“Cosy as this is,” Said Bubb, pulling the sheets up to his neck, “I really think we need to arrange more suitable accommodation – something more befitting to our stature.”
“I dunno – this is really comfy,” replied Cerberus from his curled position at the end of the bed, “And I’m allowed on the furniture.”
“After all these centuries, will that never cease to be a novelty? Please get off my foot.”
“I’m keeping it warm, like a hottie bottie.”
“Hot water bottles do not feel like a two hundred and fifty pound bag of spanners on your foot. Now get off.”
“Yes boss.” Cerberus got up, pulled his striped blue pyjama jacket on, and climbed in next to Bubb.
“Same pyjamas.” He noted.
“This is no good,” sighed Bubb, “First we need a new office. Then I can get back hold of Matt, Richey, Lee and that other kid and get the band back on track. That Bonaparter kid’s too good for my liking – what his talent needs is a careful and well-planned lack of nurturing. He’ll replace Robbie - it’s a far bigger coup to get Bonaparter than that clumsy oaf. ”
“Boyz In Da House are back then, Boss?”
“No, not Boyz In Da House any more – that’s old hat now. The music biz moves fast, Cerberus, and we’ve got to keep up with it. We need something fresh and funky, something that grabs the kids attention and makes them want the T-shirt.”
“What about letters and stuff – M3 or something, like that flash German car.”
“Not bad – but M3 sounds too much like a road, and we’ve already been there and done that. We want something that sounds kind of.. what’s the cool word….righteous? Something righteous and soulful.”
“What about Righteous Soul?” The practical Hell-hound suggested.
“Not bad, but not snappy enough – wait, I have it. We’ll abbreviate Righteous Soul!”
“RS, like the turbo car?”
“No, even better – ‘New at number one, live on The Hit Parade, please welcome….R-Soul!”
“I like it, boss, it sounds good.”
“Yes, it has got quite a ring to it.”
Li Ping’s high backed chair spun slowly around, revealing him to the assembled crowd. His hand rested gently on his chin, and his Panama hat was tilted at a slight angle. He stared out at the drones before him, eyes ever watchful, daring any one of them not to be transfixed by him.
He spun back around, kicking the white cat off his lap.
“Too camp.” He stated, going back to his practice pre-speech swivel and stare as the worker drones in their white boiler suits slaved away below his dais, oblivious to his posing as they moving to and fro like so many ants (giant yet relatively weak bipedal ants, admittedly). As he spun to face them this time he raised his right hand, the thumb and forefinger crooked until the tips were a centimetre apart.
“I’m crushing your head,” He said, “I’m crushing your head.”
As he watched a yellow van hove into view, being steered somewhat imprecisely across the factory floor. A few drones were knocked aside as it careered around before drawing to a halt in front of his raised platform of power.
He decided to go with the moment.
“Behold,” He boomed, the drones halting and staring towards him, “The vessel arrives; the tool of my enshrinement is at hand, my destiny clenched within its foetid grasp. Once his malodorous existence is unleashed upon the denizens of that pure, clean world nothing will halt him – thus nothing will halt me. Fear not, my loyal workers, for your toil and your sacrifice has not been in vain. Soon I will be rich and all powerful. Soon I shall rule ALL!”
Perspiring, triumphant, glorious, he cast his all seeing gaze across the audience staring back at him. Staring back at him with blank, uninterested eyes.
“Hmm. That’s the trouble with freezing their minds I suppose. I’ll remember that for next time.”
He lumbered down the steps towards the van, the metal framework shuddering as he went. Seeing him approach, Mad Angus alighted nervously from the vehicle and fiddled with his Tam O’Shanter. The Fat Lady remained wedged resolutely in the passenger seat. This was usual when she travelled by car, as a block and tackle was generally needed for her release.
“Show me the merchandise, my dear Angus. Show me what you have brought for me. Show me my future. Show me the money.”
“Ah. I see.”
“I detect a note of hesitance, my faithful servant.”
“Not hesitance…perhaps caution would serve better, um, as words go…..”
“Have you brought me the vessel?”
“Well, yes I’ve brought him.”
“The one I asked for?” Li Ping was suspicious now.
“Well, he sort of answers the description – definitely the right fellow and all that….
“You’re sweating Angus – did he give you much trouble on the ride back?”
