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Title: Dawn's Early Blight

Author: pronker

Era: Sometime during the TV show.

Disclaimer: I make no profit on this fanfiction in Dreamworks' Penguins of Madagascar franchise using its characters and settings.

Summary: Power breakfasts have their place.

IOIOIOIOIO

At 0640 on a Monday in January, Skipper paced in front of his troops. First light meant first light and not dawn, as his team had all learned when Skipper originally took command. Night still draped the zoo by eighty percent as from Leonard's habitat came the sounds of jump rope exercise before the koala's daytime slumber. "Gypsy, gypsy splat please tell me splat who's my splat sweetheart going to splat be Hots! doctorlawyerbankerthief --- "

The team looked droopy-eyed until the familiar bark. "Tennnnnhut! I hope you all enjoyed the macerated mackerel marinated in monkfish mungbeans. We start the first day of Team Building Week Training with undercover work. A commando never knows when the mission requires stealth and scheming, yes, Kowalski, put down your flipper, I know that you know that I know that you've practiced being Señorita Esmerelda Ramirez to perfection. Stow it for later."

The commander addressed the giggles from Rico and Private along with shhhhhs from Kowalski. "Stifle that noise!" He added his patented glare. "Better. Now ahem I have compiled various scenarios with accompanying phrases in one of my undercover personas, International Playbird Diego Garcia. Listen hard."

He clasped his flippers behind his back and strode without looking at anyone. "Numero uno: Bar pickup lines defense drill, as follows." He cleared his throat. "Always be ready with an answer whether you are in disguise as a female or remain your macho manliest machismoriffic self. You'll thank me later." A deep breath and then release. "In no particular order, here they are."

It's my birthday. Can I have a hug?

Don't lose this napkin. It has my number on it.

Hmmm, we have whipped cream but no pudding. What can we put it on?

Leaving so soon? Give me a chance.

Lean closer and tell me what you think of my after shower splash.

My posse and I voted you sexiest gal in the bar. Prove us right.

What's your gym? You look like you work out.

I'm thinking of getting a tattoo. Show me where you'd put one on you.

Where are you most ticklish?


The team exploded into speculation until Skipper had to step in. "Whoa whoa whoa! One at a time! Kowalski, you're ready with an answer? Get out of any pickle in the list without a hissyfit by either side. Remember, low-key is the object, never mind that I said I don't do subtle. I learned how and so can you all."

The tallest penguin fixed his leader with a jaundiced eye. "You just made up that one about the tattoo to get me to show where mine is of Doris --- "

"Soldier, I could care less about your ink spot. Now come up with a comeback or step back in formation." The growing amount of light showed commander and lieutenant nearly beak to beak.

Kowalski produced his clipboard and sketched furiously. "Ha! Most effective noncommittal response to the tattoo scenario is I had no idea you were such a tease." The lieutenant looked smug. He flourished the clipboard, which showed a penguin with unlikely curly feathers and mascaraed eyes flouncing away from a bar with turned up beak.

Skipper kept a straight face. "Man, if you say that, you're going to be moved in on so fast --- well. No, Kowalski, the correct answer is Check back with me tomorrow and we'll grab new ink together. Nobody would get something as intimate as a tattoo with a comparative stranger."

Kowalski had to concede with a rueful rub to his neck. After noticing everyone's eyes on the position of his flipper, he stopped short. "Very well. I'll take the answer under advisement if Esmerelda ever needs it." He stepped back into formation and shoved Rico. "Go for it, big fella."

Rico stumbled forward with a nasty look behind at Kowalski. "Ahgrommtztklshhere." He pointed to his left pit.

"Now, Rico, I appreciate honesty but the world might not. If you tell everyone where your tickle spot is, if you spill your guts --- Stop! I didn't mean it literally!"

Rico slurped back a string of drool and looked lost. "Howzen?"

Skipper thought hard. Rico was a special case; some would opine a special headcase, but he wouldn't. "Say I have hypergargalesthesia and I don't think you can keep up with me but if you're game then I am."

"Zaywhut?"

"Say I'm sick, cough and look pathetic."

"Mzickkaffkaffkaff."

"You got it. Private?"

A frown creased the usually worry-free brow of the most junior member of the team. "Need a moment, Skippa." The frown disappeared as he stepped towards his commander, flippers wide.

"No no no! Hugging is not the optimal response to the first sitch."

"It isn't?"

"The object is to get whoever is bugging you to bug off. Think about that and I'll come back to you later. Now everyone pay attention to my enacting a, a, complication from my latest solo mission." He stretched himself as tall as possible, sipping from an imaginary champagne flute. "It's your birthday? Honeybunch, my friend in the band who says he wants to meet you will go nuts. Who is it, you ask? See that drummer on the snare I'm waving to? He just played a rimshot for you hey wait where are you going?"

Kowalski and Rico chuckled but Private remained nonplused. "Eh, I don't get it."

"He's the drummer, Private."

"So wot?"

"Mama always said to never date the drummer because drummers are all crazy."

Private pulled a skeptical face. "Mmm, well, I'll leave that bit of folk wisdom on your doorstep, Skippa, but I've got an answer for Wot's your gym? You look like you work out."

"I'm ready. Hit me with it." Skipper doubled up at the sucker punch that Private delivered. He gasped and dropped to one knee. "Hrrrgh --- "

"That's my answer."

Private folded to the unforgiving cement ice floe when Rico and Kowalski tackled him. "Wot? He ordered me to --- "

"Bad 'Rivate! Bad!"

"I am not!"

"Private!
You should know better than take him at his word!   Er, uh, I mean in these scenarios, oh you know what I mean --- "

"Let him up." Skipper rubbed his tender gut. "I intended to save approval of excessive force for the final day of Team Building Week, soldier. Tell me why you did that."

Private's expression crumpled as he slumped. "I'm sorry, Skippa, but wouldn't gettin' physical put some pushy git off?" He tapped his flippertips together in agitation.

Skipper adopted his paternal face. "Well, sure it would but then you'd have the bouncer give you the bum's rush out the door and where would the mission be? What if your informant were to meet up with you and got cold flippers because of the foofaraw?"

The young penguin straightened himself with resolve. "Righto. I'll think of somethin' else."

"As long as it's, and I never thought I'd hear myself say this, nonviolent."

The sun peeked over the tallest buildings before Private came up with an answer. With dawn's warmth flooding the habitat and the others involved in stretching before calisthenics, he pulled his commander aside.

"Well?"

Private beamed. "Someone in a pub asks me Wot's your gym? You look like you work out and I reply, sauce and all, Shall we compare our Fitbits?"

Skipper choked on his fish coffee. "Private, that's the most suggestive thing I've ever heard from you, so negatory all around. Let's shelve this lesson and move along." He turned on his heel. "Tomorrow's Team Building Week Training: Numero Dos is in forensics with the affirmative team debating You Lose All Your Dignity Running To Catch A Bus. Negative team rebuts with It's Not The Running, It's The Yelling. Discuss among yourselves and choose up sides by 1800 hours chow. Fifty pushups on my mark."

The wintry sun shone warmer than usual on the doughty team that protected Central Park Zoo. There were four more grueling days of Team Building Week to endure and everyone set to staying in shape with a good will.

"Mark."

IOIOIOIOIO

The End.

IOIOIOIOIO
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Day 7

In your own space, create a fanwork. Make a drabble, a ficlet, a podfic, or an icon, art or meta or a rec list. Arts and crafts. Draft a critical essay about a particular media. Put together a picspam or a fanmix. Write a review of a Broadway show, a movie, a concert, a poetry reading, a museum trip, a you-should-be-listening-to-this-band essay. Compose some limericks, haikus, free-form poetry, 5-word stories. Document a particular bit of real person canon. Take some pictures. Draw a stick-figure comic. Create something. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


The laptop gave fits for six full days, refusing to do basic things like open Pictures. It's fixed now. This cartoon bubbled up and here it is, *pop*




Day 15

In your own space, write a love letter to Fandom in general, to a particular fandom, to a trope, a relationship, a character, or to your flist/circle/followers. Share you love and squee as loud as you want to. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Dear Fandom,

Thanks for being there in thick and thin, through many changes in life that come to everyone in some sort or another. I appreciate knowing so many fellow fans and thinking of them peeking back at me as I peek at them. You were the inspiration for getting a computer in the first place in '05, after running to the library for twenty minute sessions after taking turns for the sign ups. From your first iteration as a plaything, I went on to work online for which I remain grateful.

Most of all, you are fantastic and fun and life-affirming. Yay fandom!

Sincerely,

pronker

PS Way to go, mods, getting the Challenge up this year! It's been a squeeful ride.

PPS Er, the cartoon likely is obscure for non-fans of Penguins of Madagascar, explanation cheerfully given!
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Day 14
Go forth and commit an act of kindness. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it, tell us about it if you’re comfortable doing so.


I'm uncomfortable talking about it. Back to work.
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Day 13
In your own space, write about a moment in fandom that meant a lot to you. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Easy peasy. Bjo Trimble began a letter-writing campaign in early 1968 to Save Star Trek and somehow my friend the Superfan discovered it. She was the one who scribbled reams of Star Trek fanfic collaborations from us all onto legal pads and who came up, honestly, with stuff like plots while the rest of us supplied the longing sighs over Shatner, et al.

Superfan, who later became my first apartment roommate, was more smarter, more fannish, more dating-ish, more social-ish, just more. She organized our clique of five fourteen year-olds into writing letters to NBC during our almost-weekly sleepovers. There was one rollaway bed crammed into the average suburban 11x14 foot bedroom that already contained two twin beds, but somehow we managed to get close to 20 minutes of solid sleep on Friday nights with two per twin and one lucky in the rollaway. Of course, we slept in and My Second Mom, who had owned a bakeshop along with her ex-Navy cook husband, prepared pancakes and all sorts of goodies for us the next morning every time. Loved that family. Still do, after 59 years of friendship.

Er, back on track. That moment of fannish glory, added to the fact that there was a Season Three for Star Trek and what we did worked, was empowering.
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Day 12

In your own space, post a rec for fannish spaces and resources - comms, challenges, twitters, tumblrs, etc. Tell us about where you hang out.


Such riches out there; here are a few:

Pixiv has fannish space, which seems to be Japanese and the site has neat artwork, comics *I include manga and I guess, doujinshi, under this term) as well as interesting layouts. I wish I read Japanese and could contribute translations, but maybe it's enough to sort of figure it out anyway. If there are comms here, I don't know about them, yet it's a fun space to meander.

Pinterest

This is the 'human Penguins of Madagascar' search on Pinterest, which busts me up each time. I mean, it shows such twists of imagination that I am gobsmacked, to quote Private. Way to go, artistes! There might be comms, but again, I'm ignorant of them and just like to graze.

Vintage Ads on LJ. This is borderline fannish because of the emphasis on ads. The link is to an appearance by Superman. Anyway, I visit this comm each day to squee over vintage ads, lovingly maintained by MissTia (link is to her tumblr) and updated daily by welcoming and friendly folks contributing posts. This makes my day many times. :)

The Force DOT net. This site is always welcoming with a mod's input to newcomers. The link is to the site's non-Star Wars fanfiction section because that is where I hang out a great deal of the time. The fandoms range from Hamilton to oldies like Get Smart with a series of drabbles. One thing with a moderated site is that your fanwork is guaranteed at least one review. This is a most welcoming and friendly place.

Google! Yes, Google. Google links here to another 'human Penguins of Madagascar' search that makes me smile. Links on the google search abound to sites such as deviantArt that have slash comics such as the one in this link. Since PoM is an animated fandom, artwork is a prime attraction in it, to me.

