‘I’ve missed those perfect landings,’ Freaka-chu smiled as he exited the freshly stolen RETARDIS. ‘Aren’t you going to be, y’know … really pissed with yourself?’ Asawin queried. ‘Oh, I was at first,’ Freaka-chu puffed. ‘Now I’m kinda seeing the flip side of the equation. I’m not that angry about it anymore. At least it’s put my suspicions to rest, it’s been driving me mad for years that little incident has. But we’ve got more important things to worry about at the moment.’ ‘I still think that bludgeoning your past self unconscious with that life boat ore was a bit much,’ Manhunter added. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ Freaka-chu waved a hand. ‘My third incarnation won’t have to carry the grudge for long, he’ll be degenerating into me in a couple of months after that incident anyhow.’ ‘And how does that happen?’ Manhunter smiled wryly. ‘You going to go back in time and finish the job?’ Freaka-chu glowered at him silently. ‘What?’ Manhunter said. ‘I was just joking.’ Freaka-chu said nothing and continued to walk onwards. They had finally arrived at Google, though it was a little different than usual. ‘What’s up with this place?’ CooCooKaJoo frowned, noticing the complete absence of the normal white surroundings, and the absolute lack of row upon row of help desks full of thousands upon thousands of people making searches. Instead, they were in some sort of Japanese rock garden that looked out onto some misty mountains. A waterfall thundered across the plateaux behind them as the team drudged through freshly fallen snow to a small wooden house. ‘Little trick I picked up,’ Freaka-chu said, suddenly smiling again. ‘Not many people know about this place.’ ‘Where exactly are we?’ Asawin asked, observing the décor. ‘Advanced search,’ Freaka-chu explained, approaching the small bamboo house. ‘It’s customizable. My second incarnation was really Zen for some reason, never got around to changing it.’ ‘I think its cool,’ Asawin observed as he watched the fish in a small rock pool. ‘Yeah,’ Freaka-chu nodded, taking in the surroundings. ‘Second had good taste … shocking dress sense though.’ ‘Some things don’t change then,’ Asawin whispered to CooCooKaJoo. ‘Come on then,’ Freaka-chu smiled, jumping up onto the veranda. ‘Let’s not dilly-dally,’ he smiled as he slid back the panel door. ‘Red won’t be taken for another couple of days, but that doesn’t mean we can stand around admiring the view all day.’ ‘SHOES!’ A scratchy voice croaked from inside as smoke billowed out into the garden. ‘Taken care of,’ Freaka-chu smiled, kicking off his converse trainers and stepping into the structure. The other team members followed suit and entered the smoky house. The inside was daubed with ancient scrolls, strange artefacts, maps, and a large collection of Dancing Hamster collectables in one corner. In front of them, seated cross-legged behind a low wooden table sat a Native American Indian War Chief smoking a large peace pipe. His feathered headdress fanned out at least six feet in all directions. ‘I knew you would come,’ He coughed at them, handing the pipe to Freaka-chu who took a deceptively short drag and passed it on. ‘I had a feeling you would old friend,’ Freaka-chu said, his smile suddenly fading. ‘Then you know of what is to come?’

