OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS
Hundreds of planes arrive at Los Angeles International Airport every day, bringing tourists from around the world to the city. They come to soak up sunshine, glamour, and excitement, and to visit the city’s most famous district: Hollywood. It was on one such plane that Chuck, Donnie, Jet, and Bruce (otherwise known as the Clan of the Scorpion) had arrived, hidden in an overhead luggage compartment. They were now making their way across the airport arrivals hall, heading for the exit.
You might think that four ninja meerkats walking through a bustling airport would cause something of a stir. But the Clan moved around undetected, thanks to one of Donnie’s cunning disguises. As far as the humans were concerned, all they could see was a child in a pair of baggy jeans and a hooded top. Inside the outfit, however, were four meerkats, balanced on each other’s shoulders.
Bruce Willowhammer, the strongest of the team, was at the bottom of the pile, and had his furry feet strapped to a pair of stilts. On his shoulders were Jet Flashfeet and Donnie Dragonjab, whose trademark bag of gadgets was strapped to his back. Jet and Donnie were each operating one of the child disguise’s arms, opening doors, pressing elevator buttons, and, at one point, batting away an over-friendly dog. At the top of the stack was Chuck Cobracrusher, the leader of the group, his face hidden inside the hooded top.
The only problem with this arrangement was that it meant Bruce was in control of where the Clan went.
And Bruce was easily distracted.
As he strode across the arrivals hall, he peered through a pair of eyeholes at the top of the jeans. “Hey, that’s Vin Pain!” he exclaimed, spotting a TV screen showing an entertainment news program. He quickly changed direction and headed for the TV.
“Bruce, remember our mission,” warned Chuck. “We need to find out where the Ringmaster is, and what he is up to!”
“Who’s Vin Pain?” asked Jet, folding down a specially designed pocket flap in the hoodie so he could see the TV too.
“Sounds like something you’d tell the doctor about,” said Donnie. “Ooh, I’ve got a nasty Vin Pain all down my back.”
“Who’s Vin Pain?” exclaimed Bruce. “Only the best action hero in the world, that’s who! Haven’t you seen Blown to Pieces? What about The Smash-up Man or Big Guns and Loud Bangs? Brilliant films. Some of them are really clever too.”
The TV showed a clip from a film in which Vin Pain was jumping across the tops of cars hurtling down a busy highway, while dodging a storm of bullets that rained down on him from a helicopter.
“Yeah, looks really clever,” said Donnie sarcastically.
“Bruce, we do not have time to watch TV right now. We need to keep moving,” Chuck called down.
“Vin does all his own stunts and everything,” said Bruce, ignoring Chuck.
“Ha,” snorted Jet. “I bet he can’t do a Super Looping Somersault Leap. That’s my new move. I read about it in How to Flatten Your Enemies and Beat People.”
“Shhh!” said Bruce. “Vin’s about to say his trademark line.”
On the screen, a building burst into flames for no good reason. Standing in front of it, the muscle-bound star turned to the camera and said in a gruff voice, “Things are getting rough around here … so I’m about to get tough.”
“Brilliant,” said Bruce, clapping his paws excitedly, causing the others to wobble precariously above him.
Chuck tutted. “The Way of the Scorpion teaches us not to engage in such showy displays. Calmness and serenity are our goals. We should only lift a paw to fight when we have no other choice.”
“Actually, that was pretty cool, Chuck,” said Jet.
“Why does everything always burst into flames in Hollywood films?” sighed Donnie.
On the TV, a female reporter with alarmingly white teeth filled the screen. “Action hero Vin Pain is used to saying how things are getting rough, but in Vin’s next film it’s a case of things going woof.” She smirked, then continued. “Why? Because Vin’s new co-star is a dog. Her name? Doris the Dancing Dog.” The screen showed the familiar face of Doris, the Ringmaster’s faithful canine companion.
“So, Doris is a movie star now,” said Chuck. “Most interesting…”
The picture changed to show Doris having her photo taken alongside Vin Pain on the red carpet at a film premiere.
“The film’s title is a closely guarded secret and very little is known about the canine newcomer,” continued the reporter, “except that she is currently being trained at the Real Academy of Dog Actors, or RADA for short. The acting school is run by celebrity dog-trainer Honor Longlead, who joins us now.”
The TV showed another smiling woman with equally white teeth.
“So, Honor,” said the reporter, “is Doris the Dancing Dog a superstar in the making?”
“Absolutely. Doris is a very talented pup,” she replied. “She’s been circus trained, but you should see her during the fight scenes. She’s a natural.”
“I bet she is,” muttered Jet. The Clan of the Scorpion had come up against Doris on more than one occasion and had the scars to prove it.
“Well, we look forward to seeing her in action! Thanks, Honor. That’s it for this week’s edition of Hollywood Spotlight. Or should I say, Hollywoof Spotlight?” The presenter smiled and moved on to the next item. “Coming up after the break, we’ll be discussing why the U.S. president flew into L.A. this morning along with his super-cute pet sausage dog, Chip O’Lata. Some are saying it’s a popularity-boosting trip before the beginning of election season next month…”
Bruce turned away from the screen and headed for the exit.
“Well, Bruce, it would appear that your love of film has given us our first lead,” said Chuck, “and it is a dog lead. We will head straight for this acting school. The Ringmaster is sure to be behind Doris’s newfound fame, so he won’t be far away…”
“Can we go and see where Vin made Dynamite for Dinner later? And the sequel, Destruction for Dessert?” asked Bruce.
“Once we have defeated the Ringmaster, perhaps,” Chuck replied. “Until then, we must be like movie cameras, and stay focused.”
Text copyright © 2012 by Gareth P. Jones
Illustrations copyright © 2012 Artful Doodlers
Cover illustration copyright © 2012 Domingos de Aquino