhead for Gina that she had to crouch. To their dismay, once they’d all reached the access tunnel, the light from above vanished with an ominous scraping of metal on stone. “He’d better be there when we’re ready to leave,” Gina muttered, pulling the hood of her coat over her head; the roof of the round tunnel was oppressively moist.

    “I will hunt him down and bite him myself,” Rhonda promised, then elbowed past Gina to peer into the darkness beyond the small flashlight Newsie held. “Tommy, get up here, and turn on the camera light!”

    With a little maneuvering they all grouped in a tight pack, Newsie in the lead; Tommy just behind with the camera perched on a shoulder, its bright light and fuzzy mike sticking out ahead of them; Gina only a step behind him, a flashlight in one hand and a heavy stick in the other; Rhonda darting among them to sniff at the walls, squint ahead, peer fearfully behind, and somehow avoid falling underfoot while she examined everything and tried to set up a good filming. “Okay…straight ahead…Goldie, do some narration here; tell us why we’re tromping through a dirty crowded tunnel just below the street; Tommy, mike and film live, please, and keep running it. We can edit later.”

    Nonplussed, Newsie asked, “You’ve forgotten why we’re down here?”

    “My brain is not yet Malt-o-Meal like our viewers’, thank you very much!”

    “Oh,” Newsie gulped, tried to think past the adrenaline currently filling his veins, and stammered out an opening, though it was far less professional than the one he’d scripted last night. “Uh…We are here below the city, er, in a power-conduit used by workers for ConEd to inspect their tunnels…scratch that. We are here in a tunnel to check on the reports of monsters…no, wait. Uh…”

    “You can voiceover later,” Rhonda sighed. “Geez, this place is so narrow and nasty I can’t imagine anyone willingly coming down here! Ya know, when you said tunnels, I assumed you meant something the average person could actually walk in?” She met Newsie’s stare, and indicated Gina with a toss of her head. “How do these workers even move around down here? This is ridiculous!”

    “I doubt they come down here often. Probably only when something needs to be checked or repaired,” Newsie said, a little unnerved by the closeness of the walls. He’d never thought he was claustrophobic, but being in a tight spot was not the same as being in a tight spot where there might be monsters… “Er, which way do we go?”

    “He said left at the…fork,” Gina said, blinking in surprise at the large chalk drawing of a dinner fork on the wall of a T-intersection in front of them.

    “Right,” Rhonda agreed, turning to the left.

    “Left,” Tommy objected, slowly trying to puzzle this out.

    Rhonda groaned. “Oh no. We are not doing more than one bad joke in five minutes! Move it, genius. That way!” She pushed the sloth down the left-hand tunnel.

    Newsie half-turned, shining his flashlight down the right-hand tunnel. “Uh…that way looks like it widens out more…”

    Rhonda checked her GPS app; they were close enough to the surface that the signal came through, if not at full bars. “Well, lovely, but the location we want is this way. We can come back and take a look down there later. Come on, give us some commentary! Are you a journalist or what?”

    At the moment, he felt less like a journalist than a reluctant spelunker in a possibly dangerous cave. However, he managed to put a few words together, and spoke them aloud for the camera: “Er…we are closing in on the area where two ConEd employees claim to have seen something unusual less than two weeks ago. It seems highly unlikely to this reporter that transients would be using this particular tunnel for shelter, given the close quarters and…and…wah-choo!” Irritated, Newsie yanked out a handkerchief and tended to his cold nose. “And general dampness and moldiness of the location right below Canal Street.”

    Rhonda shook her head. “I think we’re moving under Mott right now, or under the sidewalk maybe. We’re heading south-southeast.” She prodded Newsie as they crept along. “Keep talking, sunshine.”

    Gina gave Newsie’s shoulder a squeeze, and emboldened, he picked up his pace a bit. “Uh…you can see the power lines snaking along the sides of the tunnel here, with junctions feeding up to the buildings above us. Although we’re being careful not to touch anything, it seems as though it would be a serious deterrent for anyone even considering coming down here unescorted! So the question remains: if the sounds and glimpses of movement the workers have reported in this tunnel were not in fact simply homeless people looking for shelter, or urban explorers who took a wrong turn, then what exactly did the workers find?” He shivered, and tightened the russet-wool scarf around his neck, retucking the ends beneath his overcoat.

    Rhonda’s phone beeped, and they all stopped, startled. “This is the spot,” Rhonda announced. “This is where they said they saw something…”

    “And where their colleague said he last saw them before they were supposed to go up and go home for the day,” Newsie added anxiously. All of them looked around. The tunnel seemed exactly the same as it had for the last block: tight, low, depressingly clammy, and with endless insulated cables heading in several directions along the walls.

