Not My Circus Not My Monkeys
rating: +93+x

Icky, Manny and Lolly were gathered around Gary Gorham's phone box, each of them growing a little more impatient with every unanswered ring. The call's recipient had attempted to hang up or block them multiple times now, but Gary had succeeded in using his mildly amazing power of telephonesis to keep them on the line. Each ring carried with it a slight memetic agent to answer the phone, the effect compounding each time it went ignored. Gary's previous record for someone ignoring his calls was a mere five rings.

The phone had gone unanswered for several minutes now, and they had all lost count of the rings.

"Boss, I don't think this is going to work," Gary finally admitted, perspiration glistening on his brow. "If he hasn't picked up by now, he must be immune to the effect."

"No one's immune to memetics, just resistant," Manny replied, his hands clasped together anxiously as he perched on the edge of his seat. "He'll crack, just keep it up."

"You're sure he's still in the same room?" Icky asked quietly, leaning in to examine the analogue readout of the mechatronic switchboard.

"He is, I can feel him," Gary assured her. "It doesn't really matter anyway. So long as he knows the phone's ringing he'll be compelled to answer it, even if he can't hear it."

"Argh! I hate this! First, the jerk sells us bad drugs, then he rips off our brand, and now he's ignoring us?" Lolly huffed, folding her arms across her chest and stomping her foot. "If he won't deal with us in reality, then we should go after him in his dreams. Even if he's not part of the Collective, there are still Oneiro who can track down and incept sleeping corporeals, plus Iris's Uncle is the King of Nightmares, so -"

She went silent at the sound of someone picking up the receiver on the other end of the line. For a moment there was just soft breathing, followed by a frustrated sigh.

"Hello? Is someone there?" Gary asked hopefully. He was answered by a cheerful yet unenthusiastic voice in a strange and unplaceable accent.

"yes this is dado. owner of many fine dado business like dado speed date and colon detox. what can dado do 4 u?"

"Jesus Murphy, what the hell are you doing?" Icky demanded as she and the others recoiled from the phone at the bizarre sensory assault.

"dado talking to very perspirant customer cuz customer wouldn't stop calling and hamster can't take nap. hamster need beauty sleep. hamster have big present nation tomorrow. u sleep now hamster. dream the sweetest hamster dreams."

"Your voice is inducing synaesthesia or something! It sounds like everything you're saying is rainbow coloured!" Icky shouted.

"ah yes. rainbow theme is for pride month yes? dado sees other businesses putting up rainbow logos to show they are good allies and make money. hamster think this goes 2 far. political corrective surgery run amuck. hamster say make america grate cheese again but dado think this not go far enough. dado make everything rainbow theme 2 show that dado is best ally. or best lgtv barbecue person. dado not care so long as dado make money. dado is all things 2 all people yes."

Lolly opened her mouth to speak, but Icky gently silenced her with a finger to her lips.

"As much as I'd love to get into a shouting match about corporate appropriation of Queer culture with you and your right-wing hamster, we have a more pressing issue to discuss," Icky said into the receiver. "Namely, you're selling Herman Fuller merchandise as your own and this phone call is an official Cease and Desist."

There was an awkward silence, followed by a nervous clearing of the throat.

"with who is dado speaking yes? u no sound like a mister herbicide fulcrum."

"This is Icky, Ringmaster and co-owner of Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting," she replied. "The Man With The Upside-Down Face is here as well. You've heard of The Man With The Upside-Down Face at Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting, haven't you dado?"

There was a pregnant pause as the others waited to see if the infohazardous phrase would give Manny access to the twisted mind of dado.

"no, sorry. dado knows nothing of the upside-down. dado no have netflix. dado watch prime video about high man in castles yes. 4.5 stars."

Manny shook his head disappointedly and mouthed 'didn't take'. Icky let out a frustrated groan but nodded understandingly.

