The usual disclaimer: Cosgrove Hall owns practically everything and everyone in this story except Nathaniel. He's entirely my fault.
This isn't so much a sequel to part one as a different version of the same story, for two reasons: firstly, what this world needs is more Penfold. Secondly, the ending of part one is rather bleak, and what this world needs even more than Penfold is more happy endings.
Penfold rolled over, yawned and snuggled down further under the duvet. It was so nice to have a lie in on a cool morning. Yellow morning sun was beginning to leak in around the curtains in the hamster's little pillarbox bedroom. He felt around for his teddy bear. Couldn't find him. Oh fiddle, he must have fallen out of bed again. Penfold leaned over and felt around on the floor. No luck. He straightened up and glanced at the clock.
He should have been up an hour ago. Dangermouse would not be pleased. He'd be wondering where his breakfast was. Penfold scrambled out of bed, teddy forgotten. He threw his clothes on even more untidily than usual and bolted for the door.
Penfold skidded across the
tiles into the kitchen and leaned on the doorway, panting for breath.
He realised he was still carrying his alarm clock, and set it down
sheepishly on the counter.
"Sorry Chief, it's just that, well..." The hamster looked up, trying to think of a halfway decent excuse. He found himself looking into a pair of cold, green eyes.
Penfold screamed, and didn't stop running until he was under his bed.
The footsteps were getting nearer. Penfold drew back into the darkness. There was a stranger in the flat. Sitting in the kitchen bold as brass, drinking the Chief's tea and reading the paper as if he owned the place. The door opened and Penfold gulped as a pair of brown leather boots approached the bed.
"Penfold, are you in there?"
The hamster peered up. Past the boots were baggy black trousers, then a deep red shirt open nearly to the navel.. The clothes contained a rat; a big jet black rat, sleek of fur and green of eye, with a gold tooth that matched chains around his neck.
"What's got into you
this morning, Penfold?"
Penfold popped his head out from his hiding place.
"Who are you? What have you done with Dangermouse?"
"Danger what? Penfold, what are you on about? It's me, Nathaniel. Who else? Now come out from there this instant."
The rat flicked his long,
prehensile tail under the bed and wrapped it tightly around Penfold's
waist. He easily dragged Penfold out and set the shaking hamster on
his feet. Nathaniel bent down until their eyes were level.
"Now, just what do you think you're doing? You're lazing in bed two and a half hours after you should have been out training, acting as though we've never been introduced even though you've been my assistant for the last eight years, and gibbering about imaginary supermice or some such rubbish. Now-
Nathaniel broke off as the
familiar din of static and alarm bells started up from the office.
"That will be the Colonel. We'll continue this discussion later."
Eight years. Eight years. Penfold had worked for Dangermouse for... eight years. Except, apparently, he hadn't. He worked for this Nathaniel person. Penfold glanced at the trophies in the hall, somehow not surprised to see they bore Nathaniel's name.
"Sorry to keep you,
Colonel, having a bit of trouble with Penfold this morning."
Nathaniel dragged Penfold into place in front of the screen. The hamster looked up, knowing that Colonel K would soon put this rat in his place and see to it that Dangermouse came home.
It wasn't Colonel K.
In the Colonel's chair sat the familiar figure of a toad, with a little sign on the desk helpfully identifying Colonel Greenback. Greenback was in a blue suit and tie, and behind him Penfold could make out the shape of crows in tuxedoes.
"Nathaniel, Penfold, I
have a little job for you. Unemployed millworkers are making a scene
in Rochdale... I think you know what to do."
Nathaniel grinned, showing his gold tooth. "With pleasure, Colonel, with pleasure."
Penfold noticed for the first time the knife tucked in Nathaniel's boot.
The hamster ran for his life, and locked himself in the kitchen.
Something had gone wrong.
Very wrong. Something had happened to Dangermouse and, without him,
Greenback had taken over. Penfold looked around the kitchen. What
was he going to do? Nathaniel was pounding on the door.
"Penfold! Get out here now! We have work to do!"
Penfold backed away from the door. No escape that way. He picked up the alarm clock he'd left on the counter. Clock. Time. Time travel. Something had happened to Dangermouse in the past, so...
He needed a time machine. But all he had was a rotten old alarm clock.
"Brrrrrrt plt plt plt plt wee-oot!"
"Yes, my treasure." The beige suited toad ran his thick fingers through Nero's fur, his face a picture of victory. "Sheer, sheer genius."
In the centre of the room, surrounded by the scaffolding of cables and machinery making up the magnetic timepiece attracting device, stood a grandfather clock. Its hands were stationary at a quarter past Wednesday, its wooden case battered and scratched and its door hung slightly ajar. Thick cables leashed the clock to the Frog's Head Flier's navigation circuits.
"Ah, Barone, is-a genius!" Stiletto paused and scratched his head. "Eh, Barone, where-a we are?"
"Dolt! We have travelled back in time, and now we shall dispose of the white wonder. Now that we can travel through time as well as space, we can eradicate that rodent before he becomes a problem!"There'd been that old film on the telly the other night, the one with the monsters. Penfold had watched most of it from behind a cushion, peeking out at the scary bits. The Chief had let him sit on his lap during the really scary bits. But these monsters, they didn't start as monsters, they started as insects and then a mad scientist came along and zapped them with radiation. What Penfold needed was a monster clock. He looked around the kitchen. Suddenly inspired, he crawled out from under the table and moved the alarm clock's hands backwards as far as they'd go. Then he stuck the clock in the microwave and hit the button.
