The monkeys’ ferocity was increasing. Clingdog, champion pallbearer to Emperor Augustus of the Twelfth Planet of the Megaton Empire, turned to his faithful assistant and hissed: “You’re an assistant! Time to assist!” He felt immediately guilty, as she looked crestfallen.
He still wasn’t sure why an actual Princess had been assigned to be his personal assistant, but he wasn’t complaining. She was a picture of alien beauty: long, thin nose and pearl-like eyes, and a lithe body wrapped inside a tight-fitting Spandex jumpsuit. Little tears in the jumpsuit betrayed their earlier encounter with the rabid monkeys’ razor-sharp claws.
“We need to go,” she replied, gathering her strength. “We should find higher ground. Then we could maybe throw rocks at the monkeys.” He nodded his agreement, and they pushed their way out of the sickbay, where a wild-eyed Albert Einstein had appeared in his DeLorean and patched up Clingdog’s light-sabre wound.
Front door. They paused, knowing that the monkeys – actually highly intelligent Marauding Commandoes from the Purple Singularity just hubwards of Amalgos IV – would be waiting in ambush. Lacking weapons, virtually helpless, they nodded in unison, then pushed the door open. They dived out into the Spaceport landing strip, Clingdog doing a forward somersault and landing in his alert crouching position. Princess Analie flanked to the left, scouting the street for Marauders. Nothing.
Flummoxed, but not wanting to question their good fortune, they sprinted across the landing strip to the Spaceport Motel opposite, and stabbed desperately at the intercom. Eventually, after what seemed like an age, the blast-door slid smoothly open and they tumbled into the marble entrance foyer, Princess Analie screaming at the attendant flunkie to close the door.
Clingdog glanced over his shoulder, and saw a terrible sight: an entire army of invading Marauders covered the Spaceport landing strip like a knee-deep mink carpet. They were packed together so tightly that the carpet appeared to be static, while the blood-red eyes of the monkeys seemed to slither over the top; all of them converging on the doorway to the Spaceport Motel; a big giant pile of bloodshot monkey eyes, swarming towards them like a legion of pitchfork-wielding Slashdot trolls.
With teasing slowness, the door began to slide closed. Between them, Clingdog and Analie stomped on the eyes as they rolled into the foyer, squishing them like lychees. Just when the monkeys threatened to overwhelm them, the door sealed shut, one monkey hand outstretched, its claws clamping together furiously.
Breathing a sigh of relief, they turned to face the foyer flunkie. He stood impassively behind the impressive marble desk. His bald head reminded Clingdog of a small moon; in fact the dome seemed to stretch behind the flunkie for miles. This puzzled the heroic Pallbearer, until he realized what he was looking at: a rare pan-dimensional being, whose façade existed here, but whose head and brain were lounging comfortably in an altogether vaster dimension.
“This planet is being invaded,” Analie announced, dispensing with the introductions. “We need access to your armoury, so that we can get kitted up and repel the Marauders. Can you grant us access?”
The Moon Man calmly slid an access card across the smooth countertop. Nodding, Analie grabbed the card and led the way to a nearby Turbolift. Clingdog loved it when she took control like this: he thought it was kind of cute.
But as they approached the Turbolift, an explosion sent them scuttling to the marble floor. Chunks of the blast-door, intermingled with slivers of the Moon Man’s brain that had been wrenched into our dimension by the Superstring-mangling bomb, hurtled past them. And then the monkey Commandoes, screaming bloody vengeance for their blinded comrades, poured into the entrance foyer, charging straight for the Imperial Pallbearer and his Spandex-clad Princess assistant.
They scrambled to their feet and dived into the Turbolift. But the explosion had disrupted its holographic circuitry, turning it into an immobile lump of metal and glass. They stared with horror at the approaching invaders, whose red eyes flashed viciously at them.
“Fsck it,” said Clingdog. “We’re out of options.”
But she surprised him, as usual. With a force of strength beyond her diminutive appearance, she planted one foot against the wall, and heaved the Turbolift door shut. She then scrambled overhead, hands adhering to the wall and ceiling, and punched a hole through the metal roof with her fist. Climbing through, she hooked one foot beneath a handhold on the top of the elevator, and with her hands began to physically haul the elevator up its dangling cable.
Clingdog whistled. “I’d always suspected you might have been Upgraded,” he called up to her. “But this is really something else!”
“My Daddy always wanted me to be prepared!” she grinned, referring to her father, the Emperor of Populus III, who had been deposed several years earlier in a bloody coup spearheaded by the sentient Fish People of the 9/10ths-water planet, whose downtrodden existence was finally avenged by the ruthless CyberTrout Troopers, having mercilessly flopped their way into the Emperor’s Palace that fateful night.
Slowly but surely, the glass Turbolift ascended to the fiftieth floor. But after the first few storeys, the elevator shaft opened out so that the Turbolift was actually winging its way up the side of the giant building. Great for sightseeing when gargantuan Star Destroyers are gliding elegantly in to land; but not so good if you’re in the process of being chased by razor-clawed alien monkeys.