    “I don’t see anywhere anyone could hide,” Gina observed.

    “Not anyone person-sized,” Newsie muttered, checking up under the lines of cables and the dirt along the floor. Despite not being designed to carry water, clearly there was a leak somewhere, as patches of mud showed darker in their lights along the narrow path. “Maybe they were down here looking for the leak to begin with?”

    “Water and electrical lines are definitely not a good idea,” Rhonda agreed grimly. “Come on, keep going. Let’s see if we can locate that mysterious blank spot.”

    “Do you really think it’s a hidden room?” Gina asked. “It could just be a chunk of bedrock. That’s all over Manhattan; they had to dynamite out all the subway lines. Maybe it’s just an area no one could blast through.”

    “Please don’t use that language,” Newsie begged her. “Crazy Harry has a strange way of knowing when someone does that!”

    No one popped into the tunnel, and no wild laughter was heard. “Not this time,” Rhonda muttered, a little unnerved herself by the silence and close air. Slowly they proceeded along, until suddenly Gina stopped, put her nose next to the wall and sniffed. Everyone stared at her.

    “Salt,” she said, and beckoned for Newsie’s more sensitive nose. “Isn’t that salt water?”

    Small grey crystals festooned a crack in one wall. Newsie cautiously smelled them, and nodded. “Sea salt! But…we’re still blocks from the harbor…”

    “I hear water,” Rhonda said, and they all listened. A faint sloshing sound could barely be heard on the other side of the salt-spattered wall.

    “Newsie…this must be an inlet,” Gina suggested. “Maybe there are no tunnels in that blank area because the ocean comes up under the island there! That could be the Atlantic trying to…get through…”

    As one, they all raised their eyes to the ceiling, where just below the apex of the tunnel, other small cracks dotted the concrete pipe. Many small cracks.

    “’Kay. It’s a wrap,” Rhonda decided. “Let’s go. Who wants coffee?”

    “Those are pretty,” Tommy murmured, filming closeups of the crystalline cracks. “Like, wow…if it’s sea salt, we should take some! It’s really good for your heart. Hey…maybe those guys were stealing salt? There could be a whole salt mafia down here!”

    They all stared at him a moment. Rhonda shook her head. “Tommy, remind me to introduce you to Beau sometime. You’d get along great, assuming you could understand one another at all. I say mystery solved. The ConEd guys probably saw this and decided to get the heck outta Dodge before the whole tunnel caved in! Or maybe the company tried to silence them when they tried to blow the whistle!”

    “That can’t be it,” Newsie argued. “What…what about the things that attacked my aunt? She’s still completely unresponsive! I saw those things go into the sewers, Rhonda! And there are more people missing than just these two workers! There has to be a connection!”

    “Newsie,” Gina said, softly touching his shoulder, “Maybe…maybe Rhonda is right. That tunnel wall looks pretty bad, but there really doesn’t seem to be anything else down here. Maybe the missing people all had different reasons for going missing.”

    Frustrated and dismayed, Newsie looked hard into her eyes; although she tried to appear sympathetic, he could read her skepticism plainly. “Don’t you believe me?”

    “My love,” she sighed, “I believe you, and believe in you, with all my heart…but so far I’m just not seeing anything weird down here. Some definite public safety issues, yeah; but no creepy-crawlies.”

    “Let’s check out the other end of the tunnel,” Newsie argued, setting his jaw, trying not to show how upset he was. “Maybe the monsters are…are using the salt water for something, and when the workers noticed the wall here, they were ambushed on their way back up!”

    Everyone looked behind them, the tunnel dark the way they’d come. “Sheesh, Goldie,” Rhonda said, glaring at him. “Will you stop it with all this monster stuff? It’s starting to get to me! Come on, let’s get out of here. This wet air is gonna give me the plague or something!” Determinedly the rat did an about-face and tromped back along the tunnel.

    The Newsman lingered at the salty wall, examining it closely for any sign of imminent collapse, but it seemed solid enough despite the cracks. I can’t believe Gina doesn’t agree with me! Doesn’t she think my news instinct is sharp enough? Does she really think I’d allow my opinions to color my view of the facts? People ARE missing and monsters ARE using the sewers and it all MUST be linked somehow! I don’t know what they’d need with salt water, but if this is the empty spot on the maps, there must be something…here… Startled, he straightened his shoulders, listening intently at the wall. Is that music? He looked up at Gina, who was watching him worriedly. “Do you hear music?”