Finally, Furaffinity with this (possibly?) NSFW entry. It's 'possibly' because they're animals. LeoKatana remains a premier artist and her work blossoms from fandom to fandom to original art for commission. What a talented person. Furaffinity is for smut and deviantArt is for milder smut when you'd rather not think about snatches or junk, just sort of, you know, blur them out. *LOL at delicate self*

So that's it for current sources of fandom fun. If google can be fannish, then anything can!
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Day 11
In your own space, talk about a creator. Show us why you think they are amazing. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

How else might you demonstrate your love for your chosen creator? You could make a recs list of your favorites. Or post a link to their personal website or to an archive, whether it's at fanfiction.net or Instagram. You could even create a page for them at Fanlore, or add to an existing one.


ruth baulding is a capital writer for Star Wars. I can't think of a better one and I'm not alone, so making her presence known on fanlore took on epic proportions. Here ya go, lady!

ruth baulding fanlore entry

Whew, took all day off and on, but here is an entry for you, r.b. *falls over ded*
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Day 10

In your own space, share your love for a trope, cliché, kink, motif, or theme. (More than one is okay, too.) Tell us about it, tell us why you love it, give us some examples and recs. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I love tropes themselves. That's a theme, right? Upon much dithering personal reflection in my solipsistic 'verse, tropes remain glorious bits of fandom ranging from current obsession Ho Yay In Cartoons to not-so-long-ago one Wow, Tropes Existed In Greek Mythology? to ancient one Mommy, I Want To Go To France To Help Sgt. Saunders Fight Nazis.

Regarding the last, how exactly was a little girl supposed to help Chip fight? Hand him the occasional grenade? Set up the BAR? Provide inspiration? I dunno about me sometimes; other times, I'm sure. What I do know is that tropes abounded in the show, including subverted ones. For example, we watched action shows galore and each longrunner seemed to have an episode in which a character went blind. One episode portrayed Chip going deaf and being helped by a doggie, aw. Of course, the doggie had to die.

Yup, I love tropes.
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DAY 9:

Send feedback to two fannish people — they can be anyone you want: a writer who’s made you happy, a moderator of your favorite exchange (not us!), a fanartist you avidly follow… There are so many possibilities. Just let someone know you appreciate their work.


Done, to Mud, Alcalina's foray into the glorious world of Star Wars. With the release of Rogue One and the Force Awakens, fandom is blessed with a fine talent to juggle the characters of Anakin, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, Quinlan Vos and others in the Clone Wars era. Come along for the ride to discover how Anakin and Obi-Wan form a partnership in all senses of the word. Rich and evocative prose delineates the relationships: Master-Padawan, Jedi-Council, Hondo-Aurra, stop if you are already intrigued and just go read. 34 chapters and counting, a fine debut. Add to the rec that her artwork exceeds hawt and goes straight to steamy.

Done, to Getting Into Character, GrandOldPenguin's RPF that blends Penguins of Madagascar characters with Tom McGrath and Co. who bring them to glorious life. Really, the work melds human and penguin personalities in the best way possible, along with displaying an intriguing method of getting its plot going. Think smoke detector. Go on, you'll never guess why/how/who.
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Day 8

In your own space, make a list of at least 3 things that you like about yourself. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


1. I'm good enough.

2. I'm smart enough.

3. Doggone it, people like me.

Soul searching time: I'm good enough, like the bookstore in Hometown named The Good Enough Bookstore because the Good Book Store already covered Scripture.

I'm smart enough to have a four year degree that enriches life all these years later. The ways in which I'm not smart enough would fill OneDrive's storage for my Microsoft account.

People like me because I'm polite and respond to comments online, and people in RL like me because I am a good listener. Cats like me because I feed them. Dogs like me because I'm unafraid of them. Squirrels like me because I like them and used to put out nuts for them so that Mom could see them from her rest home window. Squirrels in my neighborhood like me because I talk to them. Way to go, me. :)
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Day 06

In your own space, create a list of at least three fannish things you'd love to receive, something you've wanted but were afraid to ask for - a fannish wish-list of sorts. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your wish-list if you feel comfortable doing so. Maybe someone will grant a wish. Check out other people's posts. Maybe you will grant a wish. If any wishes are granted, we'd love it if you link them to this post.


1. More fic? Sure, in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Penguins of Madagascar, or Laredo fandoms. Hooha, the last one is in the western genre, sorely neglected because there's not much out there in media in 2017 as opposed to 1957. There's some, though because Rawhide has its own section on fanfiction.net, which blew me away. Laredo hasn't its own section, and it offers a chance to write comic/lightly dramatic western material a la Alias Smith and Jones and Wild Wild West (another set of faves but not what I'm hungering for at the moment). I've never read slash for Laredo where I have for Wild Wild West and Alias Smith and Jones. Hint, hint, to anyone who knows me. :) Here's a character sheet: entry for Laredo.

2. In tune with #1, a fic rec list for any of the above three fandoms.

3. I'd love to draw anime/manga for Penguins of Madagascar! Any hints or sites that offer a quick tutorial on the basics, like how to frame drawings to show dramatic progression or what those red lines across the characters' cheeks really mean?

Off to read others' wishes to grant them, if possible. (gets out magic wand, oh here it is /*)
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Day 04

Comment to someone you haven't ever interacted with before or introduce yourself to someone you've interacted with and friend/follow them. Afterwards, leave a comment in this post with the equivalent of "I did it!"


It's one of the best things about fandom: reaching out to artistes to show appreciation. It's gladly done each time for a story or artwork, barring only about .01 percent of the time when I can't think of anything to say. Generally, however, I'm Chatty Cathy. :)
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Day 5

In your own space, post recs for at least three fanworks that you did not create. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Oh, boy, foisting reccing! Thanks to wendelah1 for reminiscing about LJ's comm Crack Van. This entry with its fourteen artiste recs (the norm was three fics weekly and one vid and one crossover per turn at the wheel) is in fond remembrance for the comm and the years that I recc'd for it:

Zootopia Scenes and Shorts GrandOldPenguin writes well-plotted and characterized Penguins of Madagascar stories, each complete and completely captivating. With the release of Zootopia, he has undertaken various genres of ficcing to extending the Zootopiaverse. Bonus mentions of PoM characters in the first segment!

A Tangled Web Revin Songlifter makes me drool with her ability to flesh out Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV-verse characters and create worthy OCs, especially a supernatural one who ... um. Trot on over and meet Galené.

Paternity Pursuit places Marlene The Otter in a situation that is responsible for various states inside the Penguins of Madagascar 'verse or outside of it: joy, despair, catatonia, you name it. Her unplanned pregnancy sets the stage for Wildgoose1's delicious series of novel-length stories written in an inimitable style. Take a moment to get used to the script-like format detailing adventures for Skipper and Team and then dive into the main stories plus its sequels, Deviations, Hell Hath No Fury, and
Once More Into The Breech, now in progress. All are imaginative and introduce OCs to die for.

Priorities by the team of Snark-N-Moon details how Kowalski's lack of sleep prompts Rico to "help" his friend. Lots of Kico (Kowalski/Rico) and Skilene (Skipper/Marlene) for romance lovers and also a neatly developed plot. There is a WIP sequel, A Season of Miracles with a very decent wordcount.

Polyester Girl by Hyaenaa portrays Rico's love for his 11 1/2 inch plastic dolly in completely understandable terms. A sweet and slightly sad story for PoM.

Asthma by ForThoseWhoLikeToMoveItMoveIt features Skipper's ailment as something he'd like very much to forget about. Luckily, staunch friend Kowalski holds his feet to the fire to force the penguin commando to face facts. An uncommon ending in this one.

In The Line Of Duty by Crystal Volcheck details the humanized penguin commando crew in an engaging fashion and she has an ask blog over on tumblr for the team. It can't be easy to transfer the show's birds-in-a-zoo characters into the human realm, but she does the job neatly.

Hooboy, the art derived from four little penguins boggles the mind. Here are recs for some favorites:

The Gayest Comic is a webcomic by Madame Dobato, WIP, with very decent output in both English and Spanish of the humanized crew. Lots of black and white fun here in both senses of the phrase.

Nice To Meet You by Leilush12 displays her awesome talent for shading and drawing adorable poses of all the team, but in particular Rico. In For Christmas, the effect of fire on the cute couple of Rico and Miss Perky makes the whole piece glow.

Quietly features a humanized Skipper/Private pairing portrayed by Eiskaiserin, who details just the perfect background for a romantic get together for the two.

Winter Wish is JVs Luck's portrayal of species change so that romance occurs between otter and penguin. This time it's an illo for the Skilene pairing from one of wildgoose1's stories. Skipper makes a dashing otter.

Our Love Is Out There, He's Not Coming Back, and Thanks For All by Abecedye (AKA Oftheriot on deviantArt) all portray the cast of a cartoon show as humans, with the first rec as Skilene, the second as not-quite-Dorski (Doris/Kowalski) but maybe Dorskip?, and the last as the whole cast in human form. Such talent and imagination, sighhhhh ...

Smexy Kowalski shows Moonwolf03's talent for just right poses of the penguins, bold as befits a commando. Hitting Turbulence is NSFW in the Skipper/Kowalski pairing. MSPaint is used meticulously by Moonwolf03 and leaves an indelible impression of stick-to-it-tive-ness per the artist. Way to go, moonwolf03!



As the last, here is an episode in animatic form that shows details of how the end product is reached. Voice acting done with expert singing by Jeff Bennett and Danny Jacobs, storyboard by Sunil Hall completed, and now the animatic provides music and sound effects and from there it goes to the colorists, I imagine. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the recs for today.
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Day 03

In your own space, set some goals for the coming year. They can be fannish or not, public or private. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.



A fannish goal is to write the latest opus/epic/kitchen sink sort of story that is Penguins of Madagascar, sexed up. Yeah. I know. Er, uh, it's the challenge, I guess, to write about animals. ~>~ I feel silly, and happy, and silly writing this. Also, finish the cartoon I began months ago.

There was a Clone Wars story, heavy on politics, that was in the hopper but it may never see light of pixels, I dunno yet. It was outlined and had many scenes written so I'm currently raping it for ideas for Current Heartthrob, not that many can make the switch to a story about voodoo and penguins and caves and performance art and metal sculpture and outrageous stuff like that. :/

In RL, I want to make $220 to pay for car registration and smogging by copywriting for textbroker. This may take a while. :( Onward. This last is my New Year's Resolution, short and sweet and fairly simple. I like 'em that way. Last year's was to do the Snowflake Challenge, and look how well that turned out!
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In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


This is fan space, so here is the most relevant response I can muster. Theoden's speech "Fear No Darkness!" gets me each time, and the clip shows Merry's and Eowyn's fear as real, graphic terror and dread and conviction to go forward. It also shows Eomer at his berserker best. I do my best to fear no darkness.
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Wonderful people have contributed time and effort to running the Snowflake challenge, so here goes!

Day 1

In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so
.

Okay, in January 2016 this kitchen sink epic began on this site, crossposted to LJ and other sites: Hee, it contains a/ h/c (my favorite genre) and b/travelog bits and c/actual character arcs. Eight months' worth of fun:


Watermelon Snow

"Fanworks that define you as a creator". Hmm. Derivative from episodes is what I do, so here's an example:

Sunny Days Sweeping The Clouds Away

Finally, the latest experiment in messing with format, a real weakness:

Tryst; or, When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend
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Title: Tryst; or, When The Legend Becomes Fact, Print The Legend.

Author: pronker

Era: Sometime during the TV show.

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: Skipper/Kitka

Disclaimer: I make no profit from this fanfiction set in The Penguins of Madagascar using its characters and settings that Dreamworks owns.

Summary: Rendezvous as we wish them happen rarely.

A/N: A Missing Moment from from a reminiscent scene in Watermelon Snow Chapter 28. As far as shown, there are few Skipper/Kitka stories (I would love to be proven in error!) Anyway, the inspiration began with MegaProlific authors of bodice-rippers catering to the reading public with the heaving bosoms. You know who you are.