"Listen dado, we saw your video advertising your 'herbie fucker' circus, and you're selling our merchandise rebranded as your own on your website. We never gave you permission to do that. Knock it off, or we'll make you knock it off," she said firmly. "Do you got that?"

"what crazy clown lady talking about? clown lady and dado agree to collaboration, yes? dado and hummin ferver have verbal contract. dado promise to make generic clown impulse impress pants and you let dado sell hermando fallview products, yes?"

"dado, the deal was that you could purchase our merchandise for resale at your own locations at a discount, not that you could rebrand it as your own," Manny explained.

"And that Clown Impulse Suppressant you sold us was crap!" Lolly shouted, leaning in towards the phone. "Eugene tried some and it made him shapeshift into a clownfish! He nearly drowned! And zebras aren't eldritch abominations you lunatic!"

"u say u want pills that make clowns no scary, yes? clownfish no scary. what herfull fluffer mad about? also the zedbras are pure lovecraft. they look like painted horses and yet there is no paint, yes? should not be possible. u trust dado."

"dado, you failed to live up to your end of the bargain by giving us defective medicine, and you violated the terms of our contract by putting your name on our merchandise, therefore the entire agreement is null and void!" Manny said adamantly. "Change the name of your circus to something less insulting to us and dispose of all your knockoff merchandise immediately, or things will get very, very unpleasant for you."

"Yeah, like your sorry ass dreamform being abducted by the King of Nightmares because I'm totally friends with his niece!" Lolly screamed.

dado scoffed insolently at the petulant threat.

"dado does not fear the knight mayor king. dado does not fear IRS dark or circus circus las vegas. dado is fine capitalist and fear only the im birch tree ment of dado's good name. dado admits no wrong! dado will defend himself on tennis court where love means nothing! u will rue day that u did not trust dado!"

The call ended with a loud crunching sound, indicative of the phone on the other end being physically destroyed.

"Well that was unproductive," Icky said, flopping back in her chair. "Gary, were you able to trace the call?"

"Ah… I was, actually," he replied somberly. "But boss, something about this guy really seems messed up. Are you sure you want to get into it with him? He could be dangerous."

Icky considered this for a moment, then turned to Manny.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"We tried to be reasonable, and we can't let him just get away with something like this," Manny replied. "I say you, me and Noodles pay him a visit. Just to intimidate him. We don't get any more violent then we have to. We show him what we're capable of, he'll back down."

"I'm coming too!" Lolly insisted. "Nobody turns one of my friends into a clownfish and gets away with it!"

"Agreed," Icky growled, her violet eyes beginning to glow in fury. "Dial up the Kaleidoscope, Manny. dado's just earned himself a private show."

The large and frightening Clown named Noodles was the first through the glowing white Way, in case of any immediate threat. When he gave the all clear, he was followed by Manny, who held an antique baseball bat, then Icky with her wand in one hand and her deck of trick cards in the other, and finally Lolly and her wooden mallet.

None of them were prepared for what they saw.

They were inside a dome made out of cardboard tubes and Saran wrap, on the surface of the Moon.

Within it there was a rainbow polythene circus tent that had yet to be set up, what looked like the Blue Origin Blue Moon lunar lander, except that 'blue moon by dado' was written in all lowercase with a sharpie, and a large observation telescope at the opposite side. Outside, the barren regolith landscape stretched on for as far as they could see, and above them shone a pale half-earth.

"Holy cinnamon sweets. We're on the Moon!" Lolly squeed, momentarily forgetting why they were there and jumping in the low gravity. "Oh my god! Icky, we're the first women on the Moon! Oh! We're the first lesbians on the Moon! How awesome is that?"

"Sorry to burst your bubble kid, but the Essie P maintains a staffed site in the Mare Imbrium, plus there's an old one near the south pole," Manny corrected her. "There's definitely been women here before, and more likely than not some were gay. Plus I've heard about an all-female terrorist cell of anomalous anarcho-commies based on the Moon, and - no offense - if none of them are lesbians I'll eat my hat."

