‘That’s some story,’ Arina nodded sagely at the cat, who was apparently called Tibbles, for reasons best known to himself. ‘Yeah,’ Tibbles nodded as he gulped down the rest of his Herbal Tea that he had surreptitiously laced with hard liquor. ‘It was some ride getting here, but we made it. City Protectors of Sample City,’ he let out a laugh. ‘Who would have thought it?’ ‘I certainly didn’t,’ Randal, the hairless, Australian rodent burped as he guzzled down yet another bottle of beer, placing it with a loud clink into the crate he had brought out. The crate that was now over half empty. ‘I reckoned we were gonna get our arses handed to us. Egg on my face I can tell ya!’ ‘THIS IS FUTILE!’ The Dr. shouted suddenly without warning from over at the communications terminal. Their rescuers had fortunately turned out to be the Government appointed City Protectors, affectionately dubbed THE crAzy TEAM. Led by Tibbles, a student of the noblest martial art form: Kung-Foolishness sent by his 600 year old sensei to bring peace and order to Sample City as a final test of his skill and ability. His second in command was Randal who had previously been the Animal Wrestling Federation’s Heavyweight Champion of the World*1, the hairless rodent was a blatant alcoholic who refused to admit he had a problem. He claimed that he drank to forget his problems, most of which seemed to stem from the fact that his twin brother was a fugitive from the law and that both of his parents had at some point in their lives had sex changes. All of which led to one very uncomfortable family life, no doubt. Then there was Fredriko the porcupine. An ex-drug baron from Mexico who had been forced to flee after his gang had turned on him. To describe him as a sadistic womanizing pyromaniac sex fiend would be an understatement and a rather egregious one at that. Finally, there was Susan the Antelope, who by a cruel twist of fate happened to be a man, and a seriously anally retentive, multi-phobic, easily shocked, timid, ballet enthusiast of a man at that, who’s mother had wanted a daughter so badly after having birthed sixteen boys that she had decided to raise Susan as a girl no matter what. That was it; THE crAzy TEAM looked after Sample City and ensured that it remained safe. No wonder it was in chaos. The team had very kindly listened to the Allucian’s as their problem was explained. The Dr. had been ushered off to one side for this as it was feared that another half-hour rant would result in everybody being shot to pieces by the quick-tempered Randal … and nobody needed that. After the explanations and the introductions, the Team had taken the Allucian’s back to their base. An island in the bay of Sample City that to the Dr.’s great delight had a myriad of things that became other things. The cliff folded down into a road that THE crAzy CAR could drive along to reach the island. The condominium on the top spread apart when necessary to launch THE crAzy JET and there were so many other parts of The crAzybAse that did similar things that it was over half an hour before the Allucian’s remembered exactly what they were supposed to be doing. ‘I can’t pinpoint the location,’ The Dr. said irritably as he wandered from computer to computer in the semi-circle of monitors that covered a large quantity of the crAzybAse’s command deck. THE crAzy TEAM’s secretary Cyrilla the Chinchilla who had an all-consuming phobia of dry land looked up at him sorrowfully through the glass of her giant water tank and emitted a jet of bubbles through her scuba mask that were most likely supposed to

Seriously, he beat a Rhino for it … though it should be mentioned that he won by shooting the Rhino between the eyes with a shotgun, a move that was for some inexplicable reason completely legal in the AWF.

