“An IOU’s not really money is it. I can’t just go changing the script. I’ll be up before the College of Professors and drummed out of the Punchmen’s Guild.
“We’re not offering you a choice,” growled the bear. “Get your hand up the puppet and read the script when you’re cued.”
“Really, I can’t,” whined the professor. “Such a substantial deviation from the standard plot… If word got out it would be more than my job’s worth. I will lose my livelihood. I have a wife, children.”
Quietly Beryl picked up a swaddled bundle from the props basket and held it at arm’s length. “You will do as you are told Mr Flosso. Shape up or the baby gets it.”
“No. Please. Not the bairn… I can’t bear this. The world is too cruel. I will do as you demand, though it will be the end of my career.”
“Oh, come on prof, your College will never know. Have a good stab at this and you might just save the world,” said Zelda.
“A punchman’s skill is never in question.”
There was a good deal of shuffling and muttering along the front rows of audience seating in the Lecture theatre. They were crammed with Sphinx-like, self-important Chats in three-piece suits or flamboyant military uniforms. A sea of pallid faces with beady pink eyes and huge ears surveyed the stage. On the platform the monks and a reluctant Mr Fluffy stood before a large projector screen. Master Dorje and Lady Augusta were at the podium. She plugged her i-Phone into an HDMI port and opened the FaceTime App.
“Gentlemen, heeding my advice it would seem that you are incapable of. Drastic measures called for are. Behold your nemesis.”
Mrs king dialled Zelda’s mobile number.
“Sister Zelda, is everything prepared?” asked Master Dorje in a commanding voice.
Zelda’s head appeared on screen. With an orange towel draped about her shoulders she appeared convincingly monkish.
“It is master, His eminence would speak with the miscreants now.”
“Ready we are.”
The screen went dark. As light slowly returned a hideous reptilian face emerged. Lit from below its yellow eyes glowed and rows of pointed teeth gleamed in a Colgate smirk. The high collar of an imperial robe framed its head. Close to, the word Kellogg’s could just be discerned beneath still wet poster paint. But the shocked audience saw only a Merovingian Lizard Lord.
“Minions.” The squawking comb-and-paper voice rasped on shattered nerves. The gaping jaws clacked noisily as they moved. “Wretched minions, you have provoked our wrath.”
As one cat, the audience fell grovelling to their knees. A groan echoed within the auditorium. Mr Fluffy started.
“No. Get up, all of you. It’s some sort of a trick.”
The groaning grew louder.
“My poor misguided children. What am I to do with you? Your treachery will not go unpunished, but what form should that chastisement take? Return to your tunnels and contemplate your fate. Listen to me. The Andromeda Geräte has been dispatched. Be below ground when it arrives, the surface is to be purged.”
The Lizard Lord reached down out of shot and reappeared with a string of sausages in its mouth. A large, unfocused hand quickly blocked the lens and with a pop the phone link was cut.
The majority of chats rushed for the doors, others shouted angrily at each other, fear filling their eyes.
“Now look what you’ve done.”
“Me? This putsch was your idea.”
“Not me. Someone else is to blame.”
“Andromeda what?” asked Mr Fluffy.