The citizens of Forumopolis yawned quite extravagantly, refusing to open their eyes yet. Their alarms were going off. Everyone's sounded a little weird, though. Maybe their heads were under her pillow. They sometimes did that in their sleep when their bodies didn't want their minds to wake up. But no, they didn't feel it when they moved their heads. What was with that alarm? Had they all bought new ones the day before and just didn't remem-
That wasn't their personal wake-up alarms.
That was the city's We're-All-Gonna-Die alarm.
Suddenly very much awake, they scrambled out of bed, grabbed jackets and shoved their feet into boots, and ran outside, not caring about still being in pajamas.
As soon as they got clear of the buildings and trees obstructing their view, they looked around frantically for the danger. Everyone's breath caught in their throats. Some five hundred yards off, vultures were circling over the tallest hill beside the city. Along the top of the hill was a sparkly line of people, people she couldn't see the faces of because of their glittery armor. One of them, the most pink and most sparkly, lifted a megaphone to their face.
"DON'T BE ALARMED!" cried out the voice of Marx. "UNLESS YOU FIND IT ALARMING THAT WE'RE GOING TO TAKE OVER THE CITY AND GLAMOROUSLY TERMINATE ANYONE WHO STANDS IN OUR WAY, IN WHICH CASE, BE VERY ALARMED!!'
The gathered citizens obligingly screamed once in pure panic before listening once more.
"VERY GOOD," Marx opproved. "NOW. YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS. SURRENDER TO THE MIGHT OF MY GLITTITE ARMY, OR BE DESTROYED IN A MOST TWINKLY MANNER!!"
"Glittite?!" a random person in the crowd called out in confusion.
"RHYMES WITH HITTITE," Marx confirmed. "RATHER CLEVER, WOULDN'T YOU SAY? ANYWAY, I DON'T WANT TO DESTROY EVERYBODY, I LIKE YOU ALL IN GENERAL AS PEOPLE ON THE WHOLE AND TAKING ONE THING WITH ANOTHER I GUESS, SO PLEASE SURRENDER AND BECOME MY MINDLESS SUBSERVIANTS. ALSO PLEASE DON'T RUN AWAY AND MAKE US HAVE TO CATCH YOU, IT'S QUITE TIRESOME. YOU HAVE FOUR SECONDS TO- WHAT?" One of the Glittites had tugged on Marx's shoulder and whispered something. "I KNOW THREE OR FIVE IS CUSTOMARY BUT I'M TRYING TO DO MY OWN THING HERE! GOSH! ANYWAY, FOUR SECONDS! THREE! ONE!"
Everyone gasped. Marx had missed two! Time was really almost up!!
"WHOOPS, SORRY. I'LL RESTART FOR YOUR BENEFIT. FOUR! THREE! TWO!"
The forumers, knowing something had to be done, in a stroke of pure inspiration...stood in stunned silence.
The forumers, knowing something had to be done, in a stroke of pure inspiration, ran like the dickens.
But before Marx could call out zero and the Glittite army could descend upon the poor forumers, a rumbling shook the ground so hard that nobody could stand up. Even the Glittites, in their super dandy Spandex Glitter Tights - or for short, Glittights, which was a pun Marx had yet to gloat about - even they fell down, and started screaming in agony for their glitter was now soiled and dimmed by dust!
When the rumbling stopped and everyone could get to their feet and brush themselves off, the longest hill beside the city had opened up right down the middle, a perfect hollow shell, and an airship was rising out of it with the words PREPARE FOR A MIRI-CULOUS CONQUEST elegantly inscribed in massive but beautiful lettering along both sides. Why everybody was showing up from the hills, nobody knew or really wanted to know. Anyway, as it happened, the bottom of the cockpit was one gigantic speaker, and Miri's voice echoed from it like thunder. If thunder were a female voice. Which is slightly less intimidating, when you think about it. But nobody was thinking about that, because they didn't know what to think, especially once they stopped thinking about a paragraph that really didn't matter and started thinking about what Miri was saying and doing with the airship.
"NOT TODAY, MARX! I'M TAKING OVER THIS CITY! AND IT ISN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR THE TWO OF US!" A massive door opened in the bottom of the airship, and a plasma blaster came from inside. It was larger than the opening it came through, a touch reminiscent of cartoons, and the mark of genius engineering.
A single blast sent the entire Glittite army straight up into the air with a collective "Aaaa!" before dropping them back to the ground without their armor, which landed by itself to the side of them in an ungainly heap of tragically vanquished once-glitter. Now all the Glittites had on was their Glittights and tunics, or Glittunics. "RETREAT AND REGLITTER!!" Marx called through the megaphone. The Glittites charged off, crying out that little Run Away ditty from Monty Python.