Even Upgraded, Analie was straining from the exertion. The monkeys below scaled the smooth walls of the building with ease. Soon, a trio of the relentless pursuers reached the elevator, their tiny fists clinging to the base of the glass cylinder. As Clingdog stared with horror, a simian face appeared, at about knee height, staring hatefully in. Wordlessly, the creature held up one sharp claw, and, like a diamond thief, cut a circle in the glass; just big enough for it to crawl through. As soon as it had completed the circle, Clingdog kicked as hard as he could, causing the glass disc to fall out, dislodging the monkey. Tiny glass disc and alien Commando alike plummeted away. But it was quickly replaced by another furry little soldier. He kicked its snarling face; and it fell too. But as Clingdog prepared to kick its replacement, the third Commando curled into a monkey ball and hurled itself in through the little hole. Immediately it sprang to its feet and dived up at the terrified Pallbearer. Its tiny fingers closed around his throat.
Choking, clawing frantically at the killer furball with his one good hand, he danced around inside the elevator, crashing against the glass walls. Deprived of oxygen, he could feel his consciousness fading.
Princess Analie jumped down through the jagged hole in the ceiling, and tore the killer monkey from her master’s throat. Deviously, it pulled a needle from inside one of its bright orange booties, and tried to plunge it into her midriff; but she knocked the needle away and bowled the creature overarm against the glass wall. The glass broke on impact, and the Commando flopped to the floor, then slipped unconscious out of the circular hole as if it had been washed down the drain.
By this stage, several more Commandoes had reached the elevator; but they were at the fiftieth floor already, and Analie was already wrenching the door open. Together, she and Pallbearer Clingdog dived into the gleaming steel corridor and ran hell-for-leather towards the armoury. The plucky Princess slapped the keycard against the lock, which whirred away for a second as it initiated a Diffie-Hellman key exchange with the holographic smartcard. The monkey Commandoes, “eep! eep!”ing furiously, were almost upon them when the lock pinged happily, and the door slid open. They dived through, and the door – sensing trouble – quickly slammed shut behind them, bifurcating a snarling monkey.
Shrouded in silence, the adventurous pair took in their harmonious new surroundings. It struck them both as odd that the main feature of a weapons armoury should be a giant waterbed and an AstroShower unit. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any weapons here to speak of. But some pleasant Muzak was humming away in the background.
“We’ll be safe in here,” said Clingdog. “Those walls are woven with Arsetanium Gribbleweave; they should withstand even their String-busting explosives, or anything else their Purple Singularity tech can throw at us.”
He collapsed onto the waterbed, totally spent; and Princess Analie, her Upgraded muscles having just hauled a Turbolift up fifty storeys, slumped onto the plush carpet next to him. Outside, they could just barely hear the monkey soldiers beating their tiny fists against the door; or it might even have been super-muffled vibrations from their Superstring-mangling bombs bouncing off the impenetrable Arsetanium Gribbleweave. Either way...
“You should get some sleep,” the sultry Princess suggested. But then she grinned. “I’m going to take an AstroShower. I may be some time...” She clambered to her feet, and – as Imperial Pallbearer Clingdog watched, astonished, she slid easily out of her Spandex jumpsuit. Naked as a mole-rat, she stalked around the armoury, still hyped from the monkey combat, despite her exhausted muscles. Dutifully, she ran her fingers over her lithe curves as she paraded up and down, checking herself for puncture wounds. Finally she stepped nimbly into the shower unit, and revelled in the cooling rays that buffeted her hair and eased the dirt out of her pores.
He watched her for a while, hypnotized; he had never thought of his faithful assistant in this way, would never have presumed... but as she systematically etched the grime and grout from out of her nooks and crannies, he came to a decision. Standing up, he unzipped his jumpsuit, let it fall around his feet, and without even bothering to remove his Imperial combat socks, joined her in the shower.
“I should warn you, Imperial regulations forbid – ” he began, but she interrupted him with a warm smile. They kissed, and embraced, and washed each other. Later, in the waterbed, the monkeys pattering on the door formed a mesmerising percussion as Pallbearer and Princess consummated their years-long partnership. She whispered all the way through his delirious sausage symphony: “So how d’you like MeatSpace now, monkey Commando boy?”
“I hope the monkeys aren’t giving Clingdog nightmares,” Analie the VirusHunter(TM) thought half-amusedly as she stepped out of the grubby shower.
She grabbed a limp towel from a hook on the wall, then shot a glance at Clingdog. Hurriedly, she wrapped the towel around herself. He’d rocked himself to a sitting position, and was holding one hand towards her, his eyes wide open with shock.
“Uh... unh...” he moaned, like a friendly dolphin desperately trying to tell its human peer that three children were trapped inside a burning barn, while modern-day pirates were making off with Aunt Maisy’s unfeasibly valuable collection of moulded pewter unicorns.
But before she could respond, the window behind her shattered, and a tiny projectile thudded into the far wall, having narrowly missed Analie’s head. She dived to the floor, pulling Clingdog down with her.
“It’s gotta be Chester,” she hissed, desperately hoping that the news might clear his painkiller-befuddled brain. “They’ve found us!”
IN THE NEXT EPISODE: SEASON FINALE (special double episode) - Part I Rooftop Apocalypse