‘Yes,’ the War Chief croaked back. ‘In three days time, the dark ones will invade your territories and take your tribesman, so that they might plunder your lands, enslave your kin, rape your women and worst of all … redecorate in tasteless neo-gothic styles … shocking.’ ‘Where can we find the evil one?’ Freaka-chu asked through the smoke. The War chief contemplated for a moment, taking a large grey pot and crushing in various ingredients he plucked from nearby shelves. ‘On this day,’ the Chief replied. ‘You will find your enemy in the baron lands of Bebo.’ ‘And, after the abduction?’ Freaka-chu prompted. ‘Where will he flee to?’ The Chief’s eyes rolled backwards in his head. He twitched and grunted, taking a long, hard drag on the pipe before his mouth flew open, emitting a cloud of dark smoke. ‘Nazzivian!’ He exclaimed. ‘The Video Lord will take him to his great fortress at Nazzivian!’ Freaka-chu’s head snapped up. ‘Who will take him to Nazzivian?’ ‘The Video Lord,’ The War Chief replied, his eyes fully glazing over. ‘Check again,’ Freaka-chu said testily. ‘I’m the only Video Lord and I’m not suddenly going to have a change of heart … not even if I Degenerate into Fifth. He might be an arsehole, but he wouldn’t betray The Mercury Rooms.’ ‘It is The Video Lord whom you all must fear,’ The War Chief said stiffly. ‘The Video Lord is aiding the Mind-Robber.’ ‘But I’m not though!’ Freaka-chu rasped. ‘I’ve got no intention of helping him, not now, not ever.’ ‘It is the Video Lord whom you must fear,’ The War Chief said simply. ‘It is he who survived the extinction … he who has lived for centuries in confusion … he who has only recently learned of his true nature once more.’ ‘But that’s me,’ Freaka-chu glowered. ‘You’re wrong! You’re so absolutely, totally wrong! I’m the only Video Lord!’ The War Chief leaned forward and glared into Freaka-chu’s eyes. ‘You are not alone …’ he breathed. ‘That’s impossible,’ Freaka-chu snapped. ‘Don’t you mean it’s highly improbable?’ Manhunter raised an eyebrow. ‘Shut up, Chris!’ Freaka-chu said sharply, making an apologetic face as soon as the words left his mouth. ‘Sorry,’ he mumbled and turned back to The War Chief. ‘But, you can’t be right … there are no other Video Lords … all of them are dead … they’re all gone. I wish they weren’t! I wish there were Video Lords left for you to mix them up … but there aren’t … so, I need you to be absolutely certain. Who is helping Buster?’ The Chief’s head lolled even further backwards. ‘The Video Lord!’ He said again. ‘He who walks in shadows! The one who should not live!’ ‘You’re still talking about me!’ Freaka-chu cried. ‘He who has many names!’ ‘We ALL have many names!’ Freaka-chu snapped. ‘HE … WHO’S EYES BURN LIKE SUNS.’ ‘Be more specific!’ Freaka-chu persisted. ‘HE WHO STEALS THE LIVES OF OTHERS TO FEED HIS OWN EXISTANCE!’ ‘Still need to narrow it down!’ Freaka-chu said, leaning forward over the table. ‘HE WHO WOULD RULE THE UNIVERSE! HE WHO BETRAYS HIS OWN KIND, HE WHO MURDERS, HE WHO DESTROYS … HE WHO WAS THE TEACHER … HE WHO IS NOW … THE MANAGER …’ ‘NO!’ Freaka-chu thundered, jumping to his feet. ‘He’s dead! They’re ALL dead! I saw it happen! All of them are gone!’ ‘YOUR EFFORTS WERE IN VAIN! HE LIVES!’ The Chief replied forcefully. ‘He lives! Only for vengeance against the traveller. HE LIVES! AS DO THE ENEMIES! THE ENEMIES WHO CONQUER! THE ENEMIES OF ALL LIVING THINGS! THE ENEMIES WHOM YOU SOUGHT TO DESTROY! THOSE WHO HIDE WITHIN METAL FRAMES!’ ‘NO!’ Freaka-chu shouted. ‘THOSE WHO WOULD CALL THEMSELVES THE SUPREME BEINGS.’ ‘NO!’

