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Barduil over on tumblr seems to have started this?  Anyhoo, comment on old ficcage, completed fics, WIPs, fanart that sets one's heart pitter pattering ... it's all good.  Make someone smile tomorrow.  Link below is close approximation to the OP.
pronker: (Default)  

... but dang, these are good!  All convo?  Yes.  All genres?  Yes.  Sort of drabblish, flash-ficcy?  Yes.  Great and fun reads.

This is the most amount of time I've ever spent on tumblr. :)
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Title:  Quotidian

Author:  pronker

Era:  Anytime during the show's run, afterwards, and likely before it, too.

Genre:  PWP

Summary:  Kowalski wouldn't be human if he didn't like to strut his stuff.  [NOT a humanized fic.]

A/N below.


On any given non-mission day, Kowalski sets aside five minutes for teasing, his way of showing that he does, too, have a sense of humor.  His team mostly emits groans of show-off at the big words and Skipper chimes in with, "Put a quarter in the show-off jar, Kowalski, sheesh we're building up to gorilla-sized hot fudge sundaes all around in there."

The day his team turns the tables on him starts like many others.


"No more Froot Loops?  Aw."

Kowalski shuttled the Cheerios box across the table.  "Here, sir.  Mango slices to top?"

Skipper made a face at the notion of desecrating a classic mix of cereal and milk.  "Nope, these are good as is."  He adjusted to the taste of plain oats.  

"You are a purist, Skippa."  Private swirled the yellow Froot Loops to one side of his bowl and arranged the orange ones to their left and the green ones to their right.  "I'm makin' a rainbow!"

Rico looked up from a game of sinking his Cheerios under his spoon to keep tabs on where they surfaced.  "RoyGBiv!"


Now was the perfect time to play: a quiet morning, a peaceful morning because the lemurs slept late as always and Marlene had no crisis to tend.  Roy and Burt had patched up their quarrel, Mason and Phil likewise, and the chameleons were recovering nicely from attempts to imitate plaid.  

Kowalski sipped the milk from his spoon and left the Cheerios for last in a squishy blob, which he ushered into his mouth by using his genetic tongue-rolling ability to form a siphon.  He wiped his beak daintily afterwards and began.  "Oh no, our Skipper will never be a franion."  He rose to dig through the box of frozen waffles for the one with no crumbled corners that would be his alone.

The bubbles outside the portholes rose for one full minute before Skipper answered.  "You're correctamundo there, m'man."

Skipper, Rico and Private exchanged nods behind his back as Kowalski busied himself at the microwave.

"Nope, Kowalski, I'm resigned that I will not experience epicureianism.  In fact, I'm velleitous about it."  Skipper crunched into the oat circles that resisted getting soggy per his explicit orders.

This was new, this was strange.  Kowalski's mind spun on the two unfamiliar words as he stared at the four revolving waffles through the microwave window.  Timing was crucial to render waffles soft without turning them into Brillo pads.  "Ding!  Here we are, second course to breakfast coming up.  This one's mine."  He shortstopped the plate of yum to slide the perfect pocked rectangle onto his place setting before centering the plate on the table.  Private reached for the darkest waffle.

"Speakin' of, K'walski, do you think Alice is elumbated?  I noticed she had trouble climbin' her ladder to put up the Zoo Snooze banners."

Skipper snorted and reached for the waffle nearest him.  He flipped it over to check for doneness.  "Alice probably has other problems to think about, Private, like her maschalephidrosis, am I right?"  He winked at Private and the two of them exploded into guffaws.

"Mass Kuh Lef Id RO Sis!" chortled Rico around a beakful of waffle as he joined them.  "Heehayhoohoo!"  He pounded the table and their flatware danced the Boogaloo.

Kowalski tried to keep up.  "All right, all right, Alice may not be a candidate for apodyopsis and her thin skin is particularly meable, but she's not all that bad.  Zookeeper X was worse."

Teasing and sarcasm had a lot in common, so Skipper blended the two with all the caution and forethought regarding the subject that suffused his nature.  That is to say, none.  "Are you saying that the team's relationship with Alice is incommensurate with reality like yours is imparlibidinous with Doris?"

"Oh Skippa."  Private shoved his cereal bowl aside.

Rico put down his waffle before he finished it and for him to do that, something heinous must have been spoken.  "Burn, 'Kippaaaahhh."

"What?  Too far?"  By the untroubled look on Kowalski's face, the word's meaning flew over his head and no way was Skipper going to enlighten him.  He backpedaled.  "Uh, how about those Penguins winning the Stanley Cup again?"

Teasing faded from Kowalski's thoughts with the mention of Doris.  "Whatever you said about Doris and me, and I admit I do not know that term, is nongermane.  Our love is timeless."

This was getting out of hand; specifically, the hand that translated big words from an internet search, the glib hand belonging to a certain chimp named Phil, who signed the words in slow motion to his partner Mason, who spoke the words ever so carefully to Skipper and Private and Rico.  The chimps would do about anything to prank a fellow zooster.  And that's all this was, right, a harmless prank?  Now Skipper wasn't so sure.  And for Perry Mason's sake, what could anyone who knew the pair's history reply to such a starry-eyed, untrue statement?

"Uh, sorry to bring up Doris --- "

Now Kowalski was on a roll.  "She'll come back to me.  We'll pick up where we left off.  She might even join the team!  Wouldn't that be great, sir?  A dolphin on our team, why we could visit Atlantis more often, I can just see it now, Doris would ask her friends there to put us up --- "

Skipper shivered.  Doris' friends, and probably Doris herself by now, would wear the Atlantean equivalent of granny glasses, peasant skirts, and love beads.  They would blather of moons being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with a Mars bar.  "Put us up the wrong tree, you mean, uh that came out weird oh forget about Doris, Kowalski."

"Not possible, sir.  Not even for the team."

This was too serious for six-thirty in the a.m.  Damn.  Double damn, triple damn, hell.  Skipper was not good with words, not like Kowalski was, anyway.  He groped for a way to restore their usual morning mood.  Private was the one to dethrone the autocrat of the breakfast table by being completely honest.

"K'walski, I was prankin' you."

"Metu."  Rico shredded the remainder of his waffle.  "Ha.  Ha."  He formed the bits into an outline of a Molotov cocktail.  "Ha?"

Skipper regained his equilibrium.  "Come on, lighten up, team!  So, Kowalski, we wanted some way to fight back because, and I might regret these words, you're the smartest penguin around.  Now don't get a swelled head like you did that one time."

It was quiet in the HQ.  The bubbles rising past the porthole slowed to spy on the situation in suspense.  They didn't have long to wait.

"You mean the time I experimented to make myself even smarter?  It proved impossible."

Equilibrium was never meant for statements like these.  "You're impossible!"  

"K'walski, hang about, that's that's --- well I don't know wot it is except, um, impossible.  Not the sentence, the idea that you actually said it oh I give up.  You know wot I mean."  

"Burn, Kwoskii."

Kowalski slapped the last mango slice onto his perfect waffle and folded it roughly to make an imperfect sandwich, but he didn't care.  "I maintain that I do have a sense of humor in re my last sentence, ipso facto."  The sandwich slid down as easily as the mushy mess of mashed Cheerios.

"Aw snap, he pranked us, men.  I'm ashamed."

"Way to go, K'walski!"

Rico flipped a bit of his ruined waffle Kowalski's way and Kowalski caught it like a tossed peanut.  "Notburn."