IOIOIOIOIO

IOIOIOIOIO

COMING SOON TO A ZOOVENIR STORE BOOK RACK NEAR YOU

From the author of Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Penguins But Were Afraid To Ask rises an epic romance ...

In the midst of turmoil in the Central Park Zoo involving several species but most of all lemurs, one penguin seeks an oasis of passion high above the bustle of the Upper West Side ...

Can the forbidden love between a bird of high-flying, clever prey and a bird of less intelligent prey come to completion? Will the two overcome all difficulties regarding relative size and dominate their entwined destiny as Fate would have them do? Or will the odds against their winning happiness prove as stacked as the odds for winning at Keno in Atlantic City? Best-selling romance author Ava N. Orendous tells the enthralling tale in Higher Than A Kite --- And Loving It.


Kudos for Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Penguins But Were Afraid To Ask:

"Amazing is the only word for our Ava's latest - she combines facts about penguins with pulse-pounding scenarios that blast your preconceptions about bird sensibilities to smoking husks. You will never again observe penguins waddling in quite the same innocent way. A remarkable blend of outré imagination and specious statistics from SCIENCE!" --- E. L. Jimson, author of I Just Swing That Way, All Right?

~>~

"After one relegates nearly all of Ms. Orendous' most recent offering to subway reading during rush hour, what emerges is a pleasant enough diversion that titillates in a mild fashion. This will never make Good Reads, but what of it? The wordsmith reveals in the teaser end chapter that her next opus contains the word kite, which is a bird of prey as well as a kiddie toy, so don't expect any more humor from her than this pun." --- P. D. Havelock, new submissions editor of Damning With Faint Praise Quarterly.

~>~

"It's short with three-inch margins and there are lots of blurry black and white photos. Get your bifocals out for this one, people, to catch those convoluted positions that you'll wish you could attempt without throwing your back out." --- Hans Von Franzen, Amazon Vine Reviewer.

~>~

~<~

Purple Prose Productions is proud to present this excerpt from Ava N. Orendous' High As A Kite --- And Loving It with the imprimatur of Ms. Orendous. Reserve your copy today!

From Chapter Nine ("Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Yonder")

Gentle breezes wafting across a rooftop ruffled the feathers of two birds who stood poised in uncertainty against a backdrop of impersonal Manhattan edifices. Their history lay in every glance and line of their body language, but the scene spoke of an unexpected yet not unwelcome encounter on brief notice. One bird's expression warmed to a welcome that was nevertheless sensitive to the other's state of angst.

"You seem tense, Skipper. Let me help." Kitka moved to stand behind Skipper, who twitched from the residue of battle nerves. Shaken from the efforts of subduing Mort's apocalyptic rebellion against King Julien's tyranny, Skipper trembled as he neared exhaustion. She crooned soothingly as she massaged his neck in a penetrating rub.

Skipper sank to his knees in relief. The daring peregrine falcon's expert touch soon made him forget the knots in his muscles as he turned to limp pho noodles. He bowed his head.

"Oh. Oh yeah, right there. Oh!"

"Thaaat's it, relax into me, lean back, yes, my sweet." Skipper looked up gratefully to see the underside of a razored beak bent not one half inch above his head. From this angle, his beloved seemed all cold killing machine, but her actions spoke of tenderest affection for him. He fell under her spell as their rendezvous blazed off to a stupendous start. Faint music drifted past his earholes, something adagio from Vivaldi's Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, "Spring." The adagio tempo hinted more at "Summer," with its steamy undertones.

Skipper settled back further against her banded chest feathers. A scent that reminded him of home pushed through his senses, but he felt too lazy to identify it. His eyes drifted shut.

Kitka worked his neck like a professional masseuse and when his head lolled to one side, she nibbled right above his earhole as her breathy sigh penetrated the black gloss of dense feathers there. He jumped out of lethargy as he got to his feet.

"Er, uh, I'm in line for this, but I don't want to rush you --- "

Her voice turned into a purr that he didn't recognize. "I've missed you so, Skipper. I've been waiting and going crazy for you. Look." She indicated her nest five feet away. The beguiling scent of seaweed arose from strands embedded in the jumble of twigs and fresh leaves that promised a memorable interlude among the heights of Manhattan. "It's for you. Only for you."

Blushes didn't show through feathers, but Skipper allowed his to push him onto the path of least resistance. As if in a dream, he took the offered tips of her wings while she walked backwards to her nest, pulling him along to what they both wanted and wanted now ...

THAT WAS THE LEGEND.

HERE IS THE FACT.


"Aw come on," cajoled Skipper, his eyes glittering like the Yogo sapphires set in a platinum tiara that Brick and Cecil pilfered in Ought Three. "Those wings are headed for trouble and they're taking you with them." He grinned, proud of coming up with this bon mot on the spur of the moment.

Kitka folded her wings and arched a brow. This was her home territory, where New York City traffic clamor gave way to the whistle of zephyrs between skyscrapers. "I am not sure if I want to make up. There are other birds out there who can fly."

"Low blow, Kitka."

"Didn't we already do that? Oh wait, that was me. No. The answer is no. You and I are done."

Skipper fished for reasons to hook up without sounding needy, but damn, it had been a long drought. He'd expected to be rounding second base by now. "What if that mean falcon guy finds your new nest? I could protect you!"

Kitka looked him up and down and peered pointedly behind him and to either side. "You're alone. Rico isn't here to toss you skyward to fight him and anyway, my wing is all better. I can fight my own battles."

This was not going to plan, and Skipper always held to a plan except when he threw it over for a better one. It wasn't time to throw this plan away just yet. He playacted with a pitiful look and was only half joking when he pouted, "C'mon, doesn't seeing me again make you remember --- "

"Stop. Just stop. You know that I haven't any pity. Predators can't afford any."

Common ground, always advance on common ground. "Hey, I'm a predator, too."

"You? Alice tosses you fish each day, how does that make you a predator?"

Skipper felt himself shrink from his earlier eagerness for a reunion. The physical response dropped his endorphins to below sea level in Death Valley. "Yeah okay that's right but" --- he pierced her with his best determined look --- "before we penguins got sidetracked into the zoo, I had to learn how to fish and stuff with no parents coaching me. I was barely beyond a hatchling." He ladled on the pathos with a leaden spoon because, hey, it might work. "I had to be responsible for baby Private and the others."

There was the haughty, aristocratic look that attracted him originally. "What have you caught lately?"

Somehow she wasn't so pretty since she healed past being dependent of his nurturing her back to full flying health. He glanced at her wing. It looked identical to the one that hadn't been broken. Hmm. Maybe coming here hadn't been such a good strategy after all. He'd give it one more try. "I could help you decorate your nest, you know, bring in pebbles and seaweed --- "

He could tell she was getting bored because she looked up to check the weather as a cloud passed over a weak March sun while the touch of sunny warmth faded. "Nuh uh. Let's leave our memories untarnished, all right? I'm on my own, you've got your team to go back to --- "

Skipper's Log would never hold this entry. "You're so independent, well, be that way. I like birds and there are other birds, and, and mammals, and even reptiles who like me. Stuff it, Kitka." Bridges burned, so be it. He turned his back on her to head for the edge of the roof.

Kitka scraped her left outside talon against the tar and gravel rooftop of her new home. The sun came out from behind the cloud. "Wait. Skipper, how did you get up here?"

He had already scratched off this solo mission from today's mental agenda and was returning to base the way he came. He paused at the roof's gutter and looked down six stories where something by Vivaldi floated up from a string quartet. A street fair celebrating St. Urho's Day featured small crowds of happy shoppers and several stilt walkers ambulating in a conjoined costume as they portrayed a neon green grasshopper. "Working backwards? Zipline, crosstown bus, waddling four blocks in stealth mode and pole vaulting over the zoo fence because I was so hot to see you again. Why?"

"I can give you a lift home."

"Forget it. I'm outta here."

He dropped over the side of the building without a backwards look. The zipline held him up as he pushed off and then it loosened halfway through his course. He ripped out his worst curse as he lost his grip on the line. By General MacArthur's return, he knew how to take a fall, of course, but this was going to hurt.

He hadn't stayed frosty on the way over as he burned to be with her. Failing to secure the line properly stung like a paper cut as he paid the price for his inattention to detail while blinded by passion. Really, it was going to be humiliating to explain this to his troops, if he ever got back to them, that is.

Skipper looked around for options.

Ahah, the Simpkins Embroidered Pillow And Tasseled Sham Emporium next door to where his zipline dangled! Look at all their fluffy inventory! And their window was open to catch refreshing spring breezes! He stuck his flippers out like ailerons and made a rudder out of his feet and stubby tail. No way was he going to make it easy for the sidewalk to win by plunging headfirst into Portland cement if he missed the window.

gonna make it ...
gonna make it ...
gonna make it ...
gonna make it ...
gonna make it ...
not gonna make it ...


The sidewalk loomed ten feet down when a shriek hurt his earholes and a something grabbed both feet. The something pierced the skin but at least he wasn't going to smush against the pavement. Skipper strained his neck upwards to see Kitka's buff underbelly feathers and muscled chest bulging with effort as she hauled him skyward.

The crowd became animated.

"Cheezy louisey! A falcon caught something!"

"It's got a duck, fer cryin' out loud!"

"Onward, men!"

A stiltwalker with a grasshopper's antennae on his head lurched towards them with two others connected behind to make a pass at collecting him from midair, but Kitka's skill as frequent flyer zigged when the stiltwalkers zagged. The two birds evaded them like a P-51 Mustang eludes a Stuka. The off-balance stiltwalkers twisted their grasshopper leg stilts as inept newbies eating Szechuan cuisine twist their chopsticks. The men flopped into the crowd, several of whom bravely moshed them to safety.

With blood rushing to all the wrong places, Skipper saw no way to make Kitka's task easier by squirming in pain, so he adopted his least favorite maneuver, Routine Seventeen: Just Relax And Take It You Fool.

Kitka flapped desperately. "See," she panted, "you've eaten way too much fish with no effort."

"Just put me down," he growled as he swayed mid-air. "I want to cover my shame. Give me that much, Kitka."

Kitka landed like a ruptured duck onto a three-story building. The two birds tumbled over and over and stopped at last against a wooden support of a rooftop pigeon house. Startled coos filled the air as Skipper wound up on top of Kitka.

The falcon rolled her eyes so hard they must have hurt. "Hey, get off me! Never again. I know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em."

Skipper forgot to be grateful as he gained his feet, extending a flipper to help her stand. "You know, I've had better break ups. It's a good skill to learn in life." The building was at the corner of 91st and West End Avenue. Skipper sighted the intersection and knew exactly which direction to take to return home after hiking down the fire escape. "I'll make it from here, lady." He bent to examine his feet. "You stabbed the hell out of me."

"I had to. Sorry." To her credit, she sounded contrite.

Blood dripped between the webs of his toes. Skipper caught her mesmerized look at the red stuff before she pushed the greed inside again. Sore and bleeding and fighting a grudge, he snapped to battle stance. "My eyes are up here." Kitka still had a glazed expression so he added, "Don't take me on, sister. This is just a little prick." She licked her beak and dragged her gaze upwards again.

"I can control my urges, not like you." Why hadn't he ever noticed before that her eyes got all predator-ish when she turned wasp-ish?

He could not let that remark stand. "Oh, right, yeah! You were hoping I'd come back --- " This was a wild shot. She hadn't actually looked anything like hopeful. "You were dreaming that I'd come find you --- "

"No, I wasn't. Goodbye." She flew away.

"And good riddance," Skipper said to her tail feathers. He only half meant it.

IOIOIOIOIO

The End.
pronker: (Default)
Title:  Sunny Days Sweeping The Clouds Away

Author:  pronker

Timeframe: Someplace during the TV series.

Disclaimer:  I make no profit from this fanfiction set in Dreamworks' Penguins of Madagascar franchise.  They own the characters, setting and all other appurtenances thereto.