    Gina sighed, removed her hood and pushed her hair away from one ear to lean in and listen. “All I hear is sloshing. Newsie…”

    “Never mind,” he snapped, and turned to follow Rhonda. Tommy realized everyone was leaving, and hurried to catch up. Hurried in a relative sense, that is.

    Gina put her hand on Newsie’s shoulder; he repressed the angry impulse to shake it off. “Aloysius…I adore you and I believe you. If you say you heard music, you must’ve heard something…but it is pretty close to the surface. Maybe that was from a building above us.”

    “Maybe,” he muttered, trudging along. “But it sounded…odd.”

    “Odd how?”

    “Like…” He paused, but couldn’t come up with a good description of that strange snippet of sound, all brass band and wild swoops and forced cheerfulness. “Like Sousa on steroids. I don’t know.”

    Gina laughed, but Newsie wasn’t amused. “Okay, so maybe someone had their satellite radio on the Marching Band Station – all Sousa, all the time! Who knows?” She sighed, seeing he wasn’t happy at all. “Newsie, I’m sorry. Maybe you are right about monsters. But think logically: we haven’t seen any evidence –“

    “Are you saying I’m not thinking clearly?” Newsie demanded, and the two of them stopped, staring unhappily at one another.

    Rhonda picked that moment to come pushing past. “Hey, I just realized what great footage that wall will make! Come on, Goldie, give me some good hard investigative sound bite to go with that! Tommy, shake a paw, back this way!”

    Newsie didn’t move. Rhonda, caught up in the exposé-of-public-works-neglect possibilities, didn’t notice, and Tommy shuffled after her. When they’d wandered far enough away for Rhonda’s voice to be distorted by the tunnel echoes, Gina knelt uncomfortably in the muck to look her Newsman in the face as an equal. “I’m saying, I don’t see any monsters, Aloysius. Do you?” Gina asked quietly.

    He grimaced. “I know they’re down here. Gina…that smell is down here. That wet dirty fur smell.”

    “Are you sure that’s not your cameraman?”

    “I’m not joking!”

    “I’m sorry,” Gina said. She gave him a long, concerned stare, and he had to look away finally. “I love you. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m saying you need better evidence, if you want to convince the authorities something awful really is going on down here. You need proof, not just a smell or a sound.” She stroked his cheek; depressed though this whole conversation made him, he closed his eyes and savored the feel of her fingertips, just for a second. “I love you. I’ll help you look. But I need you to realize how it’s going to sound if you just—“

    Newsie blinked back a tear of frustration, looked past her, and felt his heart stop:

    The filthy, dripping, mildewy-furred thing with open fangs was an inch away from Gina, its ragged claws stretching toward her arm from behind.

    He shrieked. Gina jumped, dropping her light. The monster leaped back a foot, then turned and raced away. Without thinking, Newsie tore after it, yelling angrily, “Come back here!”

    It loped on six legs, moving astoundingly fast; he couldn’t tell how large or long it was, since its whole body contracted and expanded as it ran like some crazed giant caterpillar. Panting, Newsie chased it past the T-intersection into a tunnel which suddenly widened and then branched out in multiple directions; he was only just close enough behind the thing to see which opening it took, and pounded after it. Splashing muck made him wince and shake the dirty droplets from his face, his glasses spattered, the smell of it rank and rotting. Son of a --! Horrible dirty creeping – A few of the more unfriendly words he’d heard Gina use when annoyed at her theatre work sprang to mind. This thing was fast and unpredictable; he’d almost caught up to it when it suddenly whipped its body around a corner he hadn’t even seen until he was upon it, and he swore he glimpsed it running along the side of the tunnel like an insect before it went around a bend and out of the range of his flashlight. Newsie’s right foot slid, and he skidded down painfully, knocking a knee and an elbow. Gasping, dragging himself out of the sucking puddle, he lost a rainboot. D—it! That thing would escape! It would get so far ahead at this rate he’d be…lost…

    The Newsman looked around himself in growing panic. He didn’t recognize this tunnel at all. There were no power lines along it that he could see, the roof seemed taller and had a greenish tint, the floor was…brick? Brick, under a layer of muck… With a start, Newsie realized he’d somehow taken a turn into a deeper tunnel. What the hey? If this isn’t a power-grid tunnel, where the heck am I?

    Then he heard the noises…whispering, scraping, scuttling noises…

    Newsie didn’t want to see what was making them. He turned and bolted, one boot gone, running as fast as he could and desperate to recall exactly what turns he’d made in this suddenly confusing warren of tunnels. The scraping sounded louder off to his left. “Gina!” he yelled, cursing himself; how could he have run so blindly down here? That thing had probably led him farther and farther into its lair! What an idiot he was! “Gina! Rhonda!” he cried, his voice hoarse, forced to stop and kick off his other boot when twice he nearly tripped and fell, unbalanced. The chill, wet tunnel floors soaked his socks immediately, but a cold was the least of his worries. That tunnel there, did I come that way? Was it a right or a left?Oh frog! I’m lost! I’m completely lost! I—

    “Newsie!” a voice echoed, but he couldn’t tell from which direction.