"Well that stinks," Lolly pouted. "Well, we're the first Clowns on the Moon, right?"

Noodles replied with a short, irritated growl.

"He's right. We did send him through first," Icky smirked.

"Son of a Fun-Lover," she muttered, kicking a moon rock nearly a hundred feet with minimal effort. It came to a stop by a large chair in front of the telescope. The chair slowly turned around, revealing a man in a rainbow and checkered pattern clown costume and matching top hat, worn so low it obscured the upper portion of his face.

In his lap was a guinea pig, which he stroked like a Bond villain petting a cat.

"hello mr. bezos. u are sooner than expected yes. luckily dado is prepared for - hey wait, u no jeff bezos! u crazy circus people! how u learn about dado's secret luney moonbase and circus extravaganza-palooza?"

"From your commercial," Manny said in a deadpan voice.

"curses! dado's plan for epic vengeance has been ruined by dado's even more epic business sauviness! oh well. since u here, u want to buy tickets for moon show? dado offer group discount."

"No dado," Manny shook his head. "We're from the Circus of the Disquieting. We spoke on the phone a few moments ago. Remember?"

dado spared a glance at the smartphone on the ground, crushed almost beyond recognition.

"ah yes. dado remember u and ur horrible horrible lies. lies that make hamster cry. u jealous of dado and his amazing lunar mooner circus-palooza!"

"No, we're not. We're here because your shitty drugs almost killed one of our friends and because you're ripping off our brand," Icky said as she shuffled her deck of cards, their edges glowing an incandescent red. "You need to know that there are consequences for pulling that kind of shit."

"And since you know that Clowns are our own race, your costume is super racist!" Lolly screamed lividly.

"u no like dado ringmaster costume? okay, just for u, dado take costume off, yes?"

Using both hands, dado slowly lifted up his top hat, revealing his entire face.

"Jesus Christ!" Icky yelled, dropping her cards and stumbling backwards. Lolly had also dropped her weapon in shock, and Noodles howled in horror.

"Normally I'm the one getting asked this, but what the hell is wrong with your face?" Manny managed to ask through near petrifying terror.

"uppercase key broken, of course. much apologies. now, Veronica , u were saying that dado must learn consequences, yes?"

Icky swallowed nervously, equally terrified by dado somehow knowing her real name as she was at the brief yet clearly calculated drop of his facade.

"Lolly, baby, go back home through the Way. We'll handle this," she whispered.

"I would literally let myself be turned into a Sarkic Thanksgiving Centerpiece before abandoning you to this jerk!" she screamed back, picking up her mallet and standing by Icky's side with a dauntless loyalty.

"Lolly, please," Icky pleaded. Manny stepped up to her on the other side, the baseball bat at the ready.

"We came here together, we'll leave together," he said resolutely.

"Manny, can you even see Inside him?" she asked.

"I can't," he admitted with a shake of his head.

"there is nothing inside dado. outside of dado is all of dado."

"All right dado, listen up. I don't know what the fuck you are, but we don't take kindly to threats against our Circus!" Icky shouted as she spun her trick cards into a tornado of glowing hot laminated paper. "I'm only going to say this one more time; stop bootlegging our shit and change your show's fucking name, or I will tear this plastic moon dome and everything in it to pieces!"

"And if you make the Circus your enemy you'll make all of Clown Town and even the Serpent's Hand your enemy!" Lolly threatened. "Can you handle that, dado?"

dado glared at them with whatever he had instead of eyes for a moment, and then with a weary sigh put the hat back on his head.

"please give dado minute to consult with good friend robert mitchel about the snek clowns yes."

dado lifted the guinea pig up to his ear, seemingly nodding at his sage advise.

"ok, hamster says that war with snek clowns would be bad for dado business. dado only needed circus to fund luna-moona-palooza anyway, so dado no need no more. dado will leave herbie fucker in bethesda as pay back for fallout 76."