Summary:  Skipper and Marlene decide to try dating.

IOIOIOIOIO

St. Peter tossed his keys from one flipper to the other.  He appraised the penguin before him, one of dozens who would stand in the same place today.  This one's life story hadn't been the most unusual, but it came close.

"--- and so that's how I got here.  I didn't think it would happen this soon.  The others need me."  Skipper took a deep breath, quite surprised that he was still feeling the urge to breathe.  What was going on, anyhow?  Why didn't he feel cold or hot but still the same as when he was alive this morning, when New York City opened its eyes to a humid morning with chances of thundershowers?  Last night Gil Force had predicted a sunny and clear August day, no less.  He strained to see Manfredi and Johnson in the milling crowd of penguins through the fence, but there were no familiar faces to greet him, darnit.  He wanted to curse more satisfyingly.  He thought better of it, given the circumstances.  There was no sense in browning off a superior officer.

"Skipper, your time has come.  Say goodbye to all that you leave behind and follow me."  The holy saint juggled his keys with a mutter.  "This one's for the Potoroo Paradise, this is the one for Guppy Gloryland, oh here it is --- the Endless Iceberg."  He didn't look back to see if he were being followed as the lock opened and he stepped through the towering gates of gold scrollwork.  A few penguins looked up from their unknowable pursuits and nodded.  He nodded back as he waved the newest arrival onward like an aircraft marshaler using batons.  Skipper thought it ironic that a flightless bird signaled another flightless bird in such a manner.

The team commander bowed his head to the inevitable.  He peered down through the cloud cover below his feet to a very particular spot on a very particular habitat in Central Park Zoo.  There she was.  His heart heard her words without effort.

"Come on, Skipper, don't do this --- "

"Marlene!"  Skipper called.  "What on earth are you up to?"

As if she hadn't heard him, she continued this remarkable thing.  She squashed his belly to make a fountain of water spurt.  She crossed his flippers in his trademark pose and pushed on them --- wait, was that his body down there and not up here with all that made him him?  This was too eerie for words.

"Skipper!  Don't!"  Now she undid his flippers and recrossed them over his chest and pushed harder.  More water geysered upwards.  She paused and he heard her sob.

It had to be said.  "I've got to go, sister.  I lost the battle.  Don't cry."

The otter pressed her paws to the sides of her head and then clasped them together as she fell across his body.  How strange that he couldn't feel her weight.  Whatever she whispered next was out of Skipper's hearing.  He chanced a look over at St. Peter and the rest of the penguins.  They shimmered until all he could make out clearly was the saint's halo.  Where it once glowed steadily, it began to pulse as if confused.  For Pete's sake, who would know about these supernatural issues more than a citizen of the realm itself?  Somebody's team needed organizing and he was just the penguin to do it.

A voice as profound as St. Patrick's Cathedral bells on Easter morn now sounded out of sorts.  "Oh, for the love of --- "  St. Peter passed back through to the other side of the gates to double check his ledger.  To Skipper, the holy penguin appeared at a loss.  He squinted at his ledger and then at the arrival before him twice.  He shrugged as he pierced his fellow bird to the core with a look of judgment ethereal and true.

Oh.  He wasn't meant for the Endless Iceberg.  What had he done that was so heinous?  He'd lived a manly macho life.  He'd paid his dues.  He'd led his team through thick and thin.  How was that wrong?  What would happen to him now?

Skipper gave all this attention to Marlene, since the Endless Iceberg didn't want him.  He'd have these last precious sights of her to bide him for eternity whatever his final destination.  What was she --- it looked like --- 

"I won't let you or a stupid lightning strike ruin our day.  Here comes our first kiss, ready or not, muy fuerte."  She placed her paws around his beak to shape it the tiniest bit open.  She dipped her mouth over his and blew hard.  He could see that the rubbery little pads on her paws sealed the intimate connection so that air could pass full force into his lungs.  She fumbled in the beginning and he counted the respirations silently, too awestruck to say them out loud.

Suddenly she had the rhythm right and she kept on going, good on her.  Where there had been no feeling now was pain and as he doubled over, he felt himself falling.  A strong flipper supported him and he looked up into St. Peter's face.

The saint winked.  "Not yet.  And next time, Skipper, no showing off for Marlene.  You didn't need the reverse four and a half somersault pike during a thunderstorm to impress her.  That was asking for trouble."

"Will ... you ... let ... me go ... please?"  

"As you wish.  Watch out for lightning strikes on the way down."  Another wink as the last thing Skipper saw was St. Peter waving both flippers circularly like Mr. Miyagi's wax on, wax off gestures.  "You didn't see anything."

The support vanished but then he didn't need it any longer.  Christopher Cross' Sailing flitted through his thoughts as his reality shaded from supernatural to natural.  He landed hard.

"--- urk hack hack wheeze --- "
 Damn, but he had a sore throat.  He wouldn't be able to thank Marlene properly for some time.  They gasped together in the muggy aftermath of a brief but violent weather event.  It ought to be easy to get through the rest of their date after this.

"What!  Were!  You!  Thinking!" screeched Marlene eventually.

It seemed too much effort to sit up.  Skipper rubbed his throat and shrugged.  He mimed like Rico would as he rolled to one side and supported his head with crooked flipper while adopting a nonchalant expression.  He sketched a zigzag in the air.

"A lightning bolt hit near you and knocked you out in the middle of your dive, yes, I was there, remember?  Not what, I can see I've confused your little fried pea brain, but why?  Why, Skipper?  Object in air during thunderstorm, bad idea, much?  I may not have Kowalski's brain but I've got common sense!"  She looked cute as she groomed away water with short, angry motions.  She gave one last run through over her head before scowling at him.  "This is the worst date ever."

Skipper looked sad.

"Aw.  Don't be like that.  There is one way it could have been worse."  She shivered and Skipper pulled her close.  Her fur was dry now and he nuzzled his beak into her soft flank as she sat above him.  The zoo's masterful planning ensured that moisture seeped away quickly through any habitat's drainage system and as the sun peeked through after some minutes, Gil Force's prediction came true.

IOIOIOIOIO

The End.

IOIOIOIOIO
 
pronker: (Default)
"Time, Kowalski."

Kowalski squinted at the sun's angle.  "Eight twenty-five and three seconds."

"Far under our takedown calculations of three point nine seven hours."  Skipper always loved posing the next question.  "What went right?"

"You're asking me?"

"Options, man, with as little commentary as is possible.  Compare this encounter with the last, double time."

Kowalski sat beside his commander on a log in a grove of linden trees out of sight of traffic on Road 1.  It was just past its meager rush hour as he rested his head on his flipper in an unconscious tableau of The Thinker.  "One: Blowhole operated on a smaller scale than Project Bad Tidings and we didn't contend with a larger base containing more minions."   He closed his eyes for a moment at the thought of Parker's presumed intimacy with Doris before he had reunited unsatisfyingly with her.  "Er, yes.  Onward.  Two: Lack of accomplices for us to battle, because we never learned who Agent Twelve is and Parker remains in Cuba."  

Skipper nodded.  Kowalski would come up with a third thing later.  "Him, we don't need."  He kneaded his lieutenant's shoulder.  "How's the leg?"

"It burns worse than the cuts to the shins last week, but no tendons or muscles damaged.  I just feel woozy from blood loss."  Kowalski leaned into the touch.  "We'll depend on Rico to get us airborne to the milk truck's roof, I think.  There's small risk of notice because rural Road 1 is more deserted than Mariehamn proper and Our Man From K.A.B.O.O.M. is as precise with explosive tangents as any penguin could be."

"Sounds like a plan."  Skipper bent over the injury.  "The sea water washed the blood stains from your feathers but damn, the salt must have stung."  Skipper gave a pat to the shoulder and then removed his flipper.  No use coddling anyone, was his motto.

"It hurt like when I absentmindedly took a big bite of Rico's five alarm chili as I was thinking of ununoctium's acceptance as a noble gas for the element table."  An unwelcome option had to be said.  "If our keepers see me limping, they might take me to the infirmary."

"Will there be needles?"

"Maybe."  Skipper sucked in a breath and then let it out slowly.

"Would that be such a bad thing? For you, I mean." 

"I'll admit to not liking shots, but I don't get all --- um --- "

"Paranoid, like I got with the Viking homeschooling?"

Kowalski ducked his head.  "I wasn't going to say anything because each of us, at one time or another --- "

"It all comes out in the wash, mi terroncito de azúcar."  Kowalski had made certain that Skipper sat in a ray of morning sun that filtered through the unleafed trees.  The glossy coat shone dry by this time.  The fresh patches of growing feathers gave Skipper a youthful look, not that Kowalski would mention that, either.

The commander and his second watched Private and Rico pantomime the capoeira maneuver that might, or might not, become part of the team's repertoire.  Sasquatch approached, carrying a segment of console siding under one arm and trundling the segway.

"This right for size?"

"It'll do for a penguin orbital platform, Sasquatch.  Thanks."  She stood the segment up against a sapling and sat in the watermelon snow drifted by the log.

"I'm off for Nepal soon."

"The road trip won't be what you thought it would be."  Skipper was matter of fact.  "Did Hugo send a farewell while you were in the lorry?  I saw you rub your forehead."

She crossed her legs at the ankles and leaned back while bracing her elbows on the log's rondeur.  "No.  He's too far away.  That was your calf, I mean the littlest one."

"What?
  Mammal to bird telepathy and vice versa is just nuts!"  Kowalski looked floored but Skipper held his tongue.  Weird was the name of the game when it came to telepathy.

Sasquatch pursed her lips.  "It wasn't like with Hugo.  There was less detail and I couldn't hear his words.  I only got a glimpse of what he planned and then when he said Kastelholm and made himself such a perfect target, I kicked him."  She looked up at the tree branch drooping above their heads that had weeks to go before budding out.  "I'm sorry for that and for what I put you all through."

It took some time for Skipper to come up with a reply but the sight of Kowalski's temper starting to boil brought out the right words.  "It's in the past."  He breathed deeply of the scent of the sea in the fjord north of their position.  He pictured Ted's arrival there as a young polar bear while admiring the species' long range swimming ability and if Skipper drifted a little in concentration, nobody could blame him.

Sasquatch took in Skipper's simple statement.  "My kind will die in the wild along with the saola and the Sumatran orangutan."  She sighted where the moon was last in the sky.  "But until then, we live."

Kowalski subsided with a mutter that Skipper was certain he didn't want his commander to hear clearly.  The team leader focused once more on the aftermath of their mission.  "Kowalski, we know that Road 1 is the primary road for this island --- "

"Fasta Island, the island in the Ålands with the most humans."

"Er, right.  Can you calculate how many deliveries the milk truck will make and when it will swing this way again?"

Kowalski knew a peacemaker's diversion from a quarrel when he heard it.  The answer was something he'd been working on since Blue Three had cowered before everyone and Skipper had made a disgusted gesture that said go away boy you bother me as plain as day.  "Fasta covers 390 square miles with a population 90 per cent of the Ålands total and averages 47 humans per square mile so therefore" --- he rubbed his beak --- "given his speed we observed and the dimensions of his truck while hazarding a guess at its tare" --- he folded his flippers --- "I calculate in forty-five minutes and thirty-four seconds, give or take."

"Give or take.  Uh huh."  Private and Rico finished and came at Skipper's call.  "Rico, check on the driver of the artic.  Private, I want a word with you."  Rico sped off across the road.

"Blowhole left a crack in the window after he gassed him so the human could get fresh air.  I guess that was when the harami still thought he should do good deeds to meet you in the Pure Land."  Sasquatch fiddled with her neck.  "Eh, a little whiplash from the artic's sudden stop.  I'd better walk around to loosen it up before attempting the segway.  I've gotten through the action part and now I just want to go home."  She headed deeper into the grove.  The penguins refrained from pointing out that the watermelon snow had stained her bottom a dusky pink.

