"And there wille come a Beast,
With thee Fyery Lyte of Helle in His Eyes,
Thee marks of Deathe upon His Brow.
From thee Lande of thee New Caesars He will Comme,
And He wille claime Dominion over thee Worlde Entire,
And thee Kinges of Menne will Bow Before Him.
But lo! Know ye His Downfall!
For it wille be Smalle, Yellowe and Quite Humorous..."
- Nostradamus, Volume VI, Verse CIX
Guy looked up as Nurse Bertha walked in. A fat woman with stiff movements, she wore her heavy makeup heavily. The ruffles at her collar and the bright flower on her lapel softened the effect, however. He found her presence soothing. She carried the oil over to guy's bedside and began to massage her charge. Tapping the toe of one large, flat shoe, she hummed a soothing ditty as she pounded away on the prostrate guy, who was so busy relaxing he failed to notice the foul, noxious-smelling, vile yellow smoke spilling out from the neck of the bottle.
While X went to the lobby for a coke Arthur knocked on the nurse's station. The door swung quietly open under his genteel rapping. He peered inside at the pristine and clean surfaces littered with antiseptic wipes and disposable surgical gloves. The electric strip bulb hummed overhead. The room was empty except for one cupboard stuck awkwardly ajar.
Arthur, a fastidiously tidy person, couldn't resist and snuck inside to push it too, then stopped.
"oh dear.." he said.
Inside he saw something that was so horrendous it made his heart skip a beat.
Grimacing, Arthur pushed the further ajar to and gasped in horror as he realised that Nurse Bertha, the one he had just left massaging Guy, had been bound and gagged and stuffed into the cupboard of the nurse's station.
Beside her were a discarded clown's outfit and an empty bottle with several XXXs on it.
She looked up pleadingly. "Mphhgle fPH!" she mumbled, helplessly. Arthur looked around the hallway, uncertain what to do. No one was there to advise him...no one at all....at that moment X walked in.
"They were out of coke so I got fanta instead - err....why have you got that nurse gagged and bound..he-he- Arthur? ... ol' buddy?"said X, backing away slowly.
Arthur, ignoring this minor slur on his good character, appraised his partner of the current situation in as calm and as reasonable tone as he could muster.
"THE CLOWZ - ONE OF THEM'S IN THERE WITH GUY!" Agitatedly pointing at the frosted glass of the ward across the hallway.
X meanwhile had bent down was pointedly examining the squeaky red nose and over-sized spotty trousers that had been discarded in the corner, he was eyeing Arthur suspiciously.
"look what do you think this is - cough syrup?!!", howled Arthur, scooping up the empty bottle of poison and waving it in front of X.
"Ooo-kay, I think somebody needs to take a nap."
Arthur calmed down a little and tried a different tack.
"Listen to me X, that nurse we passed by coming out of the ward with Guy, did anything strike you as odd about her?"
"Well...er...now that you mention it - a little bit..stiff, like one of those infernal mime artists doing that... thing, y'know", said X waving his arms up and down in a frantic chopping motion like some deranged karate expert.
"Anything else?" probed Arthur gently on what might generously be called X's 'tenuous', grip on reality.
"Flat feet too. Poor dear must have fallen arches or something she was wearing those over-sized orthopaedic slippers, damn near sent my headfirst into that plant porrrrt..orrr..o-o-o-OH MY GOD!!"
"Yes?" Inquired Arthur, leaning forward.
"The..um...clown..is..err....is...err...Guy.....clown is in there-there-there - A CLOWN IS IN THERE WITH Guy?"
They both then ran across the corridor and into the ward....
Meanwhile, upstairs in the office part of the hospital which normal patients never get to see, five men and women in immaculate business clothing were sitting regarding a very large computer screen.
"But it was all going so well! Completely according to plan!" Said one of them, disconsolately.
"It will still work. You must all just do as I say, though. No more arguments... we all need to add our authorisation, and then our plans can succeed.." said a woman, evidently in charge.
"But.... I've heard they're in the hospital, even now. What if they try to stop us?"
"They can't. Ha. Ha. Hahahahaha!!"
Back on the ward, X and Arthur's brains were struggling valiantly to cope with the horrific scene before them. Half a dozen Clowns, surgical masks barely concealing their bulbous red noses, were milling around Guy on a gurney. Or at least they were trying to mill. Oversized clown shoes do not make the business of milling an easy one.