mean “Sorry” or “tough luck” though she could have said “I’m a saucepan” for all anybody knew. ‘The entire city is saturated with the energy signature. There’s absolutely no way for me to track it down,’ The Dr. continued, tapping his teeth with his knuckles. ‘… Have my fingers always been this long?’ He said quietly to himself before returning to look at the screens before him. ‘Betcha Anthrax has summthin’ ta do with it,’ Randal belched. ‘Don’t start that again,’ Tibbles snapped irritably. ‘You think Doctor Anthrax is behind everything. You thought it was him who ate the last cookie. You thought it was Anthrax when you couldn’t do up the zip of your jacket. That time we used a whole toilet roll in a day, you tried to blame that on Anthrax too.’ ‘Well, we didn’t use it,’ Randal huffed indignantly. ‘And I’d like to see the evil scheme that Anthrax hasn’t got a hand in.’ ‘Who’s Doctor Anthrax?’ Will-ko questioned excitedly. ‘Sounds like a Bond Villain.’ ‘A what?’ Susan said, apparently surprised that he’d actually spoken and quickly shut up. ‘Doctor Thaddeus T. Anthrax,’ Tibbles said, rising from his chair and crossing over to a spare computer terminal where he quickly tapped in a few commands and brought the face of a purple-haired Penguin onto the large screen set into the far wall. ‘He’s the richest man in Sample City. CEO of D.A.Electronics and even though there’s absolutely no doubt that he is probably behind every last little slice of evil pie, there’s no way we can pin it on him. He’s in tight with the mayor, has connections all over the place. We can’t touch him. Does his dirty work by hiring the other criminals around here through fake accounts.’ ‘Ce Hommes!’ Fredriko chimed in. ‘That hombre is one mean motherfucker. I’d like to line his mattress with Semtex!’ ‘So, if something’s going down, he’ll probably be in on it?’ Arina repeated to clarify. ‘Most likely,’ Tibbles shrugged. ‘But we’ve got orders from the top. We can’t search his building; we’re not actually allowed to go near him unless we’re told otherwise.’ ‘You can’t,’ The Dr. said, appearing over Tibble’s shoulder. ‘But I’m not with you am I?’ ‘You mean “We”,’ Angelus said, rising from his seat. ‘No,’ The Dr. corrected. ‘Just harmless little old me. Don’t want to alarm him. Can’t have him think we’re onto him. Besides, if we all go traipsing in there, then who’ll be left on the outside in case something goes wrong? And plus …’ he smiled, shrugging on his coat. ‘If we’re all talking to Anthrax, then who’ll be talking to everyone else in this city that might know where Elion is. I take it you boys have yourselves some contacts?’ ‘More than a few,’ Susan squeaked nervously. ‘But most of them don’t like us very much. Randal’s not a very nice negotiator.’ ‘Then you’ll need to be a little tactful,’ The Dr. beamed. ‘You lot get on that, and I’ll nip over and have a word with the good Doctor … ooh, whose is the bike?’ He asked suddenly as his eyes fell upon a large black tri-wheeled motorcycle. ‘Mine,’ Randal growled, a hefty smile appearing from behind his buck-teeth. ‘Want me to give you a lift to Anthrax towers?’ ‘Oh,’ The Dr. returned the smile with interest. ‘It’ll make my millennium …’ ‘Hang on, you’re going to drive?’ Arina frowned at Randal. ‘Aren’t you drunk?’ ‘A little,’ Randal nodded. ‘But not nearly enough to affect my driving … I’d need at least another eight cases before I got that far.’ ‘He’s a seasoned drinker,’ Tibbles mulled by way of explanation. ‘Oh, I’m a bit of a tippler myself when I get going …’ The Dr. paused suddenly as his watch began to beep furiously. ‘OH?’ He bit his lip and peered at its surface. ‘Problem?’ Danny inquired. ‘Could be,’ The Dr. said, bobbing his head. ‘Something bad?’ Will-ko asked nervously. ‘Could be,’ The Dr. nodded. ‘Something we should be worried about?’ Arina persisted. ‘Could be,’ ‘STOP IT!’ CooCooKaJoo said testily.