Kowalski made to move away.  "No, rest your leg.  This won't take a minute.  Private, you broke formation and communicated an unproven tactic in a highly unorthodox manner."

"Aye.  Prepared for disciplinary slap, Skippa."  

Skipper slapped him at less than half strength.  "Just because it turned out all right does not mean that it was okay to do that."

Private kept his chin up.  "Aye."

"Keep Kowalski company while I get something from the lorry."  Skipper waddled to the lorry and back faster than he would have one week ago.  He waggled a greenish travel size bottle in a most pleasing shape.

"Gammel Dansk!  Blowhole lives right."  At Skipper's look, Kowalski added, "But he's in the wrong about everything else."

Skipper smiled.  "A toast to a successful mission, just a lil sippy.  Private, how's your head?"

"Aw, er, uh --- it's, it's okay --- just a headache left, I don't see two of anythin' now and I don't hate her any more --- "  He looked not as eager as Skipper would have thought at the prospect of taking this rite of passage.

Kowalski sighed.  "Private, you and I must not partake.  You don't need to complicate a head injury and I don't want to get woozier when we need all our coordination to stay on top of the Slip'N Slide roof of the milk truck.  Skipper, limit yourself to half a sip and you'll be fine."

"Next time, Private, I'll get you a drink and you'll see what all the fuss is about.  For right now, go keep lookout and think about how you are the team's resident capoeira expert."  Private moved some yards away to await their departure at his post behind the tree trunk nearest the road.  His skrawk synchronized with one coming from eight trees down the grove and thirty feet up from the same kind of bird in the Kastelholm clearing.

"Rico sent up a flare from across the highway!  What is he thinkin'!"

"Von Hindenburg's mistake, Rico!"  Skipper hustled to Private's side with Kowalski limping behind him.  Sasquatch returned from her walk and stepped behind a neighboring linden, rolling her shoulders.

"Does this happen often?" she asked.  She peered across the roadway.  "Hugo?"  She rubbed her forehead.  "Hugo!"

A russet shape knuckle walked sedately across Road 1 with a black and white escort.  Rico reported to Skipper as the two friends grasped each other's hands.  "Ooman 'kay."  He demonstrated with a monstrous snore.  Skipper got it out of him that Hugo had startled him into an involuntary upchuck.  He held off on the slap due to extenuating circumstances.  There hadn't been a vehicle pass in the last fifteen minutes, anyway.

"I changed my mind, is that allowed, ayam?"  Hugo backed off from the handclasp.  "It happened right after you left and I looked into my future at the zoo as a big black hole.  I escaped the primate house as soon as they put me back in there and reached Imelda's habitat.  She sneaked with me to the shore and then she swam me on her back.  She said it was good exercise to lose weight and that she'd been practicing with Marcus."  He looked proud of himself.  "I paid strict attention to your briefing, penguin.  She swam up to"---  he recited carefully --- "Möckelö area near Bursfjården and we found Möckelövågen Road together."  He pointed where the smaller road crossed the larger Road 1.  "It ends at the fjord about one mile north.  I waited in the woods until all looked clear here.  I nearly got the courage to climb a tree."  He seemed finished and then thought of one more thing.  "I knew you would win the battle."

Skipper refused to voice his doubts at the statement and accepted the sentiment at face value.  "Good old Imelda.  And we're happy to serve, Hugo."

Kowalski looked around.  "Imelda!  Where is she?"

The scientist sagged at the answer.  "It took two hours to swim here because we needed to bear south around the peninsula and then north.  Imelda said she had to get back to Marcus and the zoo before visiting hours."  Hugo paused.  "The open ocean is" --- he shivered --- "cold and dangerous.  The same walrus that threatened me to keep away from Sasquatch bullied us at the mouth of the fjord."

"Harreram!  What happened, Hugo?  A walrus working for Blowhole and disguised as human entered the zoo to intimidate him," Sasquatch explained to the commandos' questioning looks.

Hugo's incisors gleamed in the sun.  "Let's just say Imelda 1, Walrus 0."

"Outstanding!  You rock, aquatic ursine!"  Skipper observed the two friends hanging back to talk things over.  "We'll just leave you two to hang back and talk things over.  Rico, this is our orbital platform for four penguins' load plus drag and we'll depend on you to supply lift plus thrust to gain the milk truck's roof."  Rico saluted and turned to check the console siding's dimensions with Private as helper.  "Kowalski, you and I have something to discuss."

Kowalski limped listlessly back to the log with his commander.  "Imelda could have transported us back, no problem.  We wouldn't need to blast ourselves skyward.  We wouldn't need to slither on top of a milk truck driven by a maniac."

"Plotz."  Kowalski plotzed.

"Think of a third thing."

"Sir?"

"Think of a third thing that went right."  At the look of confusion, Skipper went on, "Like this: uno, we're not pushed for time to get back to the zoo, dos, none of us got injured more than is reasonably expected, and tres, Blowhole got plugged in fewer hours than you calculated averaging our other battles against that nutjob.  Go for it, I dare you."  He crossed his flippers over his bald spot.

The flock of small birds twittered as they returned from across Road 1 to forage in the spare branches overhead.  The sun felt nice on his leg.  Kowalski thought hard.  "Three is that Sasquatch joined us."

"Agreed.  She could have been stubborn or let the moon cat out of the bag about me being alive."  Skipper settled himself comfortably and continued.  "Say, Kowalski, tell me more about Lineus longissimus, Plectus murrayi and Mesenchytraeus solifugus."

Kowalski's jaw dropped and Skipper laughed.  "I really want to know, Science Guy."

"They --- you --- me --- he --- messy ---"

"Come on, a brief briefing, if you please.  We have some time to pass.  Enlighten me."

Kowalski noticed how his commander's eyes remained steadily on him.  There was no way to tell if the penguin would look right or left to indicate a lie short of a staring contest and it didn't really matter, anyway.  He accepted the command tactic for what it was, swallowed his pride and launched into a lecture portraying how he would have matched DNAs of three useful species for an undetermined reason.  Ten minutes later, Skipper called a halt.

"I'd like to hear more about this, so let's table the discussion until our trip back to New York City.  Rico, how's it going?"

Rico and Private finished duct taping the charges to the underside of the thick plastic siding.  "Kaboom seefour'kay.  'Rivateliftnao."  The two hefted the siding to the verge under the shadow of an evergreen tree.  It was unlikely the sparse traffic would notice the gray piece of plastic and as Private placed rocks underneath it to provide the correct azimuth, Rico finetuned the angle for an eastbound truck of known height and speed.  At last they stepped back.  "'Kippaaaah, reddy."

"Good work.  Come here and we'll celebrate."  Skipper waved the bottle over his head to signal Sasquatch and Hugo.  They walked easily together, Skipper noticed, as similar in appearance as Maurice and Ringtail with the same height differential.  "Chug a lug, Sasquatch?"

"Why?"

"To celebrate the mission's completion."

Rico took the opportunity to take the bottle from Skipper as he mimed opening it with his beak.  He passed the bottle to her with a gleam in his eye to see the feat once more.  She stretched her hand out for it but Hugo snatched the bottle and jimmied the cap.  "This will be my first drink!  Santi, everyone!"  He tipped the bottle skyward.

"Take it easy!  Hit him on the back, lady!"

"Calf steps, my friend, calf steps.  There.  All right now?"  She took the bottle when Hugo recovered before returning it to Skipper.  She rubbed Hugo's neck soothingly.

"Ack!  Kaff!  Kaff!  Ah-ah-ah-choozowizzle!  Why --- does --- anyone --- do this?"  Hugo regained his breath.  

Sasquatch and Skipper pulled the same face.  "It's like losing your virginity, simian.  You don't understand until it's all over and starts to feel good.  Give it a minute."  Skipper passed the Gammel Dansk to Sasquatch after wetting his whistle.  She savored the heft of the bottle as she swished the contents around.

"Looks smooth."

"The Danes manage to get a few things right."  Skipper indicated Rico and she handed the drink to him, watching as he closed his eyes in rapture for his portion and licked his scar afterwards.  Rico pressed both flippers to the bottle to pass it back to Sasquatch.

She took it, hesitated and then said, "No.  Thank you."

Hugo looked mellow.  "I understand, ayam.  You do as you see fit."  He sat suddenly with arms splayed to each side.  "Tai, that's an effect as good as a durian at its peak of ripeness and aroma."  He burped.  "Maaf."

Sasquatch handed the bottle to Private.  "Take it.  I'll pass."

Private started to pipe up a why but Skipper spoke his mind first.  "Nothing matters but the mission, which was successful.  This is a nearly perfect day for me, so От всей души поздравляю, Снегурочка."  The challenge was in the tone of voice and Sasquatch met it.

"You're congratulating me when my mission to save my kind failed.  On top of that, you're calling me a maiden?  Explain yourself, soldier."  She crossed her arms.

A titter burst from Private at the role reversal before Kowalski and Rico both cuffed him.  He mouthed an ow! as Skipper formed a reply.  "The team's mission succeeded, Sasquatch, and I'm including you in the team.  The world is free of giant ice-melting venomous slimy worms that were responsible for serious injuries and might have killed a fisherwoman, you're on your way home with a friend and we're on our way home, too, in" --- he gestured to Kowalski, who held both flippers straight up --- "eleven minutes.  The team's mission was worthy of effort and your motives were pure enough for yours.  As for the means you chose, you'll have plenty of time to think things through on your road trip.  Who knows what will happen next?"

Private offered the bottle and she took it after a moment.  "To the future of my kind," she said, and sipped.  "That's all, I'm driving."  She nestled the bottle in the watermelon snow next to the log.  "But ... a maiden?"

"And why not?  Blowhole took away everything that made you not a maiden, right?"

"He did."

"So you get a fresh start in life, right, new form, new friend, traveling the world like you never did before, right?"

"I suppose so."

"Done in one: you're a maiden again."

"Fake it until you make it, is that the idea?"

"You got it, sister.  Consider this your 'special briefing.'"

"Oh you're too much."  She smiled without showing her teeth and then shrugged before she picked up Hugo by his pits to set him on his feet.  He blinked and became more alert as she knelt and gestured to her back.  He grinned broadly as he clambered aboard.  

Four little penguins waddled next to her while she positioned the segway heading east to Finland.  Rico kept lookout as she aped Blowhole's stance and motions to direct the vehicle.  After a trial run of ten feet, she turned around to bid them farewell.  "I'm nearly done on earth but you're not, bull.  You've got miles to swim before you sleep."  She nodded at Private who had wound up staunchly at his commander's side.  "And much to enjoy.  Goodbye, Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico."  It was the first time she revealed that she knew the names of the entire squad.  She tootled off down the road on the segway with Hugo clinging to her back as he had to his mother in decades gone by.  

"But how will you get off this island?  You don't like getting wet!"  Skipper wasn't sure that they could hear him.

"We'll figure something out," Hugo hollered back.  He unlatched one hand to wave.  "Farewell, penguins of Åland."

IOIOIOIOIO

Rico launched his team onto the top of the milk truck flawlessly.  In midair as the world spun and roared, sitting toe to toe with Kowalski, Rico, and Private, Skipper decided that his team was perfect just as it was, the loss of Manfredi and Johnson notwithstanding.  

He would never see Manfredi and Johnson again this side of the Endless Iceberg.  That was acceptable.

As the truck bumped over a pothole, the noise disguised the clank of a horseshoe magnet deploying and the shhhhzzzirrrr of the unneeded console siding kiting off the roof.  The driver must have wanted to move it move it to get on with the rest of his workday at the milk distribution plant because he sang no more.  

Rico and Private anchored Skipper and Kowalski to the roof and since the sunshine had banished the frost, the ride was nearly pleasant enough for two penguins at less than their best to nod off in exhaustion.  Each could nap in the knowledge that the peace of Åland was secured by their efforts.   