A rather large clown nurse with striped bloomers handed the clown surgeon a hammer and stonemason's chisel. X then looked beyond the tray of surgical instruments and saw a bowl with what looked like clown wig, ready for transplantation. Agent X decided on a course of action and...and....promptly passed out, from shock that he could ever decide anything.
Arthur took over! In a flash of brilliance he grabbed a defibrillator trolley.
"GUY!", he shouted. - "CATCH!"
Guy looked up from his reverie, Arthur threw on of the defibrillator pads to Guy who reached up and caught them.
"shock her!" screamed Arthur.
Guy noticed the wild look in his Agent's eyes, instinctively sensing danger he pressed the button. There was a flash and a sound like "Schlockk!" and the robot was catapulted backwards onto the far-side of the room, thick oily smoke began pouring from it's head and it began to thrash about in a fit short-circuits.
One of the Clowns turned and bore down on Arthur. He ducked down and its massive fist arced overhead connecting with the wall. The robot pulled it's fist out from the gaping wound in the plaster and spun round - it's fiery red LED's flamed at Arthur.
Arthur was meanwhile dealing with the other clowns, using the prostrate body of X to gain some extra height he jumped and ripped the curtain rail from it's slider round the bed and threw it over the heads of the other clown nurses, who began to pitch and turn randomly unable to see where they were going.
"Arthur, look out!" cried Guy, reaching over he grabbed the bottle of deadly toxins and threw it at the murderous form of the killer nurse.
The bottle smashed, spilling it's lethal acid all over the robot, which promptly melted. Arthur looked down, out of the corner of his eye he could see one of the big slippers start to twitch a little bit.
Arthur turned around slowly. Carefully he gave the robot clown an experimental prod. The remaining hulk was fizzing silently as the acid went to work, the occasional pop or spark issued from where it's head had been and then finally the whole thing gave up on inertia and succumbed instead to gravity and fell backwards rather pathetically and with a loud thunk.
Just then Bob, Jill and the others came back in...
"Right we off to - oh." stopped Bob
"What happened?" asked Jill mouth agape.
"oh not much." said Arthur dissmissivly, wiping a bit of axle grease from his lapel.
"Well I'm going, finally - you can...you can...um..deal with -..er..this" he decided, gesturing to the scene of carnage and destruction behind him.
He fixed his tie in place and walked smartly across the room and dragged X out of the ward by the sleeve of his jacket.
Bob approached Guy's bedside.
"Lucky escape for you there." he said, non-commitally, reaching for a better topic of conversation.
"Indeed this is not the first time I owe my life to Arthur" replied Guy thoughtfully.
Gonzaroolio gave the acid-eaten husk of the clown a contemptuous little kick,
"Seems to me, like you may have a problem." he said. "I don't know how the clowns found you as quickly as they did, but you are clearly a target."
Guy nodded in solemn agreement.
"I'll make the necessary arrangements to be shipped back to the Agency. I want you to pay a visit to this Mr Smittington on Barn Street, see what you can get out of him..."
Outside the hospital, out beyond the car park there cruised a limousine. Inside there sat the 5 shadowy figures from earlier. The leader closed her laptop with a decisive snap.
"A minor setback." she suggested.
The others looked to each other.
"Yes, mistress." they replied in unison.
"Still, we know the name of their next target." she said.
"We will need a search running." replied one of the figures.
"It has already begun." said another.
"Order the strike." said one of the shadowy figures.
"They're not out yet." said the leader snapping open the laptop one more time as the limo pulled out of hospital lot...
Meanwhile, in the nurses' station.
"mfgMMPPHHGGG!!" said a bound Bertha.
Suddenly the inter-com switched on and a woman's voice began to speak:
So, they just left you there, did they? Those ingrates! They left you, all alone and helpless, after all you did for them!"
Her voice, soothing and dripping with sympathy, filtered through the nurse's panic and Bertha realised with shock that it was true! They had abandoned her! After all her kindness, all her gentle bathes and backrubs, all those shots...well, never mind those,...how ungrateful and cruel!
Although she couldn't see this of course, the voice was smiling. And it wasn't a nice smile. It was the smile of a cat that has realised that rather than pursuing its prey..if it stays very still on the birdbath - dinner will come to it!
The maddened cackle drifted down from the corridor. Bob stuck his head outside to see what was going on and nearly beheaded by Nurse Bertha wielding a mop.
He scrabbled inside on all fours and reached for the defibrillator pads again. Bertha spun the mop like a shaolin monk and unplugged it at the socket with one deft flick of the handle.