"NOW, FRIENDOS," Miri said, swinging the airship around to face the citizens. "COME AND BE SLAVES OF MY MAGNIFICENT CAPPUCCINOS OR I'LL BE FORCED TO DESTROY YOU MERCIFULLY SO THAT MARX DOESN'T DESTROY YOU GLITTER...ISH...LY."
Everyone looked at each other. Weren't they already slaves to Miri's beverages? Why else would they all go straight to her café after the library? Oh, maybe she wanted them to go to her café before the library. No! Nobody put coffee before books in THIS town!
"NEVER!" they all cried, of one occord.
"SO BE IT! NOTHING PERSONAL, I LOVE YOU ALL. PREPARE TO BE PLASMA-BLASTED."
And in that instant, something really remarkable happened.
They were all plasma-blasted.
Bear had put the batteries into the remote wrong.
"I'M SORRY!" she wailed as the forumers were sent straight up into the air with a collective "Aaaa!" before being dropped back to the ground, just like the Glittites, only without any armor to have magnetically removed and disposed of in an unglamorous heap. "I'M SORRY, I'M SORRY! MY BAD!"
"I seem to recall telling you that I should have dealt with the remote," Neptune commented, observing with a sort of detached. "We know I correctly put the batteries into the shield. Getting them correct in the remote is just as important."
Bear fumbled with the batteries, started to put them in wrong again, and handed it all to Neptune, who said a cold "Thank you," and fixed it. She started to shout a protest as Bear pressed the button.
"It's MY job to press this!" Bear said, because it was her duty to press the button. The shield went up. Now Miri couldn't hit them a second time and destroy them! "See? We did it!"
"Bear," Neptune said quietly, looking as if in pain. "I know you like pressing buttons, and it consumed your thoughts and attention. But if you'd been paying attention, you would have noticed that Miri's airship got inside the shield-range before you pressed it. You have locked her in with them."
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!"
"Sorry, Clever!" Bear winced, watching him come sprinting up to them. "Little mix-up with the remote. Um, Neptune fixed the remote. So it's working now."
"He can see that," Neptune observed. "The remote must be fixed, otherwise the shields would not be activated."
"Miri is about to vanquish the town!" Clever snapped. "Is this really the time for idle chat?!"
"We can't do anything," Bear shrugged. "It's all on Crimson now."
"AND A FINE MESS YOU'VE MADE FOR ME," Crimson's voice came over their communicators.
"Sorry," Bear mumbled. "The batteries...I'll stop now."
"Thank you," Neptune sighed with eyes closed.
"They goofed," Longclaw noted, watching the radar screen on her watch. She grinned casually. "Guess everybody's gonna, you know, die now."
"Of course they are," Riri rolled her eyes. "Because you and I are amatures."
They pulled the swords from their sheaths, activated their jetpacks - they both liked mixing medieval practicality with sci-fi tech - and came zipping above the hills, because really, hills are the only way to approach a battle, to the shields. The jetpacks sent out a frequency allowed them to pass through the barrier unharmed. And thus, they zoomed towards the airship with the intent of directly attacking Miri. Hopefully Miri didn't have any anti-sword glass in her cockpit.
"Blast!" Longclaw blastphemed (yes, more puns!), looking at her watch, which also picked up and displayed molecular readings. "Miri's cockpit is fully outrigged with anti-sword glass!"
"Oh no!" Riri wailed. "But wait! We can use the fire from our jetpacks to melt the glass!"
"Foiled again!" Longclaw mourned. "The glass has asbestos particals!"
"WE'RE DOOOOOOOOOMED!" both cried together. But this was purely for effect. They liked giving the people they were saving a scare so that any rewards for saving their lives had a better chance of being large rewards.
"Wait, Riri!" Longclaw gasped dramatically. "Don't we have anti-anti-sword-and-asbestos-partical-glass laser-beams in the knuckles of our gloves?"
"BRILLIANT, LONGCLAW!" Riri cheered. "WHAT WOULD I DO WITHOUT YOU?!" As they extended their horizontal fists towards the cockpit glass, in a very low voice so that no one would overhear, she added, "Remember, I get paid ten percent of your reward for that comment."
"Completely worth it," Longclaw grinned. They activated their lasers, preparing to save the day.
And were hit with the plasma-blaster, sent straight backwards through the air with a duet of "Aaaa!" before dropping back to the ground.
One hundred and fifty yards away, Neptune facepalmed.