    “Monsters!” he yelled as loud as he could. “There are monsters!”

    “Newsie?” The echoes bewildered him; he started down one turn, stopped, backtracked, listened. His hearing, though fairly good, was unable to pinpoint the origin of his beloved’s voice. Oh frog! What if they hear her? What if they go after her? What if this was all a trap to separate us? No! Gasping, he turned in the direction he thought he might have run, and increased his pace, still aware of the other noises. Impossible to tell which way those were either!

    And then his flashlight blinked. He smacked the side of it, and it came back on. “No,” he moaned, hurrying on, “No, no, no, no, no…”

    It went out. Repeated smacks of his palm did not revive the light. The battery was dead. Why hadn’t he bought a new one? Now he couldn’t see, he couldn’t rely on his hearing, those things could be right next to him for all he –

    Smell. He could smell them. Pausing in terror, he took a deep whiff, and caught the scent of wet woolen socks too long unwashed…except he was certain socks couldn’t actually creep up right…on his…side…

    With a cry of desperate anguish, Newsie swung the flashlight like a club, and staggered at the hard thunk it made against something’s chitinous body. Keeping tight hold of the dead light, he fled, running in complete darkness, one hand outstretched before him to try and avoid walls, the scent of horrible things bred in musty sewers trailing off behind him, fainter, thank frog fainter, and a small breeze brushed his cheek as he passed an intersection, and he caught a whiff of amber and spices, and he—

    He stopped so fast he nearly cartwheeled over, one hand somehow finding the tunnel wall and scraping his felt along it to right himself. Gina! Sniffing wildly, he found the opening, climbed through it, felt the soft mud and narrow walls around him again. He was back in the ConEd tunnels. “Gina!” he called, and nearly burst into tears when he heard her yell his name back. Hurrying, stumbling, he followed his nose until he saw a bobbing flashlight up ahead, and as he came around a bend in the pipe he crashed into her. Her arms flew around him, he hugged her tight, the breath knocked momentarily from them both. “Gina…oh frog…”

    “Where did you go? Why did you run off?” Gina asked, kissing him all over his face.

    “M-monsters! I saw – I chased – was a trap! Monsters! We have to get out of here!” he gasped. Rhonda caught up to them, eyes wide, whiskers atwitch.

    “Good grief! What the heck is going on?” the rat demanded.

    “Get Tony. We have to leave. Now!” Newsie gulped, trying to get his voice back, breathless and shaking all over.

    “Why? Is there a cave-in?” Rhonda looked along the intersection nervously. “Is the ocean about to come surfing all over us?”

    “Monsters! I told you! They are down here! I saw them!” he insisted.

    Gina looked past him, shining her powerful LED light, but saw only an empty tunnel. “You actually saw them? Where?”

    “Back that way somewhere,” he wheezed. “One was…right at you…I…I chased it…was stupid…could’ve got me…I…ah…ah…ahhhchooo!”

    “We’re leaving,” Gina growled. “Where’s your sloth? Let’s go.”

    Relieved, Newsie clung to her, peering as hard as he could into the darkness past her light. They started back along the first access tunnel while Rhonda ran to urge Tommy to move faster toward the exit. “You…you believe me?” he asked, and then suffered a coughing fit.

    “Let’s just get you out of here before you collapse,” Gina said, hauling him up and half-carrying him to the iron ladder. She yelled up the vertical shaft: “Hey! Open the manhole! We’re coming out!”

    To everyone’s great relief, the worker was there, and opened the cover for them to all climb out, impatiently waiting four extra minutes for the sloth to emerge. While Tommy slowly attempted to cover the camera as a light rain drizzled down, the ConEd worker scowled at them. “Well? Find any tramps?”

    “Six-legged ones!” Newsie snapped, then succumbed to a sneezing fit.

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” the man demanded.

    “Watch the news tonight,” Rhonda shot back. “Oh, and…you might want to get a raft next time you have to go down there. So long, Cap’n Crunchy.” She stalked off, following Gina and a very weak-legged Newsman. “Ha! I’ll bet the city will just love finding out part of the Lower East Side is on the verge of becoming beachfront property!”

    “R-Rhonda, I s-saw monsters,” Newsie choked out, shivering as he tried to walk. “Well, okay, I saw one…but I h-heard lots of them. I smelled lots of them!”