Kowalski roused when the turnoff for Mariehamn approached.  He got a little rambly, which his friends attributed to his state of pain or discomfort as the Doc in Central Park Zoo termed it.

"If we continued east to Lumparn Bay, we could see where a meteorite struck our earth one billion years ago to make a crater six miles wide. The bedrock in the area is a rapakivi granite isn't that an unusual name you know rapakivi has a high uranium content of 24 parts per million and if one of Blowhole's worms died near it the potential for the worm reviving into an even larger zombie worm is off the charts --- "

Skipper rolled his head to spy Kowalski staring blankly at the sky as he calculated the odds.  "Let's get you home to rest, compadre.  You can rapakivi us another time."

In the end the ride simply wasn't long enough to snooze and by the time Mariehamn's charming skyline came into view, everyone was lulled into a mild fatigue.  As the ancient church that Skipper had mentally GPSed appeared, he nearly didn't recognize it.  

"There's the church!  But it's been worked on since last night, er this morning, oh you know what I mean.  The cross is back up."  Whether it was removed for repair or regilding, it felt right to see it in place as they dropped off the milk truck uneventfully.

From the church to the zoo was the span of one half hour's clandestine slogging from one hiding place to the other on the quiet streets.  Before they knew it, they waddled past the polar bear habitat and waved to Marcus.  "She'll be back any minute now!" they chorused and Marcus returned the wave.  Skipper's and Kowalski's boost over the penguin habitat fencing marked a small respite before the beginning of another day entertaining guests by simply being themselves.  Nobody was up to much except laying out as they all succumbed to slumber.

Imelda greeted them through the stone habitat barrier at noon feeding time.

"GUYTH?  Got back in the NICK!"

"We're here, IMELDA!  How's by YOU?"  Kowalski had perked up since explaining worm DNA to Skipper and expounding on a meteor crater.  He chatted with gusto as he regaled her with the news she could use.  Congratulations on their victories were exchanged and this time, Marcus joined in with awed questions.  Kowalski used up his energy and had to beg off answering after fifteen minutes.  "Laters, MARCUS!  Keep it REAL, Imelda!"

"Right ON, bird!"

IOIOIOIOIO

"Why does she talk like that, anyway?  It's contagious," Skipper mused at telly time that Private insisted on.  The penguins had stayed up late to catch the Rangers score and sure enough, the point spread was one.  The Rangers 2, Ducks 1 score eased them into complacency as their nerves reknitted after a harrowing sixteen days that was planned to be relaxing.

Flipping through the channels, a chance news report in Swedish showed footage of the ripped open artic and destroyed Nikola One lorry.  They caught the word 'delfin' as the driver of the artic gave his story.  By the joshing look on the anchorwoman's face, it was obvious that the man's report about a dolphin riding a segway and hurling knockout bombs had no chance of being believed.

Kowalski shook his head as he leaned against Rico, who had stuck a partway inflated Faux Skipper under his friend's leg to elevate it.  "Linguistics isn't my field, sir, but I could devise some tests --- "

"Nah, I don't care that much.  Just chalk it up to velleity."

"I, I didn't know that word was in your vocabulary, Skipper."

"Yeah, I've stuck in 'cutlets,' too.  It's about time."  Skipper left the reasons for the additions a mystery as he went on, "This team needs to chill until we leave next week, you know, watch some hockey games, play Marco Polo, meet Bruce The Moose, things like that.  I hear Bruce is Russian and I can brush up on my Russian with him."

"Sir, you shouldn't swim just yet."

"All right then, I'll play Double Norwegian Slap 'Em and Grab 'Em Poker in place of Marco Polo."

"Skippa, I want my Omega Boom Boom maneuver considered for official status.  If I practice it hard in the next few days, will you accept it before we get back to New York?"

Oh gads, the look of enthusiasm snagged Skipper's heart like a trebel barb hook snags a king salmon.  He hated to crush it.  The move required a kick rather than a launching.  He'd need to feel more confident about no penguin misjudging the force of a kick.  He'd need to contrast a launch with the force applied to the shoulder or pelvic girdle with the Omega Boom Boom's kick, which targeted the less sturdy vertebrae.  He'd need to push aside the vision of himself or another team member kicking too hard to injure or kill.  

Skipper's mind drummed with one thought protectprotectprotect.  "Private, stay away from full on practice.  That's an order.  Iron-clad."  Private drooped until his commander added, "Let's wait until New York City.  I'll tell you my decision then."

Private's expression edged towards hope as Skipper added the decision to the ones he'd make in the course of the next week.  There was the raid on Doc's office to get him anti-scarring treatment, for instance.  For now, he yawned and looked pointedly at his team.

"Lights out.  Rico, your 'special briefing' is tomorrow first thing."

"Zaywhut?"

"The others got one while we're on Åland, so why shouldn't you?  Any requests as to the subject?"

There was no hesitation.  "Xochi."

Kowalski slung a flipper around Rico's neck as Private looked solemn with an "Aww."

"Guatemala was a long time ago, soldier, are you sure?  She left behind a sweet legacy of courage for us all.  I thought you'd want to gab about how we can celebrate St. Patrick's Day."

"Nope.  Xochi."

They turned in after Skipper doused the Vasarely Vision.  The peace lasted ninety minutes.

IOIOIOIOIO

"Private!"

"Mrrrf, wot is it?"

"Private!"

"Here we go again.  Wake up, Skippa."

"Ministrations!  Shuddering to completion!"

"Now that's just disturbin'.  I'll kick your tailfeathers, shall I?"

"Hey, stop!   Ow!"

"Sorry.  Nightmare again, Skippa.  You do seem to have more than your share."

"Atlantis' tentacles! Darla and Carol and Jillian and you swung on lianas from the clock tower to escape Savio only Savio was a zombie mutant worm instead of a boa.  I couldn't beat him just like I can't beat him in real life.  He kept stabbing me with his needle sharp tongue.  It was awful."

"I should say so."

"Before that, he made us play the Telephone Game.  I started out whispering 'Private's first prize fish is a trevally'.  You don't want to know what Carol thought I said in the end.  I was shocked."

"All righty roo, back to a sweeter dreamland it is for you, then.  Nighty night."

"Aw, I can't sleep now."

"Peaceful thoughts, sir, peaceful thoughts."

"Oh.  Sorry to wake you two."

"'Kipppaaaaah, lizeout."

"Aye aye, sir."

Rico was quieter than normal for the next two days after his 'special briefing.'

IOIOIOIOIO

Kowalski's lay out spot on the last full day at Åland Zoo was cheerful and sunlit as befitted the day before the beginning of spring.  Kowalski was not, although this had been the first swim he'd taken since Blue One had clawed him.  He chose a song with a wistful chorus as the slanting sun felt amazing on his thigh.  Skipper, Rico and Private had entertained the Saturday crowds to cover for him and now the gates had just closed.   After a minute of blue eyes cryin' in the rain, he had to break off.

"Doris, Doris!  Why do you haunt me?  Why can't I forget we ever happened --- no.  Never that.  Even if I knew beforehand that you were Blowhole's sister and might have shown criminal tendencies if we hooked up for good, I'd still have fallen for you like a truckload of #5 cans of sardines --- ack.  I don't know what I want anymore.  Curse you --- no, dammit, damn you, Doris."  A human listener would have heard forlorn braying and not put a finger on why it produced melancholy.  It seemed that another song fit his current mood better than any other.  He coughed and massaged his throat before beginning.  "This is the last song I ever sing about you, Doris,  I swear.  Really.  I mean it this time, see if I don't.  Really."

He honed his considerable mental discipline to blot out the sound of the gurgling drainage grate and began again.

"... so don't let them begin the beguine

let the love that was once a fire 

remain an ember

let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember ... "

Kowalski sang his heart out and decided he didn't want it to return.  He trailed off.  "I can't finish that one because it has too much hope in it.  This one suits us better."  He concentrated harder to mask the drainage grate plus some happy sounds from Skipper as Private made him unwind doing something or other adorable in the lie out spot towards the front fence.

"Don't you know I can't take it, 

I don't know who can, 

I'm not gonna ma-a-a-a-a-ake it, 

hmmm hmm drat hmmm some-thii-ii-ii-ing.  

Don't you know I can't sleep at night, 

but just the same, 

I never weep at night, 

I call your name ... "

"Ko-wal-ski."  Through the fronds of the Calluna vulgaris and brushing his ragged crest against the Viscum album stepped Rico, holding out a drawing on an Etch-A-Sketch.  Two penguins kissed there, one to match each of them in crude outline.  In his other flipper he held Skipper's tape recorder and fumbled with it before thinking to arrow his tongue at the 'pause' button.'  The unmistakable voice of Hank Williams sang a poignant verse from Cold, Cold Heart.

" ... another heart before my time made your heart sad and blue,

and so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do ... "

Kowalski took the recorder from Rico and turned it off.  "Rico, you mean well, but the scientific reality of you and me is that ... that ... "  When Kowalski shook his head, Rico lifted the Etch-A-Sketch high to rattle it and erase the images, then stopped.  He passed it to Kowalski.  

"You mean I'm the one who has to erase it?  You're putting this on me?"  Kowalski took the Etch-A-Sketch and turned it upside down resolutely.  Then he turned it right side up, considered the drawing crafted with love and couldn't shake it to erase the two figures.  "You think we have a chance?"

The Etch-A-Sketch and tape recorder went flying as Rico tackled Kowalski, and Kowalski tumbled them over and over through the melting watermelon snow.  Soon it turned to a delightful mush of pink and red and although they didn't look beyond each other in the moment, their scuffles made a heart shape with lacy edges.  

"You fool,"  Kowalski said tenderly.  "You fool."

It was the same old recon waddle that evening with no obvious changes to the team.  When they stayed up late to catch the hockey scores and discovered that the Rangers lost to the Sharks 4-1, it didn't seem to matter to either Kowalski or Rico.

IOIOIOIOIO

Two days later, Skipper echoed his squad's exclamations of relief after their return to HQ following Doc's cursory exam for serious problems.  The Doc's hmmm followed his gentle hands feeling Skipper's chest but he allowed the commander to remain with his team.  "I'm glad we're all back in New York City, where everyone's safe and it's peaceful."  

A police siren screamed at the same time that a boombox accompanied the thump thump thump of exuberant lemur feet.  

"You know what I mean."  

IOIOIOIOIO

IOIOIOIOIO

Six miles west as the dirty birdie flies, Frances Alberta flicked her cigarette into the gutter by a weed-strewn empty lot.  She rubbed the back of her hand.  The tattoo of a vintage Kirby vacuum cleaner looked new and still sore.  Two steps away, her ally did that handwringing thing that annoyed her and soon she wouldn't need him, thank kaiju.  He hummed under his breath all the time, too.

"Get busy on that right away, Moley."

The tunneler blew her a kiss as he lumbered into his mecha that was parked next to a two foot tall Malva neglecta.  The hatch irised closed, the ruler of the Mole Men set the angle of declension and soon dirt clods spewed behind the rusty vehicle.

Frances' stilettos tapped an ambitious rhythm on the rain slicked sidewalk, percussing a music all their own as she made her way back to her boarding house.

IOIOIOIOIO

The End.

IOIOIOIOIO

A/N Thanks to the readers and reviewers.  It's been a grand eight months from January to August 2016.

YouTube's Lana Del Rey's "Dark Paradise" provides an excellent Dorski theme and the following link to vimeo shows a fanvid with the appeal of athleticism and ever rolling waves ...

https://vimeo.com/77147732

The folks at deviantArt and furaffinity provide art that sparks the fandom.

Setting chosen from the most unusual place a view came from on the fanfictionDOTnet site to one of my stories: the Ålands.  Congratulations, you beat out Qatar, Singapore, Andorra, Isle of Man, and Mauritius.  Salut!  Skol!