‘What’s he talking about?’ Manhunter asked, rising from the futon he had made himself comfortable on. ‘You said you were the last Video Lord.’ ‘I am The Last of The Video Lords!’ Freaka-chu said loudly. ‘There can’t be anybody else! I would feel them! I would know!’ ‘HE HIDES FROM YOU,’ The War Chief rasped. ‘HE CLOAKS HIS PRESENCE AS HE SEARCHES FOR THE TRAVELLER. AS HE SEARCHES FOR THE ONLY PERSON CAPABLE OF DEFEATING HIM. THE EVIL ONE SEEKS TO HURT THOSE THE TRAVELLER CARES ABOUT. THE EVIL ONE SEEKS TO DRAW OUT THE TRAVELLER SO THAT HE MIGHT BE DESTROYED.’ ‘So …’ Freaka-chu said solemnly. ‘This whole thing is for my benefit then?’ ‘What the hell is he talking about?’ CooCooKaJoo flapped. ‘Why does everybody have to speak in riddles?’ ‘Dr.,’ Manhunter said quietly. ‘It would appear that you are not alone afterall.’ ‘Apparently not,’ Freaka-chu replied quietly. ‘And if Norman here is talking about who I think he’s talking about-’ ‘Norman?’ Asawin frowned. ‘Halloo there,’ The War Chief grinned toothily from behind the table, allowing his headdress a little wiggle. ‘Everybody is in serious danger,’ Freaka-chu spluttered as he handed a tip to Norman and exited the small house. ‘Buster included.’ ‘So, what do we do now?’ Asawin called after him as Freaka-chu trudged slowly back to the RETARDIS. He didn’t answer. He didn’t even stop to pick up his trainers on the way out. ‘Do you think he’s okay?’ CooCooKaJoo asked Manhunter and Asawin as they stood motionless outside the small bamboo house. ‘I’ve never seen him like that before.’ ‘Whatever it is,’ Manhunter said, picking up his boots and Freaka-chu’s trainers. ‘It’s bad. Very bad. Even when we were about to be thrown to the lions in Rome, or burned as witches in the Middle Ages, he was still cracking jokes and making light of everything. Trust me, if The Dr. is worried, then I’d say we were looking at something Biblical.’ ‘Like syphilis?’ CooCooKaJoo offered. ‘Worse,’ Manhunter retorted. ‘Much worse.’ * ‘Honey, I’m home!’ The Manager swooned as he strode up into the central throne room of the giant fortified tower of evil. ‘Where have you been?!’ Buster commanded from a large golden throne. ‘I ordered you not to pursue the Video Lord!’ ‘And I don’t recall ever agreeing to take orders from you! Your insufferable obsession with destroying the Mercury Rooms is beginning to grate on my nerves. Remember that I’m helping you because our causes coincide and our goals attainable by an alliance between us … but do not ever try to give me orders again!’ ‘How dare you!’ Buster started, throwing aside a goblet he had been drinking from and rising to his feet. ‘Quite easily!’ The Manager growled with a smirk, squaring up to Buster. ‘You’ve become blinded. All of that human emotion inside you is making you weak. You fused together with Fred Kelly and now he is marring your judgement. Look at yourself! Where is the great and mighty Buster-Bot? Where? You used to be cunning; you used to be cold and calculating. Now you are trying to drive a wedge between us. Now you sit on your golden throne like a crowned prince before the battle has even begun! ‘Now is not the time for self-serving actions! I can see what is happening here! You are degrading further and further into humanity! It is the weakest form of life, and it is the negative aspects that are pulling your will apart! Stop listening to those little voices in your mind! Stop thinking with your flesh and blood! They can only deliver useless emotions! It is the machine we need! All that matters is the goal. If you had any conception of my power you would not even think to defy my word-’

‘MY LORD!’ Adamus interrupted, practically sprinting into the chamber and throwing himself down at Buster’s feet. ‘My Lord and Master! I bring for you, gifts!’ ‘Oh, for pity sake,’ The Manager groaned, massaging his temple. ‘Good work Adamus,’ Buster smiled as two Darlin’s escorted the Allucian members from Youtube into the chamber on a chain gang. ‘Excellent work, you shall be greatly rewarded for your service to me.’ ‘That just sounds wrong,’ L96A1 grimaced. ‘SILENCE SCUM!’ Buster roared, striding over to the captives. ‘You will hold your tongues in my glorious presence.’ Yanwaell struggled against his shackles and held up a picture. “STFU”. The Manager gave a slight titter of amusement. ‘I always did like you Yanwaell,’ he smiled. ‘Parading around as Lotvilo, there was so little amusement in my life. You found a way to make every statement you made a mockery of life itself. I will miss that spirit.’ ‘Yes,’ Buster agreed. ‘Your spirit that I will take great pleasure in crushing, twisting, breaking and generally being nasty to. GUARDS! Take them to the torture chamber!’ ‘Oh, shite,’ Steffman gulped. ‘We are going to get raped.’ ‘By the time I’m finished with you,’ Buster said, allowing a small crackle of blue energy to fizzle through his eyes. ‘You’ll be begging to be raped. Rape will seem like a holiday compared to what I’ve got in mind for you! I’m going to take my time with all of you. Pick you apart piece by piece until there’s nothing left inside there,’ he said, tapping Steffman’s head. ‘Nothing left until I decide the time is right for you to become part of the family.’ ‘I’d really rather you’d just kill me,’ L96A1 shrugged. ‘If it’s all the same to ye.’ ‘Oh,’ but it’s not all the same,’ Buster said coldly. ‘Not in the slightest. When the final attack comes. I want the Allucian All-stars there on the front lines of my own army. I want the best and brightest of The Mercury Rooms chanting my name as they tear down the walls of ALLUC.’ ‘What the fuck happened to ye, Fred?’ L96A1 asked pityingly. ‘We both came from that lab … why cannae ye remember that we’re friends?’ ‘Because we’re not friends,’ Buster said slyly. ‘We never were. You were the golden boy. I was simply a pawn … a toy they got tired of when they broke me and didn’t have the means to fix their mistake. I was useless until the Buster Bot found me … now I’ve got the only friend I’ll ever need.’ ‘Business partner,’ The Manager corrected. ‘Let us not draw trivialities into this.’ ‘I was talking about The Buster-Bot,’ Fred said without looking over his shoulder. ‘I know the limits of our relationship.’ ‘Glad to know it,’ The Manager said, a glimmer of malice in his eyes. ‘Master,’ Adamus said, approaching Steffman. ‘The residual memories I have from my host lead me to think that I would take great pleasure in torturing this one myself.’ ‘You get the fuck away from me!’ Steffman shouted, trying to ignite his hands without success. The Manager wagged his finger. ‘Ah-ah-ah, none of that now. Those shackles are fitted with energy conversion binders. You’re only fuelling the bonds that hold you … So, you and the Vampire have old business together? That could make things interesting.’ ‘It really could,’ Buster admitted. ‘I think letting Adamus have his wicked way with the Welsh boy could prove highly entertaining.’ ‘You take one step near me and I’ll rip your nipples off!’ Steffman seethed at Adamus. ‘A good tip,’ Adamus grinned. ‘I think it’s a good place to begin myself.’ ‘You won’t get away with this!’ Pater Aurelius cried. ‘The lord sees all, he shall smite you!’ ‘If there was a god,’ The Manager scoffed. ‘Then people like me would not exist … besides ... when it comes to me, you’re better off praying to the devil … he’s the next stage up.’ ‘Your satanic threats do not scare me,’ Aurelius quivered. ‘Really?’ Buster raised an eyebrow. ‘Then why are you sweating?’ ‘Well …’ Aurelius shrugged. ‘It’s hot in here.’ ‘No it isn’t,’ Buster retorted. ‘It’s practically frigid.’ ‘Wait until you see the dungeons,’ The Manager cooed. ‘Terrible drafts down there.’ ‘TAKE THEM AWAY!’ Buster commanded The Darlin’ captors. They did nothing.

‘I SAID TAKE THEM AWAY!’ Buster shouted louder. Again, nothing. ‘Do as he says,’ The Manager said from where he had taken a seat on the arm rest of the throne. ‘I OBEY!’ The Darlin’s chanted in unison and went about their task. ‘I thought I told you to make them obey me!’ Buster snapped. ‘I did,’ The Manager shrugged. ‘They just don’t like you … not may people do.’ ‘With good reason it would seem,’ Buster smiled to himself. ‘But now that things are fully in motion, I would suggest that it is time to put phase two of my plan into operation.’ ‘Your plan?’ The Manager questioned, raising an eyebrow. ‘That’s correct,’ Buster scowled. ‘It was my plan to invade and conquer The Mercury rooms.’ ‘Which is where your feeble-minded schemes begin and end,’ The Manager said plainly, turning his Fusion Screwdriver over in his hands. ‘The intricate plot to divide and conquer them! The subtleties in weaving deception through their ranks … there would have been nothing but brute force if you were left to your own devices my misguided little disciple. You need to start overcoming your own ego. It is getting in the way of our partnership.’ ‘What of your ego?’ Buster retorted. ‘Oh,’ The Manager tittered. ‘My ego is already too large to be contested by any other … which is why the lesser of two evils needs to learn its place lickety-split. Otherwise … OUR PARTNERSHIP MAY COME TO A SUDDEN, UNEXPECTED CONCLUSION BEFORE ITS TIME … Do I make myself clear?’ ‘You do indeed,’ Buster sneered, seating himself back on the golden throne. ‘Goody-gum-drops.’ The Manager said swept out of the chamber. ‘Now, I’ve got business to take care of in my RETARDIS … Don’t wait up,’ he called back as he exited the throne room and slammed the great oak doors behind him.

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