Jill and Gonzaroolio tried to take the mop from her but were driven back by her frenzied swinging. Heddingly was nowhere to be seen.
Guy tried to effect some kind of attack as well but weakened by his previous exertions groaned and fell back to his pillows. Bob was helpless, completely at Bertha's mercy. She stood tall and bore the mop aloft like some magnificent trophy - issuing forth a Valkarie attack yodel:
- lowered the mop and charged Heddingly sprung up from behind Bertha and reached out to deliver the Vulcan Death Grip. Bertha crumpled with a small, happy, sigh. The mop clattered to the floor.
"What is going on?"shouted Bob. "Leicester died on the island, right? only now our every move is being dogged by evil and malignant forces bent on delaying us from leaving this hospital."
"Your right Bob" moaned guy a bit breathlessly "you need to get out of here quickly - use my special 4 X 4. It's parked in the garage downstairs... The Agency's 'Special Weapons' division has upgraded it with suitable refinements. I think you'll find it more than reasonable." and threw him the keys.
They traced a graceful arc through the air, intercepted by Jill tracing a less graceful arc through the air in the opposite direction.
Reaching out she caught the keys before they even touched the floor and landed with cat-like prowess.
"YES" she exclaimed. "I'm driving!" as she sprinted towards the car park.
"I'm riding shotgun!" cried Heddingly running after her hotly followed by Gonzaroolio.
Bob was left standing stunned, expectant palm outstretched.
"Hey - wait! come back here. hey - Guys! I want to drive the secret agent car...please? come back!!! Guys.. hey!..guys??" whined Bob as he shuffled after them.
Guy leant over the rails of his bed and peered down upon the unconscious form of nurse Bertha.
The shadowy lady (whose name was in fact Annabel) wanted to take over the world. Oh just another one of those two-a-penny
mega-megalomaniacs you may think - but no. What Annabel had that all other villains of the past lacked, with perhaps the exception of Napoleon Bonepart - Emperor of..well just about wherever he fancied really - was AMBITION. Real Ambition. Back in her primary school days, when she'd attempting to steal the globe from the teachers table and put it in her desk - and had been summarily deposited in the Head Teachers office for her troubles and a letter sent to her...parents - taking over the world had become her all consuming passion.
Annabel sighed a disconsilant sigh.
"You just can't get good quality hench-people anymore."
She tapped into a panel on the wall, which immediately disappeared to reveal another panel, this time with a small LCD screen embedded in it.
"And now they actually think they're going to get away. I pity these people, fighting for good, its all so pointless..." she muttered, tapping the screen three times.
Out in the car park, two big wrought iron gates noiselessly started swinging shut...
Annabel's car phone buzzed and she nervously picked it up. Holding it to her ear, she turned a whiter shade of pale as a hated voice from out of her tortured past spoke.
It was the headmaster at the awful Airhead Alternative Education Institute, her Alma Mata, and the scene of much childhood trauma.
"Are you still angry, Annabel?" the guidance counsellor's voice bounced and chirped ingratiatingly.
So many hours had Annabel been forced to sit in his airy office, with the sad paintings and the hippie music in the background, during anger management class, while he tried to help her find the source of her rage.
All she'd ever wanted was to rule the world , and instead of helping her to achieve this simple little dream, he'd tried to force her to embrace the world, not dominate it.
She didn't want to find her true centre!
"No!" she screamed, then realised her error and screamed "YES!!" down the phone even louder. The snivelling wretch on the other end of the line responded by assailing her with a 'thought for the day'.
"Why do you continue to torment me!?"
"Just wanted to let my little snuggle-bunny know that we love her." said her Dad and hung up.
"That does it!" she roared, slamming down the phone.
"As soon as I take over the world he will be the first one up against the wall."
The thought soothed her, and Annabel sat back as the car cruised on its journey...
Meanwhile down in the subterranean car park of the city hospital. Jill and the others were preparing to leave in Guy's 4X4. It was a monster of a machine, oil-slick black, caught in the right light new colours seemed to glisten on it's surface just out of sight.
Jill gave it a quick look over. It felt glassy to her touch. 'bullet proof probably', she speculated.
"I say!", said Heddingly, really piling on the upper-class accent - he begin fitting a small monocle into his left eye, "That's quite a beast isn't it?"
"Oh yeah!" said Jill grinning so wide it threatened to remove everything above her ears.