IOIOIOIOIO

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pronker: (Default)
For the past ten days, Skipper had gathered as intel pieces of the puzzle that was Blowhole's latest scheme. The completed border formed who what when where why. As he looked around what would become a battle arena, the inside of the lorry supplied the inside puzzle pieces comprising how and to what degree.

Four similar consoles with attached monitors hunkered two on each long wall and the whole effect was very NASA-ish. An immobile crab stared at the penguins from each rolling lumbar chair in front of the consoles with another trembling on the metal floor at the right side of his boss' segway. A 2600 gallon tank on the far right corner of the lorry gurgled as its long side paralleled the long side of the lorry to make the righthand consoles offset from the lefthand ones in a pleasing display of feng shui. A comfy swivel chair with a snack stand containing apples and grass was bolted down between the tank and a hardwood bar. The bar, which was complete with a hanging glassware rack, captured the farthest space to the left front.

Eavesdropping had divulged that one minion had fled at their mere presence to hide behind the bar. Skipper's confidence upped a notch at this thought as his battle mind mapped the layout for strategy and tactics. Takedown was the final puzzle piece and now all the piece needed was jimmying into place followed by pressure for a snap fit. Skipper was okay with pressure as he found himself considering the words of a matronly opossum.

Ma's second reading in The Art of War described a battlefield on hemmed in ground governed by limited opportunities to retreat. "A small group of our enemies could crush a large number of us in cramped quarters if we can't escape easily. There needs to be some moments to plan an attack. The only worse sitch, Skipper lambie, is to fight with no delay with no retreat options and be desperate," she'd said. Skipper often suspected Ma of paraphrasing.

This crowded sitch needed more than immediate battle because of global consequences. What if the worms became hyperized with the destruction of one of these consoles? What if they could home in on this very lorry with a call from Blowhole's segway, undulate up the fjord and slime themselves through the crack between the double back doors to confront a team leader with poisonous needles? He failed to think of a third thing, but let himself off the hook as he glanced at Kowalski who stood battle ready at his right side. Kowalski likely contained a dozen ideas neatly grouped in four sections of three.

Kowalski had been ordered to use your brain ten breaths after turn off the think melon but he knew the meaning was to use his brain the correct way and not meander thinking about science, prototype lorries or Doris. He forced himself to keep Blowhole in view and sidestepped ogling the lovely monitors hooked up to equally lovely mainframes. He wondered if they synched to a satellite for tracking purposes before the jealousy lobe of his brain throbbed an unwelcome message: This is what you could do if you had no filters such as morals or friends. He glared at Blowhole for making him think such treachery.

Private glowered at the one who had commissioned a murder in the name of shameless self-indulgence. This wasn't to be borne, he had to be stopped right here and right now. Private hadn't had much time to practice his new signature move, but there was no better situation to put it into play. No one on his team knew about it and he sneaked a guilty look to the right at his commander. It wasn't like he'd broken regulations or anything, it wasn't. He ran the move over and over in his mind.

Rico wondered if there were fish in the tank directly ahead of him. When this was all over and Blowhole defeated, he'd find out.

"Okay, bottlenose, who'll start the traditional leaking of the exposition? I'm betting it's you."

"You're alive and" --- Blowhole's eye resumed its regular ruby color and Skipper got ready to dodge --- "a little the worse for wear. You looked less angry when I mindjacked you off the docks to drown in Shanghai Bay, remember that night, hmmmm? Or on second thought, maybe you can't."

"Oh, I am beyond rage about the mindjacking, Blowhole."

"You are? Good for you to cope so well. I wouldn't have thought it."

Private couldn't let this pass. "But Skippa, wot about the flashbacks you keep havin'? Last night you woke up --- "

"Ah bup bup bup, soldier! I told you what happens in the bunk stays in the bunk."

Blowhole spun his segway in irritation before harpooning Private with a glare. "Quiet, small fry! He says he's beyond it. Let's get down to the here and now." He appeared to be gathering hubris out of thin air after an undeniable shock to both his mind and plan. He looked down his long nose at his arch-enemy. "I've got crabs, so watch out."

"There's a shot for that nowadays --- "

"Blue fiddler crabs to help me, duh! The lobsters here have a union, some socialistic thing, I dunno. Crabs are scabs." Blue One raised a claw to say something but Blowhole ignored him.

At least Blowhole did not refer to himself in the third person like Hans did. "Oh don't tell me your problems. Moving right along, Blowhole, and speaking of tradition, I'm giving you the option of surrender." Skipper couldn't remember the last time this had actually worked but he had to try. The team functioned beautifully with four penguins and less so with three and two thirds. Sasquatch sidled away from Blowhole as he watched. Was she getting up to something independently?

Blowhole swelled his chest and then snorted. "This is going to sound crazy, but I'm glad you're alive. You're so good" --- he had to think a moment --- "at what you do, I mean, that there was going to be a challenge finding another animal to whet my wits on. A little bit of me thought I ought to clean up my act and do some good deeds so I had a chance of meeting you in the Good Place. Was that ever a chore! Really, how do you stand it all the time?"

Seeing his commander at a loss for words, Kowalski decided to go for the money. Taunting generally got results in the form of intel and he was dying to find out some things, in the name of the mission, of course. "You selfish braaper. Doesn't thwarting Greenpeace make a difference to you? I mean after all, they try to help dolphinkind."

Blowhole cleared his blowhole. It made a disgusting sound and the penguins flinched as much as they had at Roger's dinner table in the sewer. "It's part of the game. I elude them or make them go where I want them to go. " He waved a flipper, rolling his good eye as his bad eye remained fixed. He must have meant it as a distraction and it worked as Kowalski had to think hard to maintain focus. A blast from a laser would end any one of them. Was that a powering up hum he heard?

Even though Greenpeace's staff was human, Kowalski smoldered at their casual dismissal as Blowhole continued, "Greenpeace will be irrelevant soon anyhow, after the ocean grows to where it ought to be."

All five crabs in view got a goofy look of triumph on their faces. So far only one had run for cover and that threw off Private's assessment of their cowardice. Should he go with the tried and true battle routines rather than attempt a new one? A quick look to his left showed Rico's belly rippling. He was ready for anything.

Now Kowalski was on firmer ground. "Studies show that ice melt would drown the eastern seaboard and Coney Island --- "

"Where I performed three a day jumping through flaming hoops for boring humans? Yes! Go me!" Blowhole pumped a flipper, tottered on the segway and then regained his balance. "I've always wanted to see Kansas and soon I ca-a-a-a-a-an swim ri-i-i-i-i-i-ight over it. And Iowa --- "

He's excited about his plan because he's makin' that dolphin noxious noise more, so maybe I can distract him with Routine Thirty-Two, thought Private. "Iowa and Kansas are nice and flat --- "

"Private, no encouraging him." Private subsided with what looked like an abashed flipper drawn over his forehead.

Kowalski had to finish his sentence. " --- but Kansas would be the same and Iowa slightly affected."

Blowhole sagged. "You're sure? Aw, snap. I really wanted to swim over Salina, Stockton, and Sawyer ... wai-i-i-i-tt." The electronic eye flashed balefully and for a moment Kowalski thought he'd gone too far in baiting the dolphin mastermind. Would the weirdo transmit a killing beam? He stepped forward to attract Blowhole's aim before the laser eye modification could fricassee his friends. He closed his own eyes so tight they hurt.

But Blowhole wasn't through taunting. "I --- how did you get all this information about my scheme? No matter, it's still worth it. I'll get these glitches straightened out and the blend of Lineus longissimus --- "

Kowalski opened his eyes.

" --- Plectus murrayi --- "

Kowalski blinked.

" --- and Mesenchytraeus solifugus will help me rule the world!"

Kowalski exploded. "What? Mesenchytraeus solifugus? That's your third species?"

"Boy, you're one curious penguin." Blowhole got a patronizing look that reminded Kowalski that he was indeed Doris' brother. "Yeah, poor little Mesenchytraeus solifugus melts at 41 degrees Fahrenheit and since temperatures in the Arctic are warming due to climate change with average Arctic temperatures increasing at almost twice the global average rate, these babies collapse into goo and release their antifreeze into ice of any description, you name it, glaciers, polar ice and --- "

"Ice melts all over. Yeah, I get it. You said that before about global warming." Humility dripped over Kowalski's soul like a slow melt from one of the affected icebergs. It left a cold fire inside.

Skipper shifted beside Kowalski as all the pieces of Blowhole's plan now made sense. The tension in the lorry wouldn't seem to be able to rise further, but it did. Blowhole laughed as if the conflict upcoming fulfilled an urge for chaos that wouldn't be denied. "When did you hear me say that before? Never mind. The ice worms die and you're all not around to stop me. Win-win."

The words tumbled out as if Kowalski's subdued brain channeled his Skipper. "What's the third win? These things always come in threes."

"I don't have a number three. It's just an expression."

"These things always come in threes. Try harder."

Blowhole escalated to euphoria. "Won't matter, won't matter, because I've got the upper flipper. Told you!" Any trace of depression or shock vanished with another wild cackle of glee. "I've got a sasquatch on my side!"

Skipper regained his voice. "What you did to her is beneath contempt," he growled. "I don't care that it was consensual." What was that female up to? Now she rubbed her forehead as if Hugo were nearby.

"Where are you getting this information? Sasquatch, did you gossip in the zoo when I told you not to?"

Sasquatch floundered in her role but tried not to show it. "A girl's got to have someone to chat with." She had edged farther away from her boss and rested an arm on the nearest console to go for the casual look. The plasma cutter atop it was within inches of her undamaged hand. From inside the artic's trailer she had seen the floating incandescent cutter free her at mere directing gestures from Blowhole's flipper and she wanted that cutter bad. She cringed as if the entire situation overwhelmed her. Her fingers walked a step nearer.

Skipper burst out with a reasonable conclusion to take the brunt of the nutjob's attention. "And you'll use a homeschooled Viking army to further your future schemes! That's criminal on a whole other level, even for you."

"Crawling crabcakes! What?"

"Aren't
you?"

"No. That's just crazy."

"Oh."

"The sasquatch assassin and nematode nemeses are wild ideas enough. What were you thinking?"

"Um. Nothing."

The following cackle at Skipper's expense was superceded by a dire prediction. ''You can't die fast enough. Sasquatch, do your Перевал Дятлова thing like we talked about in Nepal, remember?" Blowhole scooted near the console in front of the tank to let the mêlée begin.  The last few minutes had been quite measured for a confrontation, so it took the youngest member of the team to introduce what the young do best: surprise the hell out of their elders.

"Oh no you don't! Never again! Remember Kastelholm!" To everyone's shock, Private slid like one of Rico's torpedoes towards Sasquatch's feet. He arched his supple back upon arrival to form a U shape and as his flippers supported the capoeira stance, an upside down wink passed between penguin and sasquatch. She punted his compact muscular body as she had on an icy rooftop.

Blowhole ascended into the ionosphere of giddiness. "Keep it up, old lady! Get that pen-gu-in! Ahhahahhahahah!"

Private aileroned his flippers to guide his course towards the righthand console nearest the back doors and landed on its chair. Blue Three made a half hearted try at escape but crumpled under a lightning fast karate chop. The swivel chair spun under the impact of the landing and the protruding edge of the console smacked Private over his left earhole. He nearly collapsed but then hung his head as he supported himself with a shaky flipper.

"Private!" Skipper advanced towards Blowhole. Despite Private's absence, Kowalski and Rico slipped ahead to form an attack triangle with Skipper its rear guard. Skipper grit his beak at not being on point and wasted no more words on the arrogant dolphin.