Kowalski continues to strut on mornings of leisure.  The team learns words such as jejune and counts themselves lucky when the time of mental exercise dwindles to three minutes from the original five.  Kowalski makes all of them promise that when he and Doris reunite, they will visit Atlantis as a team.  Skipper makes Kowalski promise that if a visit occurs, hippie attire will not impact the team's stated policy of clothing optional.  

The gorilla-sized portions of hot fudge sundaes give them all tummyaches on Independence Day 2017.


The End.



Apodyopsis:  The act of imagining someone naked

Elumbated:  Weak in the loins

Epicureianism:  Pleasure is the highest goal, but a restrained sort of pleasure

Franion:  Someone of loose behavior, a pleasure seeker

Imparlibidinous:  Pertaining to an unequal state of desire between two lovers

Maschalephidrosis:  Runaway armpit perspiration

Meable: Easily penetrated

PWP:  Polysyllabic Word Presentation

Quotidian:  Occurring every day to the point of tedium

Velleitous:  Desiring, without the action or involvement to effect change
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Title:  Scooping

Author:  pronker

Era:  Movie-Verse, twenty-six days after the prologue.  

Summary:  Four young penguins make do without their fathers on Fathers Day until an adequate substitute steps in.

Dedication:  To my dad.


Rico came up from underneath the struggling penguin chick and boosted him back onto the chunk of ice that formed their abode these days.   "Gotcha, 'Rivate!"  He leaped out of the frigid sea water three minutes before Skipper and when he offered a flipper to help Skipper himself up, Skipper acted like he hadn't seen the courtesy.

"I think he's had enough for today," Kowalski said as Skipper popped onto the ice.  Kowalski patted Private's back as the wet youngster clutched the tall 'tween's waist.  Private buried his face in the soft white feathers of the solar plexus until Kowalski grunted and eased him back a scosche.  If Skipper didn't know better, he'd say that Private was afraid to look him in the eye after his failure to learn today's lesson.  He couldn't figure out what to do next with the little guy.  Skipper missed his dad's advice until he shook off the feeling.  There was no turning back to childhood.

"Yeah, okay.  I guess so."  The currents carrying their lifeboat of ice northward from Antarctica were fierce, it was true, and perhaps Skipper had made an error in judgment by pushing such a young penguin into them.  Since Private could talk directly after hatching, it seemed like his physical abilities would match up.  They didn't.

Rico tapped Skipper on the back to make him turn around.  "'Kippaaahfeeeeesh?"  he asked, dumping half a Patagonian toothfish onto the ice.  He rubbed his wonder tum as he licked his beak.  "Gooooodfeeeesh."

"Oh, yeah!"  Skipper chowed down and it was great stuff, sweet and tender right down to the tip of the caudal fin.  "Mmmmm, you're a good hunter, Rico."

Rico looked over Skipper's shoulder at something and broke into a soft-footed shuffling dance.  He patted his feet to slap the ice in a rhythm that he hummed until Skipper sat down to watch the performance.  "Ahh, dinner theater!  So that's folk dancing in your old hometown back in Hamarskaftet Nunatak?  Looks like fun."  

"Yah."  Rico continued until he got out of breath.  The sounds of pattering feet gave way to another sound above the whish of sea water devouring their ice home.  The new sound contained sniffling and murmurings of comfort.  After another quick look behind Skipper, Rico introduced juggling four mackerel and ended with a Ta-daaaah!  and then a Hooboy! as Skipper swiveled to spot Kowalski still cuddling Private.  

The youngest penguin within one hundred forty cubic miles of ocean had resumed his baby baby practice of standing on the feet of anyone handy.  Twenty minutes after his swimming lesson, Private had graduated to pressing his cheek against Kowalski's midriff so he could see what he could see by looking out to sea.  He zipped his face back into the feathers at Skipper's approach.

"Kowalski, don't coddle him.  The current whittles this ice block smaller every day and we all might have to swim for it --- "

Kowalski had shut his eyes in bliss at his early parenthood or brotherhood, he didn't really know or care which, but now he opened them in warning.  "Don't you mean you and I and Rico would swim and push the ice chunk along with Private on it?  I think that's what you meant."

Somehow Skipper wound up being the bad guy and he wouldn't stand for it.  "No, that's not what I meant."

Rico rose from his tired sprawl.  "'Kippaaaah --- "

"I'm sorry I'm not a better swimmer, Skippa --- "  Private's words came through muffling dense feathers.

"Apologies don't cut it with me.  Hey!"  Rico spun Skipper around and loomed his height over the friend he trusted most.  It was no brag, just fact that he could sit on anyone inhabiting this bit of congealed aitch-two-oh and they'd hurt for days.

Rico growled like a Siberian husky on caboose position at the sled dogs' chow line.  "Nice."

"I am nice.  I'm also needing Private to learn to swim for his own sake, and and, for mine.  And for the rest of you.  We all saved him from leopard seals and we all want to survive --- "

"KaffthePrivatekaff --- "

" --- this argument so we all can be together like brothers ought to be.  There.  Nice enough?"  The sentence hadn't started in his head that way, but he was satisfied with the way it came out.  "So, Private, are you up to getting back in the swim of things?  Say yes."

Private turned to face his teacher until only his heels remained on Kowalski's feet and Kowalski ringed his shoulders in a protective hug from behind.  "I'm scared."  Kowalski squeezed Private's collarbones until Private got pop-eyed.  He broke free of the grip and stood on his own two feet.  He raised his chin even though it wibbled.

"You're --- a penguin, how can you be afraid of the water  --- never mind.  It is what it is.  We're all behind you, Private --- "

"Pushin' me in!"

Skipper sounded honestly confused.  "What about it?  It's how my own Poppop taught me --- "

Rico spoke almost simultaneously with Kowalski.  "Itwuz?"

"Well, yeah.  Wasn't it the same for you guys?"

Two shakes of the head.  "Rico and I got scooped, right, Rico?  Ah, the memories linger."  A sublime grin preceded a lengthy gabble from Rico that Skipper understood partway and when Rico finished, he shared a nostalgic smile with Kowalski.

Skipper considered.  "So scooping might be the best option for the best result, hey, Kowalski?  Lay some newfangled technique on me, buddy."

Kowalski assumed his favored teaching stance, head high, flippers clasped behind his back.  "Scooping is when the parent bird gets into the water first and hoists the youth, who stands on the rim of the iceberg.  The parent then dips the whole totes adorbs little body, ahem, I mean the child's whole body under the water for five seconds before drawing the child up to the chest while they laugh and splash together."

Skipper rubbed the back of his neck.  "Play?  I can do play."

"Um, you can?"


"I can, too."

"If you say so, Skipper.  Don't worry, Private, Rico and I will be standing by."

Skipper adjusted his favored stance, flippers akimbo and chin jutted.  "I'd like you two to get in with me.  We'll be together, just like brothers.  You want to be our brother, like family, right, Private?  You'll enter the water and join us?"  This felt like leadership; this felt right.  It had to work.  "We'll take turns scooping you until you feel better about it --- "

Private's chin wobbled even more.  "I want my real mommy and daddy!"  He sat on the ice and put his flippers over his face.

Now this might be a sticking point.  The three 'tweens had no prayer of turning the ice floe around in this current to return to Antarctica.  Finding Private's true relatives was impossible.  Three long faces turned into two when Skipper came up with his best idea that day.  "Private, when we all grow up, we'll go find your mommy and daddy in Antarctica and tell them what a big brave boy you were today.  We'll make sure they know that their baby had the best support around, right, guys?"  

