Marley got down on one knee, ready to unleash more slugs from the arm-gun.
The mad scientist pointed at him in grim satisfaction. “Ah! It’s all over for you, Mr Protector.” Rothball Hazard jumped impatiently. “Get him, Nono.”
Marley tried to remain focused on the hulking Frint Nono, inching forward like a pumpkin pretending to be a watermelon with legs.
Hazard looked at his watch – probably the only mechanical device not integrated with his body. “In 10 seconds, Nono will have reached you. And when he does, consider yourself lucky if he just falls on you. He’ll probably want you alive so he can tear every limb from your body, only to reattach them to whatever his imagination desires.”
Marley pictured his arms attached to a coffee blender and in doing so wasted 3 seconds.
Hazard jumped up and down excitedly. “5 seconds left.”
Every step took Nono one full second.
“Four steps left!”
Marley sprayed five bullets into Nono’s left kneecap.
Nono tottered. But he kept coming.
Hazard screeched in anticipation.
The bullets in Nono’s knee bought Marley some time. Not enough time to read a magazine, but at least another 5 seconds. Nono was limping badly. Streaks of blood spurted onto his left trouser leg. But he advanced.
If there was ever any proof for General Relativity this was it. Each second stretched to eternity. Hazard jumped up and down in slow motion. Nono emitted a slow growl that morphed into a rumble in the lower frequencies.
Marley remained focused. Everything around him was as slow as new wave cinema. Yet his wits had not lost speed. He cocked Jed’s arm five more times, sprayed five more bullets, this time into Nono’s right knee.
The incredible bulk emitted a growl so low it accelerated the expansion of the universe. But this did not stop the fat scientist’s knees buckling. Without ligaments, the force of gravity prevailed.
Marley kept his cool. He’d timed this to perfection. Nono was going to tumble just in front of him. How cool would that look? He imagined that through the CCTV an army of gaggling college girls looked on, Fulucia among them, applauding the perfection of his heroics, tossing her hair away from her eyes so she could appreciate Marley’s commando pose.
Imagining was a stupid thing to do. Nono fell straight onto Marley’s weapon, trapping his hand.
Time reverted to normal.
Rothball Hazard screeched. “Nooo! Nono no! You have failed me, miserable lard.”
Nono was out cold, unconscious from loss of blood and about to enter the kingdom of heaven if no one staunched the bleeding.
Rudolf and Jones peered out from behind the sofa.
Hazard was smiling madly. The type of mad smile that indicates that things are starting to go wrong.
“Let’s get out of here Jones!” Rudolf grabbed his arm.
Hazard’s smile became even madder when he looked out of the window and saw the Zorgons breaching the perimeter.
A few seconds later an alarm sounded – one of those ascending high-pitched tones that so annoy office workers during real fires. An urgent, sexless voice emerged from hidden speakers: “This is not a drill. The perimeter has been breached. Please follow the instructions of your level warden. Leave everything, including burgers, behind.”
The alarm switched from ascending high pitches to a more ominous throat-wrenching vibration – the type that makes office workers abandon any semblance of organisation and run for the exits.
Jones clutched the Antlers of Amplitude to his chest and made for the door.
“Don’t you trust me?” said Hazard. “Trust me!” He added more aggressively: “Obey your level warden’s instructions.” He grabbed the Antlers from Jones and pressed his palm on the door sensor. They sprung through the opening at the same time and got stuck.
Rudolf pushed them through. He turned to Chuck Marley and saw his hand stuck under the shoulder of the formerly formidable acolyte of Grulos Jandy: Frint Nono.
Marley slapped his palm on the floor. “Help me!”
“Help me, coward. Do you really think Hazard will return the Antlers to you? He needs them now, to face the rebellion. Help me, and I will get them for you.”
Rudolf heaved Nono’s shoulder an inch off the ground, just enough for Marley to wrench his arm free, then he sprinted towards the closing door, barely making it through.
He cast one more glance at Marley and in doing so got his foot caught. He yanked his foot free of his shoe and went stumbling after Jones and the mad scientist.
The door crushed the shoe. But it just remained open.