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."
"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?"
"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.
"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?"
"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."
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!"
"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."
"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."
They turned in after Skipper doused the Vasarely Vision. The peace lasted ninety minutes.
"Mrrrf, wot is it?"
"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."
"Aye aye, sir."
Rico was quieter than normal for the next two days after his 'special briefing.'
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.
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."
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.
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 ...
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!