Kowalski had a caveat.  "We will return, even if this ice disappears from under our feet --- ow!"  He glared at Rico.


Skipper flashed back on his dad's reassuring manner.  "Never mind Gloomy Gus, kiddo.  We'll pull through even if push comes to shove and we get dunked in a week or so --- hey, do you see what I see?"

The sight of a seaworthy ship bearing down on them took their breath away.  The old wreck off Antarctica's shores on which they'd eluded leopard seals carried death as cargo and this shiny white ship brimmed with life.  Shouts became clearer as the ship with two stacks reaching for the cirrus clouds overhead got nearer.  Crewmembers raced about the deck, aimed field glasses and lowered a small boat at a safe distance from the ice floe.  A blaring bullhorn directed seamen and by the time the boat reached the floe, three young penguins clotted around a central fluffy penguin.  Three men wearing ice gripper boots clambered aboard while a fourth manned the tiller.   One bearded explorer knelt beside the quartet.

"Is that one trying to karate me?  Formidable!"  Arms tipped with grasping fingers swaddled Skipper in a towel.  Skipper bit and kicked.  "Steady, we won't hurt you, mon petit chou.  Here, Juan, take this one.  Be careful, he bites."  A mesh bag soon held the four water birds.

"Got 'em all, Fabien."

"How did they get so far from home?  Another week in this current and the ice would disappear, poof!  These bébés are much too young to be on their own.  I wonder what their story is?"

As the boat skimmed over the waves back to the mother ship, Skipper studied the strong, kind face that reminded him of his father, well, on the inside.  He felt protected and the feeling eased the transition from having total responsibility for three other lives to sharing it.  The others would be looking to him for an example.

"Smile and wave, boys.  We've been scooped."


The End.

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"Basta," hissed Manfredi from two feet below the warehouse ceiling.  He and Johnson had first crammed between the wooden top supporting the Jacobs ladder and the corrugated metal roof of the warehouse.  For penguins of their substantial size and combat experience, it had been frustrating to hear all what went on thirty feet below and not see it.  They abandoned what looked to them like an upside down table screwed to the roof and clung now to the futtock shrouds just below it.

Johnson shushed him.  "Wait for the others, dude.  We're outgunned."  The plea for patience would be about as successful as it always was with his buddy.  The stakes were too high to risk more commandos getting caught or worse, though.  This gang topped any meanness that Johnson had ever heard of by a factor of twelve.

"Can't you see what's happening?  Do you want to witness what this faccia di stronzo does next to the kid --- "

"'Course not.  Of course not."

Manfredi and Johnson squirmed and if the futtock shrouds creaked with their shifting weight more than they had before, the entranced gang of eight below did not notice.  There were advantages to being heavy, Manfredi thought; for one thing, fighting opponents about three times the heft of your species' norm meant that you had more mass to do damage than if you were trim.  Too, you could avoid damage by being more maneuverable than these giants.  At least, that was the theory.  

Manfredi threw caution to the winds to test the theory.  He knew without doubt that Johnson would be right behind as he flung himself headfirst off the shrouds and scrambled onto the Jacobs ladder proper with his usual battle cry.


In their years of soldiering together, Johnson proved a wilder gambler, sloppier eater and worse heartbreaker than Manfredi.  The one thing he never did was disappoint and as his incomprehensible war whoop echoed across the high ceiling, Manfredi figured that two against eight were fairly good odds.

"Dauði er víss líf er ekki!"


Darting from under the boxcar sitting on the deadend warehouse railroad tracks, Private put on a last burst of speed to reach the warehouse doors.  "Crikey, get a move on, K'walski!"

"It's Rico's fault I'm slow!  Come on, big fella, hustle to keep up!  It's three for one and all for the mission!  Never swim alone!"

"Holdonnamint!"  Rico pulled even with his two teammates and burped up a half of halibut, a cache of cod and a smidgen of smelt.  He expanded his burly chest and flapped his flippers.  A look of near demonic concentration flared on his face.  Three titanic belches later, three largish blobs of C-4 materialized at Rico's feet.  A hiccup and their detonator appeared.

Kowalski stared.  "Wow.  This is more dangerous than your --- I didn't know you could do that, Rico."

"Yahhehehfirstym."  Even Rico was taken aback at his newest ability.  It took Private to regain their momentum.

"Blast it now!  We need to know wot's goin' on in there!"  Private was beside himself.  He raised both flippers for a double karate chop at the massive warehouse doors.

Kowalski fiddled some more with their BlackBerry.  "Wait!  Let's give this another try!"  He punched savagely at the device.  "Anything on the Bluetooth headsets?"  He turned away from them to mutter testing Tesla's coils testing Tesla's coils testing testing testing.

The silence was pierced only by a stray seagull's skrawk.  At the end of thirty seconds and start of his teammates' impatient expressions, Kowalski lost his temper.  "We don't have teeth so it makes sense that a Bluetooth wouldn't work when you most need it just you wait until I get a lab I'll make us all into waddling radio receivers using our individual electric fields so we won't require headsets ---"

"That's very interestin', K'walski.  I'm sure there's a cryin' need for that.  Do you mind if I stay in the here and now?  Hiyahhhh!"  Private sucked on his flippertips after his ineffectual chop.  "Ow."

Rico already had the situation under control.  He stuck the explosives equally apart along the long length of the sliding metal doors.  Kowalski mastered his hissyfit and fine tuned the plan with great diplomacy.  "Rico, I know you've not demolished outside of war games, buddy, so here's a hint.  We only need to blast the locking parts of the door.  If the blasts buckle both doors or their double track or both, the doors will be that much harder to open --- "

"Hehright."  Rico aimed a high one in Kowalski's direction and changed tactics.  "Downnao!"

Private and Kowalski hit the dirt.


The grayish interior of the warehouse sparkled with sunflecked dust motes when the sun suddenly sprayed full power through the clerestory windows to the west.  It was all a glorious light show to Skipper's fading vision.  He was beyond everything.  No more pain, no more confusion, just the assurance that nothing mattered any longer.  Even the mission didn't matter.  Hope itself didn't matter.  If the two words feel and dispassion weren't polar opposites, he'd say he felt dispassion.  A reflex left over from happiness made his beak smile and he was at peace.

Gacy saw the smile and crooned, "Easy now, we don't want you to think that we don't appreciate you, Skipper, no need to rush The Game --- hold the spreader bar still for me, 'Bama --- why is it shaking --- who are you blokes?"

Skipper grunted as the weight of Gacy flew off him as swiftly as it had landed.  "Urgleblottlehuh?"

Somehow the offbalance movement wound up the Jacobs ladder on its axis tightly as a "Hey, rævhål!  Look up!" dropped from above like a slung blackjack.  Skipper held onto his lunch with difficulty as the torqued netting untorqued to a shivering halt to leave him facing upwards again.  His spaced out brain conflated his two veteran soldiers with a ghastly scene from a film he'd seen on a dare, Trainspotting.  A human baby having the conjoined heads of Manfredi and Johnson crawled headfirst towards him.  Would the horror of this afternoon ever end?  A whimper squeezed its way past his willpower.  Where had his peace gone?

Gacy's exclamation of disbelief stuck in his craw until he switched to commands.  "Two, I see two!  We can take them!  Potsdam Maneuver, straightaway!"  Whatever else he would have said got drowned out by a kaboom!  as the two main doors to the building shot past the end of their track.  They quivered as if alive and unsure whether to fall outwards a short distance to the wall or inwards to crash flat on the floor.  'Bama recovered from his shock with the resilience of youth and raced to the doors.