    “Uh huh,” Rhonda replied, shooting a questioning look at Gina. Gina gave a small shrug out of Newsie’s line of sight, and hailed a cab.

    “I did! We – we have to go back there, but with m-more Muppets…and big sticks…really big sticks…” Newsie said, still holding tightly to Gina’s waist and unable to stop shivering, the cold muck coating his lower legs.

    “Come on. We’re going home. You can tell me everything when you have a cup of broth in you,” Gina insisted, helping him into a cab. “See you, Rhonda. Bye, Tommy.”

    “He better be able to make it in for the edit. I wanna run this footage tonight,” Rhonda grumbled, then looked up at the sloth still carefully putting a protective cloth over the already-wet lens. “Geez…give me that, and go get the van, Speedy Gonzalez! Honestly! You think we have the budget for a fourth replacement camera this year? Come on!” She sighed, threw her designer coat over the camera, and stood in mounting irritation while the sloth ambled off to remember where he’d parked. The rain was just enough of a shower to ruin her perm completely. “Monsters. I think somebody needs some meds, and to stay away from underground places…”

    In the cab, the Newsman tried to relax, hugging Gina; she held him close, taking his glasses off to clean them. “You really had me worried! Why did you run like that?”

    “I told you, I saw a monster! It was…it was trying to grab you,” Newsie gulped.

    Gina hesitated, then said gently, “Newsie…no one else saw it. Are you absolutely sure? What did it look like?”

    “Of course I’m sure!” he yelled. Gina winced. Hurt, he exclaimed, “You don’t believe me! You think I – I hallucinated it all! You think I panicked!”

    “Newsie –“

    “I don’t believe this! Gina! I am a rational Muppet, not some…some chicken who’d go running off at the word ‘fox’!” He glared at her, shaken and feeling betrayed.

    Gina took a deep breath. “Aloysius, it’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just that…that…” She paused, and stared at a large dark purplish glop on Newsie’s glasses.

    “You don’t believe me! Gina, I know what I saw – I know what I smelled! There was a weird caterpillar thing, and it ran along the walls, and it…it…” He peered hard at her, realizing she wasn’t even looking at him. “Gina?”

    Wordlessly, she held out the glasses to him. The Newsman took them, confused, bringing them close to his squinting eyes to see what had silenced her. With trembling fingers, he plucked off the piece of coarse fur stuck with mud to one lens, and held it up. The fur reminded them both of wooly caterpillars.

    Newsie stared at Gina. Gina swallowed. “Okay,” she said softly.

    Newsie leaned in for a hug. She held him tight in silence the rest of the way home.
    ---------------------------------
    ReneeLouvier, The Count and Ruahnna like this.
  18. The Count Moderator

    Oh.... *Is floored by the two-parter claiming an appearance in newsmanfan's fic style once more.

    "She thought of Piggy as more May diva than June Cleaver." Cute, cute joke.
    Mmm... Replace the grubs with splinters of cinnamon sticks and let us feast on that oatmeal-filled sugar pumpkin. *Steals a corn cake as I love cornbread too.

    :confused:, they're climbing down the vertical water drain into the subterranean sewers. At least they have someone topside to lift up the manhole cover again. That, and the fact they weren't chased in there seeking safety from a large predatory pterodactylish bird like a young Mike. Although... Would Newsie be Ben and Gina be Beverly? Given the fact we now have Gina to consider as well makes this work.
    Woolly caterpillar... Hmm, that sounds like it might have been a descendant of the fabled weebabeast.
    *Ponders on what that Soussa on steroids was playing backup for, possibly another Monsters Tonight episode? Maybe MMN will send cameras out to tape an episode of Real Housewives of Planet Koozebane. We know Piggy would watch that, if her TV company carries MMN.

    And before I forget... Congrats on reaching the 1000 post mark. Your reward is...
    *Hands Kris an MC Kermit The Frog badge with her name in silver lettering on the collar.
  19. newsmanfan Well-Known Member

    -----------------
    Kewl! *pins badge to new sports coat*

    Uh...ya lost me with the Ben & Beverly reference, Ed. But I LOVE "Real Housewives of Koozebane!"

    The All-Sousa station was featured in which MST ep for extra, grub-free, cinnamon-chip oatmeal with a chocolate drizzle points? Any takers? :news:
    -----------------------
  20. The Count Moderator

    Those are two of the Losers from Stephen King's It, Mike being a third. The others are Stan (who killed himself), Eddie, Richie, and Bill.

    Sorry, don't know that one. Unless we're allowed to check sources?

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