‘Yeah, it’s an issue, I’ll grant you that. But not a major one really … well, I say not really but …’ ‘THE POINT!’ CooCooKaJoo snapped. ‘That’s a vortex manipulation countdown warning,’ The Dr. said bobbing on his heels. ‘… Right,’ Beakedbard puffed. ‘What’s that then?’ ‘It’s fairly simple really,’ The Dr. said, scratching the back of his head. ‘It just means that the download transfer we used to put The Mercury Rooms inside the RETARDIS is wearing off.’ ‘You’re right, that is bad,’ Arina cried. ‘So, what? The Mercury Rooms are going to be destroyed?’ ‘Destroyed?’ The Dr. laughed. ‘I think I’d have acted by now if that was the case … no … they’ll just revert to their regular place … back on the internet … I just hope the members weren’t making houses of cards or anything, cause that could be a bumpy trip but they’ll definitely be okay, I’m pretty certain about that … oh well, I’ll bring them all beers or something to make up for it. C’mon Randal, let’s go see if we can’t catch out a megalomaniac.’ * A shaking hand came up from behind an over-turned table and slowly helped the equally shaking figure of Jeebus to find his feet. ‘Was that an earthquake?’ ‘It-felt-more-like-an-explosion,’ Alfie said, quickly picking himself out from under the massive banner that had fallen, quietly thankful that the giant chandeliers had remained in place. ‘WHAT THE HELL?!’ Asawin exclaimed, holding his head as he observed the carnage that had occurred across the award hall. He got back to his feet and jumped down off the stage, marching across to the exit where he tore open the doors and stepped out into The Mercury Rooms. Everywhere, people were still holding onto fixtures for stability. ‘What happened?’ He asked the crowd outside. ‘I dunno,’ BustaLinx replied as he propped himself up on a doorframe. ‘Some kind of earthquake?’ ‘Told you,’ Jeebus frowned at Waldo. ‘Told you it couldn’t have been a stampede of wild pigeons.’ ‘YOU GUYS!’ Richy shouted as he came running down the Index Corridor. ‘You guys! We’re not inside the RETARDIS anymore!’ ‘You what?’ Craic Pipe exclaimed from nearby. ‘How can we not be inside the RETARDIS anymore? That’s just silly; you must have been looking out of one of those stupid fake windows with the hologram images on the other side of the glass. I did it on the first day. Screamed my head off when I thought we were underwater … in France.’ ‘No, he’s right,’ Duffy panted, coming to a halt next to Richy. ‘We’re back on the Internet, right where we started. ‘Hmm, the download fixtures must have only been temporary,’ Welshy mused. ‘I’d have done the same. Stands to reason that we don’t really need to be locked up in there anymore now that evil Alpha guy’s trapped in another dimension.’ ‘And, we can come and go when we want to now!’ Gmac said cheerfully. ‘Don’t have to cue up for hours to be transported where we want to go. That’ll make Link Hunting a lot easier.’ ‘NEVER MIND THAT!’ Asawin shouted. ‘Look at the mess in the Awards Hall!’ ‘Calm down dear,’ Jason said patronisingly. ‘It’s a commercial.’ Asawin muttered something illegibly unpleasant and exploded into a cloud of smoke that snaked off up the Index Section towards the Command Centre. This was getting reported; by the gods it was getting reported. ‘Have you guy’s been winding him up?’ Edith inquired as Asawin disappeared from view. ‘No more than the usual,’ Pun said, cocking his head to one side.’ ‘Christ,’ Edith said, eyebrows aloft. ‘I’m surprised he hasn’t killed somebody already.’ *

If nobody had told him that Doctor Anthrax was pretty much the big-bad in town, The Dr. would certainly have been able to guess upon seeing his headquarters. Even under the guise of an electronics corporation main office building, the place practically screamed villainous lair. The tall, mirrored, almost-black tower block loomed over the city, glistening in the sunlight. Every nook and cranny had a security device stuck in it, most of which were concealed weapons ready to be deployed with swift and decisive force. If they weren’t obvious enough for the naked eye then the legion of hazmat-suit wearing minions goosestepping around the perimeter certainly did the trick. Thankfully, the lumbering oafs were as intellectually challenged as The Dr. could have hoped for, and without even thinking to check his back-story that he was a health