"Back!  You'll never brace them, you stupid --- get away from them, 'Bama!"  But youth also was the home of bravery, substance abuse, impaired judgment and disregard for good advice.  'Bama stood steadfast by the doors as they teetered off-track and then slanted towards the interior of the warehouse.  He raised his flippers to hold the doors up and right before they crushed him, he screamed a defiant rebel yell.  His Swiss Army knife flew backwards from the impact and Manfredi went for it with a speed he'd been saving for the Penguin Commandos Annual Picnic Sack Race.

Gacy's gang gathered themselves under the onslaught of Johnson, who had flipped past Manfredi down the Jacobs ladder to land by Skipper's hindquarters.  Johnson turned into a Berserker, a whirling, screaming dervish who chopped and sweep kicked to knock the surrounding emperors staggering.  Because they were larger than he was, they did not fall and so he refined his technique to capoeira as his rage dwindled to cold calculation.  The style developed by fighters who had their upper bodies constrained by handcuffs and suchlike served him well to defend his defenseless commander.  He ducked and crouched, shifting backwards and forwards to evade their grasp as six of them pulled away from Skipper to engage with their new foe.  On a hunch, he broke and bellyslid towards the stacks of plastic models twenty feet north of the Jacobs ladder.  

"Get after him, you lot!  I'm on the fat one!"  Gacy shouted.

Manfredi growled loud enough to reach Gacy's earholes through the echoes of the blast.  The gang leader had guts galore or delusions of invincibility to take on an insulted penguin of Manfredi's kind.  His next words dug him in deeper into Manfredi's disdain.  "Fat or not, you are tiny and I'll make you into Ruby Murray before it's time for Rosy Lea!"

Private may have known the references and returned an appropriate taunt, but Manfredi saved his breath for battle.  The emperor penguin lumbered toward him with force and no grace.  From twenty feet away, Manfredi spared Skipper a glance.  His commander might suffer permanent crippling if tied so tightly for long.  Manfredi had been on the losing end of battles enough to discount thoughts of winning quickly and finding time to free a prisoner afterwards.  Gacy was between Manfredi and his imprisoned commander, therefore Gacy must fall, and soon.


Johnson slid past stacked boxes of plastic models whose gaudy illustrations advertised the parts within and caught his eye.  A monster from an old movie about a screaming female navigating the Amazon River raked bloody claws in his direction.  Airplanes from World War II fought endlessly on, colored Messerschmitts and Zeroes and Mustangs posed on each box to form squadrons ready for battle.  Hmmm, battle.  A tiny idea bloomed like an early crocus.


"Quiet, Rico!"  The dust from the collapse of the doors still clouded the air.  Kowalski hauled Rico to a dark corner with one flipper and pulled Private along with the other.  "Quiet, Private!  Standard operating procedure is to scope out the sitch and then form options, trust me on this."  The three huddled and felt like cowards when they beheld Manfredi facing down a penguin who topped him by two feet.  They could hear Johnson's followers shouting among themselves.

"Stop fighting me, Private!  Rico, get your breath back!"  Kowalski pushed Rico to his knees to recover from the blast radius which launched the dust nimbus that still spread.  Rico put both flippers over his face and hyperventilated.  Gradually, the natural remedy of tears washed away what it needed to and he sniffled.  He looked around their new surroundings and gestured to the exact middle of the warehouse.  


Private swiveled his attention from busting loose of Kowalski's grasp to peer through the cloud of dust, too.  "Skippa's there, I can see him!  He's not movin'!"  The young penguin danced excitedly in the grip.  "Let me go!  He needs me!"

Kowalski stood his ground.  "We won't do Skipper or Manfredi or Johnson any good if there's no plan.  Private, that's what Skipper would order."

Private regained a measure of calm.  "Righto.  Yes, he would.  Okay, then."  Kowalski released Private and thought fast as the action unfolded.  

"Johnson has six goons after him, so he's the priority.  Rico, can you sneak quietly in the shadows around the perimeter of this building and meet Johnson on the east side of those storage racks?  Private and I will flank them on the west in a pincers maneuver."  Kowalski held his breath because sneaking and quietly did not fit Rico's style.

Rico wiped his eyes clear and his beak clean.  He nodded before sliding off as quickly as an orca chasing a harp seal and as quietly as a box jellyfish striking.  Kowalski triaged Skipper as best he could from a distance and said the necessary.  "Private, Skipper is safe at the moment.  You and I will --- "

"Wot if he d-died all alone over there?"

That thought had crossed Kowalski's mind.  "We'll avenge him.  Now pull yourself together like the commando you are."  Private stiffened at the sting.  

"I may not be smart like you, but I'm not a flippin' flibbertigibbet, K'walski."

"Then prove it."  Ack, he'd put his foot in his beak again, but this was not the time to smooth ruffled feathers.  "Follow me."

"Aye aye, sir."


"Spoil our Game, will you?"  Gacy approached Manfredi, who stood calmly with the knife haft in both flippers and the fish scaling blade pointed straight at him.  "Little pigsticker like that won't hurt me --- "


Rico shot within six feet of Johnson before Johnson noticed him.  "Rico!  Glad to see you, pal!"


There was five feet between the end of the aisle of storage shelving and the wall.  The boxes of plastic models on their steel racks could be heaved at the pursuers or maybe he and Rico could gain the topmost level fifteen feet up.  Yes, that would work.  Then the two of them could run aloft back to where Manfredi faced that smarmy mouthed maniac.  Never fight alone was the motto that he and Manfredi came up with after their first barroom brawl in Dar es Salaam.  

Johnson didn't know what to make of Rico's next words.




"Oh, behind."  Johnson rolled upright with a combat stance that Rico had never seen.  Johnson ducked and bounced on both feet, weaving rapid steps to the left and then right and then to the back.  "Come on, two against six and one has a gimpy leg, we got this, bud!"

Confidence surged through Rico and so did a chainsaw.  "Pizzacake!"

"Where on earth did that come from?"

Rico didn't answer because he had no idea and would not have until much, much later.  However, unlike his friend Kowalski, he excelled at hearing his gut instincts.  "Hooohooohahahahhasuckas."  He waved the spitting chainsaw and the first emperor to come through the end of the narrow aisle screamed.  The emperors behind the first one slammed into him as he backpedaled to result in a Lincoln Tunnel rush hour traffic smashup.  Squawks and cries of What the ---  echoed throughout the warehouse.

If Johnson had teeth, he would have swallowed them.  He roared over the chainsaw's clamor.  "Rico!  You can't just slaughter --- "

But Rico improvised a firm plan from the getgo.  He swung the chainsaw as he crowed like a rooster at dawn.  Johnson saw that its blade aimed to savage the stacks of boxes.  Hard molded pieces of plastic ailerons, tail assemblies, underbellies, landing struts, decapitated monster heads and P-51 Mustang canopies splintered into flying shrapnel that peppered the group.  Shredded box illustrations of the Creature From The Black Lagoon Model and Frankenstein's Monster Model blended with the ME-109's Iron Cross insignia to flutter high and drift low in colorful clutter.  Rico avoided hitting the steel racks' uprights by a non-existent hair on his chinny chin chin and adjusted aim from wild slashes to graceful figure eights, his growing confidence adding to the wattage of his grin.

Johnson was in love.


