It was the night before Christmas, when all through the bunker, not a creature was stirring, not even a-
Actually that was not true.
The sneeze echoed around the inside of the cloning bunker.
'Gerzoo what?' Everniesen Stooge called out to his assistant Bill Catchit who was repairing something in a nearby workshop. Actually more cupboard than workshop.
'Your sneeze,' Bill called back. 'Sound like you have a cold. Perhaps you should switch that heater on.'
'Do you know how many chips it takes for the heater to work?' Stooge snapped back. 'Too many. That is how many.'
Bill emerged from the cupboard size workshop and walked to Stooge who was sitting in a chair at a table checking his accounts.
'Perhaps it is time to spend some of the many chips you have. It is cold weather,' Bill suggested.
'There are better things which to spend it,' Stooge said in reply.
'What about the damaged cable near pod number three?' Bill said glancing over to the three pods across the room. 'That could be the death of someone.'
Stooge fixed the gaze of his mean old eyes to Bill. 'They are clones,' he said incredulously. 'They would reclone.'
Bill knew he would not win so he changed the topic. 'Did you consider my request?' he asked.
'No. You will work tomorrow. These pods must be ready all times, those clones pay good money to me, to us, for to keep it working.'
Bill was disappointed but not surprised. 'Tiny Tom was looking forward to us all being together Christmas day,' he said looking pleading at Stooge.
Stooge looked back to his accounts.
'Uncle! Uncle!' came a voice as a young man came rushing in.
Stooge looked away from his accounts.
'Nephew,' Stooge said without any enthusiasm. 'What is it? now?'
'Uncle, we are to have a party tomorrow,' nephew Frederick said. 'Would you like to join us?'
'No,' Stooge said gently stressing the word. 'I will busy be.'
'Such shame,' Frederick said without any disappointment.
Stooge stood from his chair. 'I guess you should be going,' he said before walking with his nephew up the steps leading to the doors to the outside. When they reached the doors, Stooge opened them. His nephew left with a short goodbye and was quickly replaced by two large men with cheeks red from the cold.
'Good evening Sir,' they both said together with wide smiles.
'Is it?' Stooge replied. 'And what do you want?'
'We are collecting for the orphanage Sir,' the one on the left said.
'We hear you are a man of some wealth,' the man in the right said.
'Would you like to give a donation?' the man on the left asked.
'No,' Stooge said.
'No?' the man on the right asked.
'No,' Stooge repeated.
'No?' the man on the left asked.
'No,' Stooge repeated again.
The two large men looked puzzled not quite knowing what to say. There was a few seconds of awkward silence.
'Have a merry Christmas Sir!' the two men said together.
'Bah Humbug!' Stooge responded with irritation before closing the doors leaving them outside.
Later that night, Stooge was alone in the bunker and asleep in a simple bed he had set in the bunker corner (why pay to sleep elsewhere?) when a bang awaked him. He jumped out of the bed and stood still and listened. Nothing.
Suddenly the doors at the top of the steps burst open and a wind howled into the bunker followed by a mist creeping down the steps, around the bunker and his toes.
'What the Dickens is happening?' he said to himself.
'Everniesen!' cried a voice sounding tired and pained. 'Everniesen Stooge!'
The voice seemed familiar. Stooge narrowed his eyes and stared to the steps. Someone was entering. Someone was floating, yes floating, down the steps. A figure in loose Lifenetgrey garments and wrapped with heavy chains. The figure floating over to Stooge, the chain scrapping the floor, and a tired, pale face looked toward him.
'Everniesen Stooge,' the figure said in a voice with seemed not to be here or to be there. 'I have come to warn you.'
Stooge looked at the figure. 'Marley? Jaybob Marley, my old business partner, is that you?'
'Yes, it is I,' the figure said.
'But, but you are...'
'Dead?' the figure said with a slight smile. 'Quite dead.'
'B-b-but...how? Why? What are all those chains?' Stooge stammered confused.
'Punishment,' Marley ghost said. 'Punishment for my life of greed and selfishness. Now i wander the earth fallen and carrying the burden of these chains for eternity. Also will you, Stooge, unless...'
'Selfishness?' Stooge said. 'We are, were? are? business men, with a good engineer Business, Marley and Stooge, the best.'
'The greediest,' snapped the ghost. 'As you are now.'
Stooge fell silent.
The ghost looked to Stooge with pity. 'But i come to warn you, to save you from this fate,' he lift a chain as example before continuing. 'Three clones. Three clones will visit you.'
'I do not understand,' Stooge said. 'What three clones? What am I to do with them?'
'Goodbye' moaned the ghost before floating away, up the steps and away from the bunker, the wind and mist following. The doors slammed shut.
Stooge stood there a moment before realising he was shivering from cold and fear. He went back in the bed and pulled the blanket over him. What was happening? Was he going mad? He wanted morning to come, he wanted to run outside into daylight. Perhaps it was a dream. He closed and eyes and wished himself awake again and again.
There was a hum. He knew the noise. The noise of a clone pod activating. He peeped from the blanket. The light above pod number one was flashing.
Someone or something was cloning.