inspector, they led him up to the elevator and escorted him to the reception area on what they said was the top floor. Though judging by the fact that there were clearly several more floors above him, even on the elevator dial, The Dr. presumed that the really good stuff went on away from prying eyes. The guards had asked The Dr. to stay in the waiting room until The CEO had time to see him. So it seemed only polite, The Dr. thought, to wait until they had gone before he wandered off to explore the building. Randal had said that he’d wait for The Dr. for as long as necessary, but it seemed likely that necessity expired when Randal spotted that the pub down the street had opened, given that the Australian had gone almost fifteen minutes without a drink. So, The Dr. was pretty much on his own. Good, that was good. He had a feeling that there was something extremely sinister going on in this city. Whether it actually had something to do with Elion himself or whether it was a plot far more steeped in unthinkable darkness was yet to be ascertained. He found the stairs, the elevator would be no use as getting any higher required key card access. He would have been able to bypass the mechanism easily with his Bionic Screwdriver, but he was certain that the lift was full of security cameras. Thus far, the stairway seemed to be thankfully free of them. The first floor he came to was offices, nothing more spectacular. Empty offices though, that was slightly unusual, huge expanses of empty, identical cubicles. Future employee stations perhaps, but nothing worth mentioning. The next floor was slightly more interesting in that it had a picture on the wall by the lift. That was about it, on the entire floor. Nothing else. ‘More space than you know what to do with, Doctor Anthrax?’ The Dr. mused as he proceeded to the next floor, and the next, and the next. Infuriatingly, the building seemed perfectly normal. Empty, but otherwise perfectly normal. And then, he got to the eleventh floor above the one he’d started on … and The Dr. whistled in an impressed manner. The floor contained a gigantic waterfall that cascaded over the top of a gargantuan ice berg floating in a huge pool of icy water. All around the central spectacle were display cases containing ornate tapestries, rare artefacts, antiques and some of the rarest pieces of art in the known world. The Dr. bent down to examine a case that apparently contained Napoleon’s hat. ‘So, even their history is parallel,’ The Dr. mused. ‘I knew it,’ he beamed as he moved onto the next cabinet where a great armoured conquistador outfit stood that looked to have been made for an extremely large creature. The label dictated that it had belonged to Cortez himself, though The Dr. severely doubted it. He doubted that any of these items were genuine, but he admired the effort that had gone into making them appear as authentic as possible by whoever had hoodwinked the buyer. He moved on to a spyglass in the next case. ‘An artefact that belonged to Columbus,’ The Dr. looked to his left as casually as he could, staring into the cold eyes of a purple haired penguin.

‘That, aside from the Mona Lisa is one of the more valuable items in my collection,’ Doctor Anthrax said, running a gloved flipper over the top of the display case. ‘It’s not something that I normally allow unannounced visitors to view … Mister?’ ‘Dr.,’ The Dr. replied. ‘… Dr. Holmes, how do you do?’ Well, it was close to the truth, he couldn’t say just plain “Dr.” just in case Anthrax was after The Mercury Rooms. Holmes was good enough, it was sort of his name afterall, but if anybody living or dead thought he was ever going to willing use Pythagoras again, they could go and float. ‘And to what do I owe the pleasure Dr. Holmes?’ Anthrax raised an eyebrow. ‘I believe you told my security staff that you are with the Bureau of Healthy and Safety.’ ‘That I did,’ The Dr. nodded. ‘I was …’ ‘I have since had that member of staff incinerated,’ Anthrax snapped, cutting off The Dr. abruptly. ‘So, perhaps you can explain who you really are willingly, before I start to question just how valuable your thumbs are to you.’ The Dr. allowed the corners of his mouth to turn upwards into a smile. ‘Threats already?’ You haven’t even introduced yourself to me yet …’ ‘Spare me, Dr.’ Anthrax replied testily. ‘You might take me for a fool, but you will quickly find that I can, have and always will have the last maniacal cackle.’ ‘Hmm,’ The Dr. nodded. ‘And judging from your vocal pitch, I’ll bet its one doosey of an evil laugh you’ve got on you.’ ‘ENOUGH!’ Anthrax thundered, stamping a clawed foot. ‘I don’t tolerate impedance lightly Dr. I have no time for tomfoolery.’ ‘Awe,’ The Dr. replied in mock sadness. ‘Alright then, have it your way we’ll do this bythe-book … but that-is-really-boring … Alright-what-have-you-done-with-Elion-andwhat-is-your-diabolical-scheme-that-concerns-him-and/or-the-Mercury-Rooms?’ He said the words in a robotic droll, seemingly bored. ‘So soon, you forget Dr.,’ Anthrax growled. ‘I DO NOT tolerate silliness! Idiocy! Insanity! …’ ‘Craziness?’ The Dr. offered. ‘THAT ALSO!’ Anthrax shouted, his hackles raised. ‘Quite,’ The Dr. said grimly, noticing the large number of guards that had been steadily filing into the room, led by an over-sized female Gorilla carrying a Hockey stick and a Nine Iron Golf Club. ‘So, you are here to relieve us of our guest. An unwise course of action, Dr. Holmes, very unwise for you. I will allow my Public Liaison, Keamonkey here show you the error of your ways by testing out her new Golf Club on any and all dangly bits you might have …’ ‘NO! No! Don’t hurt him!’ a figure shrouded in black robes, his face hidden behind an expressionless white mask croaked as he shuffled through the guards. ‘He’s the one I’ve been waiting for! He’s the one I need! Freaka-chu! I’d hoped you would arrive quickly.’ The Dr. frowned at the black-cloaked figure, rolling his head around, keeping his eyes locked on the man, noticing the charred flesh that showed around the edges of the mask. ‘Sorry,’ The Dr. puffed. ‘Can’t say we’ve had the pleasure … and I’m just “The Dr.” these days.’ ‘Oh,’ the black-cloaked man said in an agitated fashion. ‘But we have had the pleasure … and quite an amount of displeasure too. Though, I hope you remember that it’s only because of me that you’re still alive, Dr., and I paid the price for that mistake, let me tell you … I paid in blood for interrupting your old friend Nigel.’ The Dr.’s eyes widened as the figure reached up and pulled away the mask. ‘You see what has become of me,’ the man said plainly. ‘Fred,’ The Dr. said in what was barely more than a whisper, wiping his mouth. ‘Don’t call me that,’ Buster replied dangerously. ‘Buster then,’ The Dr. said evenly. ‘Now … that looks like it really hurt,’ ‘NO-FUCKING-SHIT!’ Buster shouted back, laughing slightly. ‘The burns won’t heal, the flesh will not recuperate … the pain will not subside, even for a moment. That’s why I had to lure you here, Dr., you’re the only one that can help me now.’

‘So, you kidnapped one of my friends to bring me here? Pack away your bullshit, Buster. If you wanted my help then you could have just asked.’ ‘And what would you have said to me Dr.?’ Buster croaked. ‘I’m not a psychic, but I would have wagered vast sums of money on you telling me that it was my own doing or spouting obscure references to archaic literature followed by some philosophical dribble about I deserved what I got. You would not have helped me Dr.’ ‘You don’t know that, Fred,’ The Dr. said quietly. ‘IT’S BUSTER!’ Buster shouted. ‘Fred Kelly is dead Dr. Whatever is left of him is ebbing away day-by-day, and Elion will join him if you don’t help me!’ ‘Help you with what?’ The Dr. scoffed. ‘I’m not a plastic surgeon.’ ‘No, but you are a Video Lord! The only Video Lord I can turn to! The only one that can save my life! These wounds are not simply refusing to heal but they get worse everyday. Soon, they will consume me completely!’ Buster wiped a gloved hand down his charred cheeks, flecks of scorched flesh crumpled away from his face into a grisly heap on the floor. ‘I’m dying Dr.’ Buster gulped. ‘I need you to save my life, and you can save Elion’s in doing so.’ ‘I don’t DO threats, Fred,’ The Dr. replied coolly. ‘Let Elion go and I’ll help you.’ ‘I will release him when you have tended to me,’ Buster spat back. ‘Otherwise I’ll feed him into Doctor Anthrax’s deatomizer and his individual molecules will be scattered to the four winds.’ The Dr. tapped his teeth with his fingernails and eyed the people that surrounded him. ‘Alright,’ he nodded. ‘But under two conditions …’

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