After a quick look to see his teammates' entry, Manfredi kept silent as Gacy lunged.  When the emperor penguin bent to punch Manfredi into next week, Manfredi stuck the point of the fish scaler blade into the cement floor.  Using the sturdiest blade in the Swiss Army knife's armory as a pole vault, he kept it in his grip as the athleticism of his move allowed him to evade Gacy's punch, swing his legs over Gacy's back and stick an upright landing.  As Gacy followed the momentum of his punch, he overbalanced and knocked his head on the cement.  Manfredi trampled atop Gacy's spine to his tail, poking fiercely with the blade along the way for good measure.  He hit the floor waddling before sliding at speed to Skipper's side.

Twelve slices of the pruning blade later, Skipper was freed.  Manfredi cradled him to his chest and hauled him a yard away from the strangling Jacobs ladder that would have witnessed a scene to shame Hell.  The adrenaline pooling from recent action got to Manfredi and he smacked Skipper's cheek harder than he meant.  "Rise and shine!  Reveille!  Ta TA tatata ta TA tatata --- "


"Fight it off!"


"That jadrool did a number on you, the facciagul.  Wake up, I gotta go help Johnson, aw no, aw don't, kid --- "

The lack of adrenaline got to Skipper and his woozy body reacted as his spirit drowned in a sea he'd never explored: hopelessness.

"It's okay, simmer down, aw no don't, it'll be okay, geeze I dunno what to do next don't have a meltdown now --- "

"Faildfaildfaild --- "

"So what?
 Happens to everybody, this is just your first time, kid."  There was a riproaring buzz from the far end of the aisle forty feet away that sounded encouraging.  Johnson must have figured out how to tear into his attackers, because it was beyond Manfredi's belief that they were tearing into him.  Was that a chainsaw?  Was the caterwauling spewing from Rico?  

"Come on, let's get you on your feet, upsydaisy there you go nope not yet you're still made of rubber.  Eh, well.  Just rest.  I've got your six."

After twenty relaxing breaths, there were multiple penguins moving at the corner of his eye and Kowalski's unmistakable baritone rang strong.  "Manfredi, watch your five o'clock!"



"Rico, you can stop now."

The chainsaw continued from sheer joy of destruction, Johnson estimated, until he tapped Rico's back.  "Enough.  Stand down, boy."

What flowerbud of mayhem that had sprouted in Rico's gaze bloomed into common sense instead.  "Heh.  Heh.  'Kay."  Rico cast aside the saw.  

"They're conked out.  Good work, rookie."

Rico examined the six birds of crime piled in a heap of black, white and red.  An unattached artificial leg gerrymandered from a slotted spoon and a funnel stuck out of the pile.  "Blud."

"Yeah, from some of them.  Some more than some others.  Let's tie 'em up."  There was nothing around.  "So Manfredi and the guys probably got Gacy all right and tight, three on one, yeah?  Me and Manfredi know what to do about Skipper, no worries.  He's just doped up.  Gotta say these are nasty gangbangers, Rico."  Johnson cuffed Rico's shoulder.  "Hey, you are all right!  The chainsaw was scary genius."  He looked around some more.  "Maybe this strapping twine will work --- "

A commotion seesawed in volume from the direction of the Jacobs ladder.  "LaterzYonsn."

"Let's slide!"


"Do I hear a chainsaw?  More armament from Rico's gut?  Change in course to starboard, Private!"

Kowalski saw his warning take effect as Manfredi twisted around without unseating Skipper from his hold.  Through reflection back and forth from clerestory to glass display case to the static pair of penguins, a well-lit scene of protection embedded itself in his heart.  Skipper's features slackened to resemble death in a look that Kowalski had never seen on him and Manfredi showed a more tender side in the way he made himself into a microfiber pillow for their groggy commander.

"I'm on it, K'walski!"  Private curved his slide to aid Johnson and Rico into a parabola towards the Jacobs ladder instead.  After hearing a chainsaw and Rico's manic whoop of glee, Manfredi's predicament seemed more dire to him, too.

Gacy whipped his bleeding head around to the newcomers.  The skimpy cloud cover blew away for a time and bright afternoon sunshine cascaded into the warehouse except for the farthest corners.  In the warehouse section earmarked for sailing supplies, gear for intrepid sailors lined parts of the far wall: davits stacked upright to conserve space vied with unfurled canvas samples of sheets ready for order in full yachting size.  Two new penguins slid from either side of a displayed scaled-down model ship that would suit his gents for escape.  Hmmph, escape?  From these midget narcs?  He snarled.  "Puny gits, you spoiled our Game!"

Manfredi gentled Skipper's head from his lap to the floor before he moved two yards away to clear the deck for action.  "He said that before.  What a boring bastardo he is, sir.  Do you want me to clock him?"

Skipper gargled in the affirmative.  

Gacy ran full out to overwhelm Manfredi by sheer mass despite the knife in Manfredi's grip.  Manfredi didn't have a chance to evade the charge until from nowhere Johnson executed an insanely dangerous  forward roll like a bowling ball thrown by Mark Sauceda.

Skipper lay in a fetal curl where Manfredi had placed him.  Upon hearing a rustling roll and Manfredi's Johnson!, he opened his eyes.  His confusion at the unclear sight increased until the two moving blobs presented a mental exercise to help his slow recovery:  Two penguins are steaming toward one another. The first penguin leaves Villainy Point at five p.m. traveling at thirty miles per hour. The second penguin leaves Good Guytown at seven p.m. traveling at forty miles per hour.  The distance between Villainy Point and Good Guytown is 455 miles. What is the exact time that the collision will occur?  He closed his eyes to think better and nearly passed out.  He rallied and opened his eyes once more upon hearing the battle cry of another of his soldiers.

"Banzai!"  Rico assumed a sumo stance at Manfredi's side as Kowalski and Private slid up beside him.  The four took in the view of Johnson colliding with Gacy with enough force to roll chest high.  As Gacy stumbled yet did not fall, Johnson uncorked an uppercut using Gacy's own wishbone as a place to stand.  The posture lasted long enough for the blow to connect and splinter the end of Gacy's beak.  Johnson backflipped off his unlikely perch to land seven feet away from where Gacy stood wavering.

Five penguins gasped as one when Gacy resumed staggering towards them.  Johnson cursed and leapt towards the emperor's chest in an awkward upward piledrive.  It was a move that could have broken Johnson's own neck.  

Four penguins readied for battle, but only one was destined to join the fray.  "Stick by Skipper in case Johnson and me flop, guys," said Manfredi as he tossed the knife to Kowalski.  "Here.  I won't need it.  I can't wait to get my flippers dirty on this ciliegia."

Three penguins watched as Manfredi got low when he chopblocked Gacy to counterpoint Johnson's piledrive.  At last, at last the emperor fell.  Like twisting eels, Johnson and Manfredi wove their flippers around the still writhing Gacy.

"That's teamwork to die for --- " began Kowalski.  Manfredi cut him short.

"He's gonna roll over on us!  Get rope from the sailing gear racks to wrap up this ugly bird!  Sbrigati!"

One opened package of twenty-five foot nylon rope later, Gacy lay bound like an unattractive caterpillar in a slick yellow cocoon.  Even more unattractive words spewed non-stop.  "Ssssshtupid dumbbb frakkersssssh --- "

Rico, Private and Kowalski listened for a while until Kowalski thought to cover Private's earholes.  "Come on, let's see to Skipper."  They waddled to where Manfredi and Johnson already tended their commander.