“No no…everything was…well, roses really. Or perhaps lavender”
“Hmm? Show him to me.”
“I should warn you…”
“I know, I know, the stench – that’s the very reason he’s here! I’ll get him out myself, he sounds quiet enough in there.”
“But Before you…”
“Just think of the germs he has, the precious bacteria emanating from his every pore – so simple yet so effective, he could cause havoc in…..oh.”
“I did try to warn you.”
Li Ping gazed down at the apologetic looking bloke in the back of the van. The shabby yet clean man. The tatty but fragrant chap. The untidy but really not that disgusting specimen. He didn’t even have a runny nose.
“Clive?” Asked Li Ping incredulously.
“But you’re…… quite healthy looking in a depressed way.”
“You’re not….festering. At all.”
“Wonderful stuff Sky gave me. Really cleared me up – some kind of secret herbal thing I believe.”
Not so snifflin’ Clive was quite perturbed to see the oversized oriental jumping up and down on his hat.
“”You are feeling sleepy.”
“No I’m not.” Said the security guard.
Bubb waved his hands over the mans face.
“You are feeling sleepy – your eyelids are heavy.”
“They’re really not – now what do you want?” The stumpy little man demanded.
“You are… oh sod it, that copper’s made me lose my touch – Cerb, give it to him.”
With that Cerberus struck the unfortunate fellow about the head and smiled with satisfaction as he slumped to the ground.
“Possibly a bit hard, Cerb.”
“Do you think?”
“Considering he’s not breathing, I’d say that’s a yes.”
“You know that television fellow who’s making a comeback – had a few drugs allegations, a bit of smut knocked him off his pedestal.”
“Yes, that’s him. He’s doing all right off his own back at the moment – new single, TV show in the offing. All without our help.”
“Leave the body in his swimming pool?”
“That’s the stuff, Cerberus. Before you dump him, stuff something up his nose and something else up his…well, you know the drill.”
“Will do, boss.”
Cerberus trudged out of the glass foyer with the unfortunate, soon to be famous security guard over his shoulder.
Trotting briskly up the stairs to the first floor, Bubb took stock around him. The layout was fairly typical – on one side rows of cubicles with beech desks and smart blue adjustable chairs, on the other a row of doors into offices, a kitchen and the toilets. The detritus of Friday afternoon at four was left around the place – pens and papers discarded in the rush to the early train home, chairs rolled into the middle of the room and the odd PC left logged on in the haste to evacuate the workplace.
“Nice.” Said Bubb.
He strolled on up through each floor, where the story was pretty much the same. Messy desks, coffee cups, teddy bears, posters, ‘out of order’ signs on roughly half of the photocopiers, coffee machines and printers. Each office was the usual mixture of workplace, home, and final resting place for so many novelty items, discarded Secret Santa presents that were funny for all of a second. Bubb was playing with an elongated bendy pencil when he got to the fifth floor, the top one.
“Empty – just the job,” He said aloud, “And now to work.”
It did not take him that long to get his new workplace kitted out. He visited each of the other offices and took what he needed – generally ensuring it was what the previous owner would have particularly wanted. He made sure he got every special chair (I have to have this one because of my back), each large monitor (I need a larger one than everyone else because I do more, I have more screens open at once), and every personalised mouse-mat (it glides better). Although he only took one stapler he made very sure that he had every staple in the building (except those really large ones that don’t actually fit any stapler anywhere). To complete the job he emptied the paper cups from the coffee dispenser and left one damp paper towel above the sink.
Once he had finished the fifth floor looked like any other busy office, with only one exception. Unless you were actually invited up there, you’d find that the lift stopped at the fourth floor and that the stairs from there upward also brought you out on the fourth. No one would notice this, mainly because Bubb didn’t want them to.
He was sat in the very best swivel chair, spinning round gently and talking into his mobile phone when Cerberus returned.
“Yes, we lost the Bibble – can’t locate it bloody anywhere. You remember the trouble it caused before. I’ll keep hunting – meanwhile you keep your chaps out of our business. We may be co-operating, but let’s not go too far.”
He terminated the call and looked at Cerberus.
“Yes, boss. Just buy the papers tomorrow.”
“I do love these inadvertent little bits of mischief, old companion. But to the business at hand – tomorrow we must woo the Bonaparter boy some more, and really get to work on his talents. Our friend on the other side is confident he can isolate the source of the other trouble.”