“According to my cousin, little Jim Babby Junior, that fireball ain’t nothing more than a meteor, but I know better; I figured it out on the ride down here from Dairy— It ain’t no meteor at all, it’s a warship straight from Mars,” Cleetus explained to those gathered at the Gangplank. “I been expecting a full-scale invasion for years. Now if, you’ll kindly settle up your accounts before the armageddon, I’ll be heading back to the farm where I intend to pull up my draw-bridge and settle in for the long haul.”
“Martians!” Emerson exclaimed. “You know what that means?” He looked about the room, his face all smiles. When nobody supplied an immediate answer to his question he responded on their behalf, dropping his voice to a more conspiratorial level. “Mushrooms.”
“Mushrooms?” the Squire sneered. “You’re bent.”
“Me?” said Emerson.
“All of you,” replied the Squire. “How in the world did I ever end up an errand boy for two costume-wearing idiots? Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber.”
“Youth,” lamented the Count, “It’s wasted on the young.”
“I’m better off underground,” Malus complained. “When do I get paid again?”
“You may all be better off underground after you have heard my news,” a deep and unsettling voice shocked them all into attention. At the far end of the bar, near the passage to the cellar, stood Thomas Morlock, fully attired for the renaissance but for the aviator goggles he wore to protect his eyes from the harsh light of the world above ground. As if the demonic visage of the Prince of the Dunsany were not sufficiently unsettling, beside him stood an eight-foot Saturday afternoon horrorshow; a barely-dressed, olive green monstrosity, with a tusk on either side of its elongated head. But the horrific creature’s most striking feature had to be its four muscular arms.
“What the fruggin’ crepes almighty!” Petra raised her bat in a protective stance. “MONSTERS!”
“I seen others like that scrawny white bugger before!” Cleetus pointed at Thomas. “Out on the Fells bashing a giant worm over the noggin. They’re right some vile—and that big green effer’s extraterrestrial by the looks of him.” Cleetus stood beside Petra and raised his fists. “Watch your backswing, missy, I’m right beside you.”
“Thomas!” the Squire hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“You know these gentlemen?” said the Count, who had taken up position behind Petra and Cleetus. “I am most impressed.”
“I come with a warning,” said Thomas “The gentleman from Dairy is correct with respect to his theory,” the Prince resumed. “That fireball hurtling to Earth is indeed a Martian warship—and we are its target. Their plan is to lay siege to New Babbage and leave it a smouldering wasteland if they are unable to rescue the Martian princess, Dejah Thoris.”
“A smoldering wasteland? Cripes, that doesn’t sound good!” said Petra. “Let’s just give them the princess and be done with it.”
“We can’t,” said the Squire, “She’s dead.”
“Shot and killed by that nut job Petharic four years ago,” Emerson added.
Just when it seemed the situation could not possibly deteriorate any further, the door to the bakery opened and in walked Fanny Buxombottom.