"Trainsh dunno zanser fer trainsh faild agin --- "

"Yeahhh, he's still out.  Dayyum, that dope was hardcore," said Johnson.  He and Manfredi sat to either side of Skipper.  They propped him up between them, but their commander lolled first to Johnson's shoulder and then Manfredi's.  

"What'll we do, Johnson?  Kowalski gets the furshlugginer BlackBerry up and running to call Command, the Chief arrives to glom the kid like this and his career hits a speedbump."  Manfredi slid a flipper behind Skipper's back when he threatened to topple again. 

"Gacy and his gang captured is a ginormous plus, Manfredi.  The kid's career will weather it."

Manfredi shook his head.  "This is Central Jersey Command and you remember what big blabberbeaks they were years ago."

"Oh.  Yeah.  The Noodle Incident."

"We got busted in rank for it 'cause we had it coming, but he don't deserve any black marks."  It was Manfredi's turn to brace Skipper.  

Skipper opened one eye.  "Yr cute, Edie."

"Shut up, Johnson!  You know he's not himself!  That is just like you to cackle when things get serious."  Manfredi pushed Skipper to droop against Johnson.

It took a moment until Johnson could breathe soberly.  "Ooooh!  The bird said it's serious!  What'll we do oh whatever will we do?"

Skipper's emotions bitflipped once more.  "Faildfaildfaild --- "

with the failed?  Skipper, listen."  Manfredi shook Skipper's shoulder until the head bounced before dropping to the heaving chest.  "Stop that.  Stop that noise.  Hear me.  You are not yourself."


"The best skipper I've served under, that's who."  Johnson said something serious for a change.  Manfredi stowed his shock in his mental foot locker for later inspection.

"Yeah, what he said, sir.  Crap, here come the others!  Johnson, don't let them see him like this."

"I'm on it."  Johnson eased Skipper to Manfredi's side.  "Here, cuddle your sweetie."  Manfredi spat a wet raspberry in Johnson's direction, but Johnson had already moved to his junior teammates. 

"Rico, Kowalski, Private, follow me."

"I want to see Skippa, Johnson.  How is he?"  Private peered around Johnson's bulk.  "He looks terrible!"

"They tranked him, what, you think he'd look spruced up for the Penguin Late Spring Cotillion?  He'll be okay.  Manfredi has the knowhow to take care of him.  Rico, you saw what we gotta do with those creeps before Central arrives, back me up here."  A commander would not have to plead, but commanding was never on Johnson's Life List Of Attainable Goals.  A little squib of motivational speech cropped up, anyway.  "They're pretty much out of it and yet they might come to and escape if we lollygag around."
Rico wandered to the Jacobs ladder and took in the Skipper-shaped outline of cut bindings.  His usual genial expression fell.  He looked over at Gacy, whose ragged obscenities continued despite his new speech impediment from the cracked beak.  Rico regarded Johnson mournfully.

"Aw, no, Miracle Gut, he's really okay!  Nothing happened!"

Rico slumped in relief.  "Lesgo, Kwoskii.  Hryup, 'Rivate."  He chose three packages of rope and gestured to Kowalski.  Kowalski flipped the knife to him and Rico trudged down the plastic models aisle.  The others could hear him kicking broken pieces out of his way.

Kowalski's savvy look sharpened as he ushered Private past the ladder quickly.  "Private, there's grunt work to do.  The faster we tie them, the faster I can fiddle with the BlackBerry and call Central to send them to the hoosegow, what do you say?"

"I say you lot are keepin' somethin' bad about Skippa from me, is wot I say.  I'm no hatchlin', I'm of votin' age as of last Saturday and I want to know now."  He stopped dead in his tracks.  "Johnson --- "

Johnson spoke straight from the shoulder.  "Private, Manfredi and I didn't slide under cover of the boxcar soon enough to spy Skipper get tranked, but we saw Gacy's drips jerk out the dart and frogmarch him into the warehouse.  We sneaked in when some goon with a twitchy eye got caboose duty to close the doors.  He took that minute alone to drop some meds in his eyes, I guess, because he rubbed them and rubbed them hard.  We figured that Skipper would see him do that before he got too blissed out and we figured that Skipper would figure out we'd tippytoe in when the twitchy dude couldn't see straight --- oh søren, Private.  Just go with the flow, huh?  He'll be fine.  Eventually."

Private crossed his flippers.  "Wot a whackadoo story, Johnson.  It must be true, I'm figurin'."

"On my honor!"

"Mmmm, well, the less said about your honor the better.  Come on, then.  Rico's waitin'."


Private tied the last of the group of six in his customary way.  "Done and done."

"Gag 'em."

"Why, Johnson?  They're loofy, all of them.  Loofy, and, and bleedin.'"

Kowalski turned an inquisitive eye to the conversation and so did Rico.  Johnson got an expression on his face that in a mammal would translate to a curled lip of revulsion.  "'Cause they're foulbeaked sons of ronketryner is why.  I'm sick of overhearing that nasty talk about The Game.  It was nausorating."

"Made up words notwithstanding, Johnson, I've got an option for getting Skipper back to us quicker."

Johnson shrugged and passed out shorter lengths of the nylon rope.  "Manfredi'll handle that.  Here, gag these bastards."

Kowalski did as he was told, simmering.  "I know a few things about rehab.  Skipper needs a warm bath to flush out drugs by heightening basal metabolism --- "

"A bath in what?  This ain't no day spa."  Johnson gagged his prone bird by standing on the back and yanking the rope upwards into a square knot.  "That'll hold you, rompehull."

Spewing trivia satisfied Kowalski in the same way that spewing armament did Rico.  "I slid past a blue plastic tub of twelve-ounce bottles on the way to the Jacobs ladder.  It's large enough, and there's a sink that yachtsmen use to soak rope knots to tighten them in the sailing gear area, right?  Someplace along a wall, with a faucet, right?"

Johnson kicked at his gagged emperor.  "Oops, I tripped."  He squinted at Kowalski.  "Er, yeah, the tub had beer in it.  You sure that'll do the job?  'Cause Manfredi and me, well, we don't want Central to see the kid, I mean Skipper, get a mark on his record on account of us not being able to keep up with him.  You understand."

Kowalski, Rico and Private nodded.  "Yup."  "Righto."  "My beak is sealed."

"So let's go sliding to gag the grungiest penguin I ever want to run into."


Manfredi had done this countless times in countless countries.  "How many flippers am I holding up, Skipper?"


"Right on, my flipper is black.  Nuts, I already said it was one flipper.  I gave it away.  Um, okay, which eye am I winking at you?"


"You mean you're blind?"


"Oh God.  Oh God.  Never mind, we'll take care of you.  Oh God."


Gacy had rolled onto his back.  He spat at them in between curses.  Johnson dodged the spit and allowed the filthy words to roll off him like fog droplets from his waterproof feathers.  "Don't let him bite you, guys, he's prolly got rabies.  Okay, here's more rope to gag him the right way, which is my way.  Have at it.  I'll check with Laughing Boy." 

Johnson waddled to the rehab site.  "Hey, Manf--- What went wrong?"

Skipper's eyes were closed.  Manfredi held his sprawled and limp commander on his lap.  Bright afternoon sunlight ricocheted this time from west clerestory panes to east clerestory panes and downwards to a cone highlighting the scene.  It gave a halo to Manfredi that Johnson would have gone into hysterics over if the situation were more relaxed.

Manfredi blinked rapidly.  "Strongest dope I ever heard of, Johnson.  The kid's blind."

"God.  No."  Johnson swallowed what felt like an unpeeled durian.