Bob arrived panting behind them I time to her Gonzaroolio express his disquiet about the whole thing.
"I got this feeling y'know like this...car...isn't right." he petered out "Like it's too powerful..." he finished weakly.
The car sat there radiating an aura of confident and quiet menace. Jill stood up from her brief examination of the under-carriage she thought Gonzaroolio had a point. There seemed to be more pipes and things than were strictly necessary down there.
She suspected that this thing's closest relative on the family tree of cars, weighed about 30 tonnes and had caterpillar tracks. The word "turret" floated, unbidden into her mind.
Shaking her head she turned the keys in the lock. The keys snatched out of her hand and began turning anti-clockwise. A stern computerised voice spoke:
"Agent XXX" said Jill, "Passcode: P13X #Blue"
SUBMIT FOR RETINAL EXAMINATION."
The wing-mirror glowed as Jill knelt down. A series of thin red lines danced across her face.
There was a click as the locks sprung open. Jill slid in behind the wheel. Heddingly sat opposite, Gonzaroolio sat plumply on the back seat, swinging his little legs over the side of the seat. Bob slid in behind Heddingly.
"Start." ordered Jill.
There was a shudder the dashboard lit up and the engine growled into life and revved itself a few times.
"GOOD MORNING AGENT XXX" said the computer.
"WHERE IS GUY?" a not of electronic concern appearing in it's voice.
"He's ill, he's given us the keys, were going on a mission."
"OH DEAR. I AM SORRY TO HEAR THAT. WHERE ARE WE GOING?"
The bakery on Barn street."
"ONE MOMENT PLEASE...ACCESSING GLOBAL POSITIONING SATALITE DATA FEED....BARN AVENUE. AQUIRED...AH YES, I KNOW THE WAY."
The Gear stick moved of it's own accord as the Agency moved out of the car park and up the ramp.
"Wow!" said Bob leaning over to Gonzaroolio, "a talking computer!"
"Yeh!" agreed the clown hoarsely, "The only car I ever had, the doors kept falling off whenever you tried to drive it. That's some impressive calculator!"
"AHEM!..EXCUSE ME GENTLEMEN, I AM AN ADVANCED PROTOTYPE, INTEGRATED CODING MATRIX: SERIES ONE THINKING COMPUTER. I AM NOT A CALCULATOR!!"
"Well I for one aren't going to go around calling you all of that all the time - do you have a name?" asked Bob, with a trace indignantly.
"PLEASE, CALL ME....AL. WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MUSIC TO SOOTHE YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY?"
"That would be nice Al."
The rover wound it's way around the inner structure of the underground car-park and crested the ridge of the last ramp to the straining waltz of "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss.1
Jill scowled at the dashboard.
"Um, could we go a little faster, do you think?"
The vehicle crawled along at a snail's pace, and she had been looking forward to a wild ride. AL's circuits glowed in disapproval.
"WHAT, AND BREAK THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT? I RATHER LIKE THIS SPEED THANK YOU. IT GOES WITH THE MUSIC, LOVERLY AND CALM."
Grinning, Jill slipped a copy of the "Flight of the Bumblebees" by Wynton Marsalis into the tapedeck. AL gasped, lurched forward and whipped around the corner, then came to a screeching halt.
Smoke rose from the abused tires.
"WE ARE HERE." Jill looked around, and realised that they were, indeed at the bakery on Barnes Avenue.
"Heh, heh. We were just around the corner from it - Imagine that!" she said triumphantly as she helped Bob remove the dashboard from his nose.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Heddingly added, "This isn't the place, old fellow".
He tried to adjust his monocle, but it was stuck in the back of his skull.
"WELL YOU COULD HAVE ASKED." Al huffed.
"This is Barnes Avenue isn't it? added Heddingly, looking around.
"OH SORRY I THOUGHT YOU SAID..."
"No, no, I distinctly remember Jill saying..." started Bob.
"IF YOUR INTERESTED IN MY OPPINION I WOULD RECCO - "
The lights on the dashboard winked out as Jill turned the keys off in the ignition. They all exited the car and examined the front of the shop. "Smittington Bakery" proclaimed the frosted glass window. "Raising Hell since 1811."
"This is the place?" asked Jill a little non-plussed.
"Um...I'm not sure. Let's take a look around while we are here." said Gonzaroolio.
There ought to be a way in round the back...."
He talked as he led them down a narrow alleyway that ran down the side of the shop. On the shop frontice-piece, a security camera turned and followed their every move....