Blue Six determined to prove his worth. "I'm on it, boss!" He shoved his chair away from the console to send it rolling in the penguins' direction, perhaps not a deadly attack but providing a stumbling block, at least. Rico snap barfed a set of rubber chocks at two of its wheels and as the chair stopped short, Blue Six obeyed the law of gravity and kept on going. He tumbled from the chair to land on his back. "Ahhhh! No fair!" His scrabbling claws entangled in the rope linking the chocks and after some imaginative curses, he lay still, gasping.

Kowalski ended Blue One's mad rush at him with a hiiiiyahhh! and a sweep kick, but not before a claw sliced his thigh and drew blood. Blue One skidded directly in front of the bar to break three legs against its teakwood. He moaned and out of the corner of his eye Kowalski saw Blue Five pull him behind the bar. The scientist kept up pressure against the thigh and chanted we heal fast we heal fast to himself. "Keep going, Rico! Protect Skipper!"

Rico dove ahead of Skipper with a wild gabble that contained "YuhurtVen!" Blue Two took a defensive stand in front of Blowhole as Rico charged him.

"Take that, you psychotic penguin!" The crab waved its blue outsized claw while the smaller one rattled a staccato like César Millan's dog training clicker. Rico made a rude sound as he somersaulted over Blue Two by a good half penguin to land precariously on Blowhole's back two feet up from his flukes. Blowhole leaned down to swat him before he remembered how segway competence requires an upright stance. The realization came too late as the segway obeyed its rider and swung to the left.

Rico whooped Yippeekiyiyay! as he imitated Roscoe Jarboe's prize winning bullrider pose with one flipper waving an imaginary Stetson and the other balancing himself against the surprisingly soft hide. In less than the regulation eight seconds, he was forced into a Crouching Panda, Supercilious Snow Monkey dismount because the segway jolted forward to crush Blue Two into five separate pieces strung together by slime. "Sasquatch! Help!" screeched Blowhole.

This was worse than the time hunters who called themselves "harvesters" shot contraband 30.06 rounds into Sasquatch's herd. During that horrific episode, the unspoken reality of being a herd animal meant that others of her kind stood the same chance of being shot. Today, the moment Blowhole learned whose side she was really on, she formed a huge solitary target for the crabs and Blowhole himself. Her courage failed her as had Hugo's. What was she doing in with this violent group? She cringed for real in the small space between the bar and the left wall. She forgot about the plasma cutter as she covered her face.

Skipper chose Routine Sixteen: Mix 'Em Up Mêlée Melange as he finally, finally broke free of his mother hens in front of the bar. He chose a simple judo hip throw when Blue Five gained heart by his co-workers' bodaciousness and charged from behind the bar. As he crashed to the floor, Blue Five whimpered loud enough to drown out Skipper's own hah of smothered pain at the exertion. The crab scuttled back behind the bar and when Skipper poked his head around it in pursuit, Blues Five and One screamed. The penguin team leader contented himself with making his war face. Blue Five swooned dead away on top of Blue One's broken legs to make him faint, too. A glance over their fallen bodies showed Sasquatch cowering in the corner. Now what the hell was up with her? She looked like she was washing her hands of the whole plan.

Growling to himself, Skipper faced Blowhole head on.

Blowhole's subsonic squeal ripened into an audible, "Sasquatch! A little help here!" The segway's left wheel spun in what was left of Blue Two to make Blowhole's retreat as uneven as his balance. Guts spurted as the wheel zzzzzzzzrrred on the metal floor and Blowhole slammed crookedly against his tank.

Hearing the slam, Private swiped his flipper in front of his face to clear his head. There was no way Skipper's gut had been correct about today being near perfect. His eyes recorded two Skippers shimmering before two Blowholes. Private wobbled on the chair and when his movement sent it spinning in place, he lost the battle to keep his last meal. Despair at his helplessness swept over him as thoroughly as the disgusting sick cascaded over the unconscious Blue Three. He dragged himself to the edge of the chair and fell off, calling upon Routine Seventeen: Just Relax And Take It You Fool.

She could commit, or not. She could bull her way through to the back doors and trust they were only closed and not locked. More than ever, she yearned for her horns and the mass that had been carved away. After nine deep breaths, she recited her mantra and straightened her shoulders. Sasquatch headed to the fray as the mantle of shame shed like last winter's fur.

Skipper registered random assaults on his senses: the smell of Private's voided stomach contents, the sight of Blowhole's alarmed retreat, the sound of Kowalski's hitched gait as Rico supported him to back up their leader, the touch of cold steel floor beneath his recovering right pinkie claw and the taste of his own bile as his ulcers decided to act up. He drove for the win with an epiphany that had just hit him. It was perfect because it formed the third item from his previous list of two. "Blowhole, I'm betting that your consoles have a kill switch for the ice worms in case they grow beyond your control or get up close and personal with you. Am I right or am I right? I'm right. I knew it."

Blowhole's face said it all. "Don't you ever get tired of showing me up?" He poked his segway control panel and they all started as they looked around for whatever that activated. Rico took point as the only undamaged member of the team left and awaited orders. A new background akakakakak noise added to the murmur of the tank's pump, injured crab groans and crackles from one after another of the consoles.

Skipper heard Private stagger to his side. He didn't look around at the young penguin as he drilled Blowhole with the masterful gaze at which the Rat King quailed. Skipper had his beak open to ask is this all you've got? when Sasquatch drew near. "Ooops, sorry!" she said as she stumbled and ended the short minion career of Blue Six. He made no sound as her size 15EEE pulverized his exoskeleton. "I didn't mean to, boss!"

"Whatever! Just do it!"

Private rejoined his team. "Wot's goin' on?" He sounded confused and by Ringtail's Sky Spirits, he was too groggy to remember their plan. Now Skipper did turn aside to evaluate his soldier's condition and saw Private give a dazed stink-eye to Sasquatch. His gut warned Skipper that Private was not acting. A fierce knock on the noggin had reawakened the honest hatred he had harbored for her until recently.

Blowhole's voice turned deadly. ''Sasquatch, do your thing now."

Kowalski let go his thigh and drew himself up. He didn't think she would betray her new herd, but then she was female and he had trouble reading females. One glance to his right showed Skipper's face as calm as ever it got in battle. He trusted Sasquatch and so would his lieutenant.

"I am going to murder you, penguins." Sasquatch played her part as well as Sarah Siddons would have. She loomed over four little penguins to sweep them up and tuck them under one arm although they struggled gamely or acted like it. One deft hand plucked Private from the group and her other hand made as if to wring his neck like slaughtering a chicken for Sunday family dinner. Right before her palm closed over his eyes, Private's bleary gaze sought out Skipper as the last friend he'd see before diving into the Eternally Foggy Sea. Skipper sent all his reassurances in a look even as he played his part, too.

"No! Stop! Let him go, kill me! I've lived my life!" He saw Private's beak wibble with no words forthcoming.

Blowhole chanted, "Do it do it do it!"

Kowalski twisted himself in a different direction as if his sliced thigh grated against Sasquatch's brawny forearm. It did, but that didn't matter at the moment. "You butcher! Everyone, close your eyes!" On the last three words, Kowalski's voice got as high-pitched as any of them had ever heard it as the glass console screen still monitored by a frozen in place Blue Four shattered into micro shards. The crab thrust himself back from his workstation. His rolling lumbar chair banged against Blowhole's segway and the dolphin tottered off balance to flop like a flounder on the floor. He raised a flipper to his laser eye. The penguins heard a snap followed by a rising hum familiar to all fans of Commodore Danger films when the Ultimate Weapon prepared to discharge.

Skipper tossed out a command that he was sure Blowhole couldn't understand. "Rico! Thirty degrees larboard!"

"Aaaaaaaaa!" Rico snapped his head upwards as his auto-barf grappling hook snagged the plasma cutter from the top of a console. This was Rico's favorite auto-barf grappling hook and as it reeled itself back, he wrested a flipper from Sasquatch's deceptively loose grip to aim a well-placed karate chop that turned the plasma cutter on. Kowalski took over then as he gestured it to float in front of Sasquatch who was the largest spot among the many spots before his eyes. The unexpected effort took it out of him and he sagged against Rico.

"Afraid of you, harami? As if!" Sasquatch laughed and they'd never heard her genuine laugh. She placed Private gently on the floor and grabbed the live plasma cutter from the air. She raised her arm to let the other penguins drop without slicing feather, flesh, foot, or beak. She angled the blade back against Blowhole. Red laser met plasma blade. Blowhole's red eye laser blast zinged and zanged as it ricocheted from the green plasma around the interior of the lorry, finally shattering the sea water tank and dissipating in an explosive hisssss. The plasma cutter gave up its green ghost in a glow that highlighted Sasquatch's wide brown eyes. She dropped it with a "Harreram!"

"You --- traitor! Unnatural! Gargoyle!" Blowhole galumphed like an ungainly caterpillar towards Sasquatch until lifted by his aquarium tank's outpouring.

A salty suffocating wave surged to the lorry's door and then back, leaking through electronic consoles as it drowned the last hope for the entire linked control boards. The penguins surfed the sloshing waves until they reached Sasquatch who had planted her big feet against the floor. The water reached mid thigh on her as she stuck out her arms to balance in the deluge. After they made their way up her body, Kowalski loosened one flipper from her fur to brush water off Skipper's chest frantically and then stopped at a look from his commander saying that he would not get sick from the soaking because he couldn't. They struggled up to her shoulders, Rico and Kowalski on the left and Skipper and Private on the right. Shades of Manfredi and Johnson's killer tsunami, this had been a close one.

The team squinted to find where Blowhole had beached until the emergency lighting sizzled to nothing. In the murk, they heard Blowhole's "Until next time!"

"After him, boys! And lady!"

A dolphin-sized trapdoor opened under their aquatic adversary and the water followed the laws of fluid dynamics as it swooshed away and down. The four penguins and Sasquatch hurried to the opening in time to see Blowhole seal himself inside an escape ruse shaped especially for him. From its bay suspended underneath the lorry, the torpedo-like vehicle shot forward as its fairing scraped the undercarriage. Blowhole got away in a backfiring belch of internal combustion fumes. The last they saw of him was his bottlenose pointed defiantly forward as his flippers maneuvered a control yoke that looked like an airplane's. Blue Five and Blue Four dragged Blue One between them through the opening and disappeared to everyone's disinterest.

Kowalski said what didn't actually need to be said. "A customized Messerschmitt KR 201 roadster. It can do sixty miles per hour. Blowhole's on the loose again."

Skipper panted and sat on the abandoned segway's tire. "We stopped him from drowning the world. That's as good as it gets." He brushed off Private's attempts to preen the damp from his bald spot. "Leave it." Private seemed not to know what to do with himself until Rico lifted Kowalski's flipper with his and nodded at Skipper. Skipper placed his flipper atop Kowalski's and nodded at Private. Private acted more like himself as he slipped his flipper atop the penguin pile of appendages.

"Yayyyyy!"

"We did it. By Light-Horse Harry Lee, we did it."

"Sir, your gut was right."

"Ahgrommmtzteam!"

Sasquatch slogged through mushy piles of wiring that resembled intestines as she macerated already crushed crabs whose guts spurted from between her toes. She had a look of despair despite their triumph. "I'm stuck in this body. I --- I gave up everything to defeat him." She sat on the pommel of the segway as her weight lifted Skipper's seat until his legs left the floor. He swung his feet thoughtfully.

"Stuck in this body?"
Kowalski, Rico and Private chorused.

''No one else promised me what he did. No one else could have changed me. No one else can change me back."

Skipper turned hopeful eyes to his Science Guy. Kowalski shook his head. "I don't dare try. I'm not as smart as Blowhole or Dave." It was a bald statement and must have cost Kowalski a great deal.

Blue Three moaned from a soggy mess of apples, lichen, broken champagne flutes and fescue. He rubbed his eyestalks like a sleepy hatchling. "What did I miss?"

IOIOIOIOIO

TBConcluded
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