"I'm here, Skipper.  Hang tight."  Johnson put on a bright voice.  "Are we ready for our bath?  Do we wish our rubber ducky?  Esswedo!  Izzim washy washy inza tubby --- "

Skipper had an expression that said he heard but had no idea how to reply and it made Manfredi mad.  "Now you pull this?  Always knew you'd gotten too many knocks on the bean, Johnson, but I never thought you'd turn cruel.  Don't worry, I'll come visit you in the Home when you get committed."

Johnson looked hurt.  "Smart apple.  Me and you've been together since Nicaragua and you think that of me?  Pffft. No, wiseacre, Kowalski's big fat brain belched an option for patching a broken Sir.  Hold position while I fetch some hot water for that tub over there.  This might take a few minutes."

"Oh.  A bath.  Well.  If you say so, goomba."  Manfredi patted Skipper's head.  "We'll be standing by.  Figuratively."

Near the opening gape to the outdoors, Rico considered that two penguins sufficed for gagging duty on one penguin.  He rummaged in the tub for six beer bottles and set them aside.  After he had dumped the ice water and two extra bottles into the floor drain by where the door locks used to be, he headed to rehab with the bottles in one flipper while towing the tub by its rope handle with the other.  His grinning offer needed no words.

"Later, Rico, I don't feel up to celebrating just yet, bub."


"Take it easy, leave the beers with me and set down the tub, pal.  Wipe that look off your pan, 'cause we could all use a drink before Central gets here.  I'm going to time it so they don't get any."


Rico's pout may have worked if Skipper could have seen it, but he couldn't.  Skipper shook his head.  "Nobeerz'Co.  N-Nada."

"'Edie, howzie?"

"My earholes hurt from trying to understand you two."  Manfredi sounded like he wanted this day to end.  "How is he, you ask?  He's awaker and talking more, that's for sure.  Sir, get set for your bath 'cause here comes Johnson with a hose."


"'Cause you're dirty inside.  We want you clean like a pretty little baby commander again.  Hey, I'm glad you can move some, but hold still or you'll fall off my lap.  Let 'er rip, Johnson."

Johnson turned the petcock on the hose.  "Dayyum sink is sized for a hummingbird, or we could stick him in it."  Water gushed until the tub filled.  


"Private, where did you get those brass knuckles?"

"Same place you got that taser, I'm thinkin'.  Rico."

"He's the go-to ordnance penguin.  I'm in the dark as to how he does that.  It's uncanny.  If I ever get a lab, I'll try to find out."

Private sat on Gacy's thick neck as the penguin's face twisted to the side.  The scab forming from his earlier scrape made him look even more villainous.  Private drummed a cheery rhythm on the back of his skull with the knuckles.  "I've got the music in me, says my old Gran.  And music" --- knock --- "will" --- slap --- "out."  He slid off.  "Have a go, K'walski?"

Taking even a mild revenge held scant appeal.  "No, I'm good.  Tasering is serious and he's at our mercy.  Maybe I overestimated his escape capability, although emperor penguins are huge compared to us.  There's no telling what damage they might have done to --- " 

"Stop!  I can't think about it.  We don't need to now, so forget it, K'walski.  Think about your sciencey stuff instead."  

Kowalski waved the taser where Gacy could see it.  The gang leader's brow crinkled in amusement and he might even have grinned behind his gag.  "Ew.  Some birds like this sort of thing, um, never mind.  I'll not give him any pleasure if I can help it.  So sorry, weirdo.  No fun Games for you today.  Gloriosky, there's Johnson with a hose!  Let's skedaddle."


Johnson shook the still form on his buddy's lap and changed his curse as he saw Private's approach.  The two veteran soldiers exchanged glum glances. "Shoot.  He's out cold, and I thought he was improving.  Shootshootshoot."  

Manfredi sighed.  "He's in a better place, Johnson.  Let's get with the program."  The other penguins stared forlornly at the dusty floor when Manfredi delivered the news as they gathered around the tub tableau.  Private and Kowalski let slip perturbed exclamations before Kowalski stepped into scientist mode, his favorite one.  He cleared his throat and knelt to dip his elbow into the water to test the temperature.  He nodded firmly.

"Not to worry, this will crank his generator again if I know my technique.  Alley oop, everyone, lift on three.  One, two, three, easy, easy, everything under except the head.  If the gash bleeds, lift the shoulder from the water and leave the rest in.  Someone get a shop towel to cushion --- good hustle, Private."

Manfredi studied Kowalski's concentration, Private's energy, and Rico's talents and admitted that these new guys had the Right Stuff.  "So, we wait?"

"We wait."

Johnson said what he usually did in a waiting scenario.  "Who brought the dice?"


The place in which Skipper found himself was indeed better.  It was a sunny day in the void of Antarctica.  The spring sun warmed the water as much as it ever got warm, and he was not the only penguin sunning himself this morning on the rocky beach.  Females of all penguinkind lay supine or prone around him.  A few coquetted on their sides, heads propped up on a beguiling flipper.  Long lashes fluttered all over the beach, but he was not easy to get.  He could play hardball.  He lay resolutely on his back, staring up at the sky where no penguin would ever be able to soar.  He would make them come to him.  

As the morning turned to afternoon and not one bird graced his company, Skipper decided he'd had enough gazing into the empty blue and besides, a sharp rock jabbed at his shoulder.  He yawned, stretched and made a big deal of turning onto his side.  He was alone.  He sat up.  The waves lapped as peacefully, the sun shone as merrily, the wind petered out to a mere eight knots and he was totally alone.  The place couldn't be deserted, it couldn't.  Did he bliss out in the sun while every girl splashed into the water to swim away from him?  Did he have B.O.?  Did he have bad breath?  He dipped into the ocean and gargled a beakful of saltwater, just to be sure.

He set off exploring the sea.  Warm, yes, it was pleasantly warm, and some minutes passed as he enjoyed that along with the solitude.  The solitude was total, too, because no fish swam in his sight.  How strange.  Up to this point in his life, the ocean nurtured and even entertained his spirit.  Now it scared him.  He was about to head back to the solid feel of the beach when a dark shape appeared some distance away.  It looked like a friendly dolphin.  At least, all the dolphins he'd ever met were friendly.  He supposed there were unfriendly ones around, given the odds.  He trod water.

The dolphin wasn't a dolphin because the movements were all wrong.  As the shape neared, Skipper saw the yellow fringe of feathers surrounding the black head of an emperor penguin.  As the shape approached near enough to displace water surrounding him, he saw that the penguin was gigantic above the norm for the breed.  He'd be crushed as the juggernaut steamed straight for him.  Dive under?  Swim to the side?  He ordered his muscles to do something.  They disobeyed.

He'd be ripped to confetti.  He screamed and an ocean entered his throat.  There was a better place to be than here.


"I feel terrible."

"Yay!  I mean, yay, you're here with us, Skippa!"

Skipper swallowed again and again.  The ocean was made of slimy spit and he didn't want to talk at all until he got rid of it, but he had to.


"They're all got, kid, I mean sir.  Ciuri are bagged and tagged," said Manfredi.


Johnson shook his head until he remembered that Skipper might still be blind.  "Nope.  Not Gacy, anyway."  He scowled until he thought of a funny.  "He sent six jæver after me, but Rico and me got his six!  Get it, got his six?  Huh?  Huh?"