Icky cautiously withdrew her cards back to her, but still held them tightly.

"Seriously?" she asked with a sceptical frown.

dado nodded sadly.

"yes. dado should have listen to hello darkness my old friend. she tell dado, 'liquid lunch dado empire and focus on the pills yes,' and dado say yes, but then jeff bezos announce the blue moon and trillion man star empire, and dado must remain competitive, yes? the stars must belong to dado alone!"

"Okay, why are you so obsessed with Jeff Bezos?" Lolly asked, her face twisted in bewilderment.

"dado was once great admirer of bezos. dado was inspired by bezos' skill with the amazon prime yes. dado want to be just like bezos, so dado open up many dado business like dado go, and bezos was so jelly he use the corporate sabotage on dado. bezos has betrayed dado, so bezos must pay with amazon prime."

dado rose from his seat and walked over to the blue moon lander, nostalgically caressing it with one hand while holding his guinea pig in the other.

"dado -" he paused to clear his throat. "dado drop pride theme. dado not proud today. dado feel only shame. dado let mad pursuit of vengeance make dado a bad business partner and almost start snek clown war. vengeance has corrupted dado, yes. dado must get back to dado's roots, making banana pills for mob hits and old horny pills for the preverts."

"… Wait, what?"

"thank u herman fuller people. u show dado what really matter in life. the drugs. dado forgive jeff bezos and will let amazon prime takeover universe. dado go back to breaking bad now, bye bye."

dado threw open the lunar lander's door and sealed himself and the guinea pig inside. Then, without any sort of preflight checks at all, the blue moon blasted off from the lunar surface and flew through a Saran wrap aperture in the dome that parted for his passing, then closed again as he soared off into the black sky.

"Okay; even for us, that was ridiculous," Manny said as he and the others watched the blue moon fade from sight.

"How much of that do you think was just an act, and how much of it was real?" Lolly asked.

"No idea. Hopefully, he at least keeps his word about our merchandise," Manny replied. "Otherwise, we're going to have to come back with a bigger hammer."

"Nothing more we can do here now anyway. Let's go home," Icky suggested. "I've had enough of lunar lunatics for one day."

They turned back to the Way, only to find it blocked by a man in a spacesuit and jetpack.

"Halt right there Moon Miscreants!" he ordered, his hand raised. "I am Moon Champion, Champion of the Moon, defender of space justice and destroyer of evil. You have deceived the Moon Kingdom and its people by proclaiming to be the multiverse renowned Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting, when in fact you are common drug fiends and rodent smugglers, felonies under the laws of the Moon King!"

"Son of a bitch, that's why he left in such a hurry," Icky muttered.

"No, that was dado! The racist pinkwashing jerk who just blasted off in the lunar lander! He's the one you want!" Lolly insisted, pointing at the trail of smoke. "We actually are from the Circus! We came here to shut him down! See, look at his face! It's upside-down!"

Moon Champion tilted his helmet towards Manny to get a better view of him.

"That is indeed disquieting," he proclaimed. "You must then return with me to the court of the Moon King, where you can submit your act to the Lunar Bureau of Propaganda for censure and discuss how many moon pups would be fair compensation. But first, I must not allow the vile inter-dimensional criminal known as dado to escape my grasp again! Moon Champion away!"

Moon Champion blasted off into the sky, punching a hole through the dome and sending the Circus folk scurrying for the Way before all the air dissipated.

dado, meanwhile, sat comfortably in his lunar lander, feeding lettuce to robert mitchell and discussing plans for a blood rejuvenation clinic and tattoo parlour, when he spotted the glint of Moon Champion's visor out the window; his heroic form barrelling towards him at hypersonic speed, their collision imminent and inevitable.

"…dado should have stayed on earth and taken bezos to small claims court of afternoon tv. yes."

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