Penfold picked himself up and shook the dust off. It had worked. He was, well, he wasn't sure where he was, actually, or when, but it wasn't the kitchen and Nathaniel wasn't trying to break the door down, so things were looking up already. He was out in the country somewhere, in a field. Cows were grazing, and in the distance was a barn. Penfold looked more closely. There was someone snooping around the barn. A familiar crow-shaped figure. Stiletto. Whatever was going on, Greenback's right hand crow was sure to be mixed up in it somewhere.
By the time Penfold had made his way cautiously to the barn, Stiletto was inside. It was a big barn, made by humans, but there were proper little homes made by mice and moles dotted along the foundations. Penfold ducked behind a butter churn as Stiletto reappeared, stooping to get out through the low door of one of the houses. The crow was holding something carefully in his arms. Something alive and squirming and squeaking. That horrible Nero thing of Greenback's, probably.
Penfold looked more
closely. It wasn't Nero. It was a baby.
A white baby mouse.
"Dolt! I didn't want
you to bring him - it - back here! Alive!"
Stiletto flinched from Greenback's fury.
"But Barone, I could not-a do it!"
"Could not? I don't pay you to have a conscience, Stiletto."
"Si Barone. I's in-a da house, all-a ready to do-a da deed, when the kid he's-a wake up and look-a me in da face. I just could not-a go through with it!"
"Dolt! In a few years, that misbegotten infant will be the biggest thorn our sides have ever felt!" Greenback sighed. "Bring it here."
Penfold crept around the side of the Frog's Head Flier, half-buried in a haystack behind the barn. He'd followed Stiletto here, but now he had to get inside. What would the Chief do? Break the door down? Crack the code on the electronic door lock? Scale the outside and get in through a window? Penfold walked up to the main doors of the Flier, and pressed the doorbell.
"Yeah?" A bluetit in
a headscarf opened the door. She was wearing an apron over her dress
and carrying a mop and bucket.
"Er, good morning. I'm Ernest Penfold and.."
"After the boss? First left." The cleaning lady flicked some soap suds off her wing in the general direction of the corridor and returned to her mopping. Penfold shrugged and entered the Flier, jumping only a little bit as the door slid shut behind him.
Hrrrrrt tht tht tht!
It was asleep on Nero's pillow. The caterpillar inched around the scene of this latest outrage, making a stream of ominous growling noises. Whatever had been in that milk Greenback had given the baby hadn't just stopped him crying but knocked him out like a light, and the tiny mouse didn't even stir as the caterpillar inspected it. Nero stuck his nose under the baby and rolled it over, off the pillow, and again, over the edge of the counter and onto the floor. Satisfied, Nero settled back into his rightful place.
Penfold peered around the door. Deserted. Good. No, not deserted - there was that horrible crawly Nero thing sitting on the bench. Nero saw Penfold at the same moment Penfold saw Nero. Caterpillar and hamster watched each other closely, then both looked down to the baby mouse curled up on the floor. The little boy was only a few weeks old, still with his baby fur that made him almost as fluffy as Nero. The caterpillar narrowed its eyes, antennae drooping. Penfold giggled from the doorway.
"Hee hee! Is someone jealous? Does Greenback have a better pet now?"
Nero gave Penfold a long, unreadable look, and then closed his eyes and deliberately turned his head away.
Penfold ducked into the room and scooped up the sleeping child. The caterpillar remained unmoving.
Nero didn't open his eyes until he sensed the mammal's heat trace leave the Flier.
Penfold bumped the door control button awkwardly with his elbow. The Flier door opened obediently, and the hamster paused before jumping from the door, landing softly in the hay. The baby stirred and grizzled. Whatever nasty stuff Greenback had given him must be wearing off. Time to get home to Mum.
Before Penfold rounded the
corner of the barn, he could hear the crowd.
"Walter and Sophie's youngest is missing!"
"Not in his crib."
"How? Little feller wouldn't be walking yet, would he?"
"Hoy! Harry! Never mind the milking, there's a kiddie missing!"
Farm mice were gathering, organising themselves into search parties. Penfold walked up to a brown mouse who seemed to be in charge.
The mouse grabbed the child out of Penfold's arms and hugged him close.
"Where was he? No, it doesn't matter. Thank God he's safe. Come on, come in. You've found our baby - the least we can do is get you a cup of tea."
Penfold rolled over,
yawned and snuggled down further under the duvet. It was so nice to
have a lie in on a cool morning. Yellow morning sun was beginning to
leak in around the curtains in the hamster's little pillarbox
bedroom. He cuddled his teddy bear closer.
He woke with a start. Dangermouse was standing in the doorway, wearing his usual white uniform and a concerned expression.
"You sounded like you were having some nasty dreams last night. Is everything all right, Penfold?"
Dreams. Nasty dreams.
That was all. Penfold bounced out of bed and hugged Dangermouse
"Oh yes, Chief. Everything's fine."
"Good. Now, what do you know about the congealed remains of an alarm clock in the microwave oven?"