A LOB DISTANCE CALL
It had been almost a month since the Clan of the Scorpion last encountered their deadly enemy the Ringmaster and his circus goons. They were enjoying a welcome break from saving the world back at their secret underground base in the Red Desert.
Or, at least, three of them were enjoying the break.
“I’m bored,” moaned Jet, as he entered the main chamber of their burrow, trailing his nunchucks behind him.
“You could give me a hand with this,” said Donnie, who was struggling with something flat, rectangular, and twice his size.
Bruce looked up from his bag of dry-roasted crickets. “What is that?” he asked.
“It’s our new TV,” said Donnie proudly, placing it on a table by the wall. “It’s got a high-definition plasma screen and surround-sound speakers. Welcome to the future, my friends.”
Chuck, who had been meditating silently in the corner, opened one eye. “Why do we need such a thing?” he asked. “We would only use it for keeping up with what is happening in the outside world, and we can already do that through the Internet.”
“Ah, but it also has a webcam,” said Donnie. “That means that once I’ve hooked it up, we’ll be able to receive video calls on the big screen instead of on my smartphone!” He pulled a remote control and some cables from his pocket, and connected the TV up to the power and the router.
“Hey, we could watch action films on it too!” Bruce pointed out. “Vin Pain has got a new movie out—it’s called Lethal Biscuit Two: Redunked.”
“Films are no substitute for the real thing,” said Jet, spinning around and whacking a punchbag. “I’m so bored.”
“You should be using this time for quiet meditation and practicing the art of kung fu, Jet,” said Chuck. “Haven’t you a new technique to work on?”
“Well, I was trying to learn one called the Squeeze of Rigidity,” said Jet.
“That sounds cool,” said Bruce. “What is it?”
“It’s a move that causes your opponent’s muscles to freeze, putting them out of action temporarily,” Jet replied. “But my kung-fu manual went missing.”
“You can borrow this one,” said an elderly voice. “It is most entertaining.”
Grandmaster One-Eye entered the chamber, clutching a book.
“Hey,” exclaimed Jet. “That is my book!”
“Oh, is it?” asked the ancient meerkat. “Well, it’s reminded me about some of the moves I used to do. When you get to my age, the jogging of one’s memory is just about the only kind of jogging you can manage.” He smiled and handed it to Jet.
“Did you ever perform the Squeeze of Rigidity, Grandmaster?” Jet asked.
“Oh yes, I was something of an expert at that one in my day.”
“Would you demonstrate it for me?” asked Jet excitedly. “I’ve been practicing, but I can’t work out how hard you need to—”
Grandmaster One-Eye reached out his paw and gently squeezed Jet’s arm, cutting him short. Jet fell backward, his body completely rigid. Bruce jumped up and caught him just before he crashed to the floor.
“’ot ’id you ’o ’hat ’or?” mumbled Jet.
“Well, you did ask him to demonstrate the move,” said Chuck with a wry smile. “And at least you’re not bored anymore.”
“No,” Donnie laughed. “Now he’s as stiff as a board.”
“How long will he be like this for?” asked Bruce, laying him gently on the ground.
“Feeling will return to his body gradually over the next few hours,” said One-Eye, looking quite pleased with himself.
“A ’ew ’ours?” Jet exclaimed.
“I believe the toes regain feeling first. He’ll be as right as rain soon enough,” the Grandmaster assured them. “The Squeeze of Rigidity, eh? Who would have thought I still had the knack!”
A ringing sound suddenly echoed around the burrow.
“What’s that?” asked Bruce.
“An incoming call,” said Donnie. “We can try out the new webcam!”
Donnie clicked the remote control and a single eye appeared on the enormous TV. The owner of the eye moved back to reveal a meerkat bearing a striking resemblance to Chuck, standing in a tunnel and wearing a sand-colored robe.
“It’s my brother, Lob,” said Chuck. “Lob, it has been too long! How is Cairo?”
“Greetings to you, Chuck,” said Lob hurriedly. “I am afraid this is not a social call. I need your help.”
“Grillian’!” said Jet.
“What did he say?” asked Lob.
“Don’t ask,” said Chuck. “What do you need help with?”
Lob checked over his shoulder, then whispered, “It is not safe for me to explain over a video call. Please come to Cairo and I will tell you everything.”
“We will catch the next flight out,” promised Chuck. “How will we find you when we get there?”
“Just tell me when you are due to arrive and I’ll find you,” said Lob. “Please hurry.”
The screen went blank and Chuck turned to the others. “We have a mission.”
“So, you’re off to Egypt, eh? I once fought the Crazy Camels of Cairo there,” said Grandmaster One-Eye with a wistful smile.
“Really? How did you defeat them?” asked Chuck.
“Oh, they were no match for my moves.” One-Eye demonstrated with a karate chop that accidentally knocked over a row of fighting staffs. “Eventually they got the hump and ran off.”
Donnie sniggered, but Chuck bowed respectfully. “You are indeed a worthy adversary, Grandmaster. But if you will excuse us, we must be on our way. Bruce, bring Jet. To the Meer-kart!”
Text copyright © 2012 by Gareth P. Jones
Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Artful Doodlers