Kowalski turned away from messing with the BlackBerry.  "He's still confused, you two.  Let me give the report less colorfully.  No, Skipper, Rico got hold of C-4 and blasted the doors for our entry with one collateral casualty.  One gang member was crushed."  Kowalski hit Enter.  "I've contacted Central and they're sending a team to skim this scum into a corked container.  Never mind that, because how are you?"

Skipper considered his sitch.  Nasty tasting beak, wobbly muscles, aching shoulder, fuzzy brain, burning eyes, no more Gacy.  "Fantashtic."  The ring of peering faces bothered him not a whit.  That was funny.  He'd laugh later.

He must have nodded off because the clink of bottles woke him.  "Getcherbeerhere!  Warmbeer!"  Rico rasped.  Skipper saw five blobs hoist five smaller blobs highlighted against the gray sky beyond the wide open doors.  The weather had shifted to a cloudy day, but he felt pretty darn good.

Skipper waved the blob he thought was Rico over.  

"Beer, 'Kipppaaaahh?"

Kowalski squawked and came at a fast waddle.  "Of course not!  Don't you dare, sir!  I outrank you in this!"

The feeling of déjà vu was likely one of the lasting effects of the drug.  Skipper shook his head slowly at Rico, looking pointedly at the brown bottle in his flipper, or thereabouts.  "Aw.  'Kay.  Nobeer."  The others made noises of varying shades of agreement.  Five blobs trooped to the drain near the open doorway.  Instead of the quiet gurgling of beer being wasted, the crashtinklegrit of breaking glass sounded.

Manfredi was the first to return to the tub of cooling water.  "We needed to have some celebration, sir, and didn't that make a wonderful sound?  Sir?"

"Got beer splashed all over me, Skipper.  Wanna get a whiff of fun?"  Johnson leaned over the tub and Skipper sniffed the fumes so hard his eyes filled with tears.

"You knuckleheads," he said to the blobs.  


"Skipper's Log, Version 1.1, Post 6, Eyes Only.  24 Hour Later Debrief Minutes Post-Mission Number Six.  I am feeling better after Kowalski talked me into going to Sick Call and the corpsman gave me a Vitamin B12 shot.  That wasn't so bad until I flashed back on the trank dart hitting and then I tensed up so now my right buttock is sore.  I'll know better next time, if there is a next time.  I haven't told Kowalski yet that I chose him as my second.  He performed well on this mission.

We as a group decided to learn from our enemy.  Gacy instituted codes for his gang that outsiders could not decipher.  We shall do the same.  Manfredi and Johnson continue to bolster this unit with their experience and I've learned a lot from the two.  Let the Log show that I gave them permission to name our eighty-first combat routine Hellyeahaction since adopting codes was their idea.  What would I do without them?"


The End.


pronker: (Default)
Title:  No Remedy For Memory

Author:  pronker

Era:  Shortly before the establishment of Central Park Zoo Base.  Everyone is eighteen or older in penguin years.

Setting:  Hoboken, New Jersey.

Summary:  There are memories held dear and memories best forgotten. 


When it came right down to it, knives formed the sharpest memory that Skipper held from The Game.  Through the slurry of consciousness-altering substances ravaging his system at the time, he knew not much more than that Manfredi and Johnson awaited reinforcements out of his sight as they hid in the warehouse.  He never could repay the debt he owed each of them, Johnson for spear tackling Gacy and Manfredi for cutting him loose of his spreadeagle.  Skipper treasured a blurred recollection of seeing the gangleader's beaktip splinter from Johnson's uppercut.  There came next an umph and then an oomphthud of Johnson's bulk piledriving into the prison buff pecs of a black soul set on degradation.  Manfredi joined Johnson in a chop block to smash the emperor penguin flat.  The world darkened as Skipper lost the last of his sight following Private's anguished Wot did the rotters do to Skippa?  and Kowalski's You contemptible scoundrels!

Everything faded to a sublime feeling of warmth after that.  When Skipper swam back to full consciousness, a literal warm bath surrounded him as Kowalski wadded a shop towel between the rim of the tub and his head.  "Heated water speeds up the metabolism to flush out any drugs," came the scientist's pronouncement while his team surrounded the tub, five members strong.  Skipper felt too relieved to be embarrassed at the stares.  After this, he was sure he'd never be shy again in his life.

"Gettim?" he sloshed through a beakful of spit that the tranquilizer darts must have caused.  There was no word for what his tongue tasted like.  The entire team nodded before high ones slapped all around.  Rico offered everyone a victory beer from the former contents of the tub until Skipper's slow shake of the head stopped him cold.  

The weather had finally decided to cloud up for good and all, gray solid cover instead of the in again, out again sun that matched no one's mood.  The mission ended with seven members of the Model Airplane Smuggler Gang gagged, bound and awaiting pickup by Central Jersey Command and one in a body bag.   No more would excited kiddies open Revell Model Kits to find them short crucial pieces, no more would kiddies turn the opposite of trusting in Hackensack, Hoboken or Weehawken.  The crucial parts could be glued together with slight modification to form accurate models of top secret airplanes, such as the TR-3B Anti-Gravity Spacecraft (Penguin Scaled), to smuggle to the highest black market bidder.  In a two-pronged simultaneous operation, a penguin code-named Doily decimated the supplier of the modifications, while the Big Boss assigned a younger team to tackle the larger gang that stole the parts.  As she'd outlined the attack scenario to Skipper, the Big Boss grumbled aloud at legitimate companies who released classified information publicly "for $23.99."  That madness ended now.

It took weeks for the nightmares to end, though.  Even though Skipper endorsed all eighteen impartiality ideals from his training and had done his best to practice them after his graduation from OCS last June, he noticed now and then that Kowalski, Rico and Private got a Look Between Them.  The Look said that the three realized bulky Johnson and bulkier Manfredi were his favorites on the team.  It bothered the new commander sometimes.

Other times the shards of memory of that broken afternoon expanded like fractals, and there was nothing for it but to fight through the nasty mood caused by resurfacing images and sounds.  The bout always began with remembering the smuggling cartel's midlevel gangleader's growly voice.


"Now, now," said Gacy, "I don't think it's a good idea to struggle, love, do you?  Better to just enjoy yourself."

Skipper could no longer stand.  Kneeling, looked up into Gacy's face.  By his smirk, he could see absolutely nothing wrong with this and Skipper realized that it had probably happened many times in the past. He was just the current penguin subjected to The Game.  He had to think fast before he couldn't think at all.  Where was his team?  Why had he forged ahead?  Never swim alone, Skipper.  That was foolhardy, and now you're going to pay.

Another gang member whose real name he never learned leaned down casually as he fastened Skipper's feet to the spreader bar of the Jacobs ladder.  His left eye twitched with unholy delight.  "Enjoy," he mouthed.

Gacy prowled around the partially bound penguin, now addressing Twitch.  "Keeps the interest high, dunnit?  Binding a tasty one layer by layer."  Skipper turned rigid with shock at the words before thrashing with one thirty-ninth of his regular strength.  Twitch rocked at the impact and slapped Skipper into stillness.

Skipper lay back as the drugs bit deeper and watched his attackers almost dispassionately. It was as if it were happening to someone else.  Clerestory windows provided a green source of lighting high on the west wall of the sailboat supply warehouse, which shared square footage with the plastic model company's inventory storage.  High scudding clouds continued to flash past up the Hudson, dappling the sunlight of false cheer to illuminate the scene with a weird key light effect and then muting the large space back into sickly shadow. 

"Are you sure you wouldn't fancy a drink?" Gacy asked in a solicitous tone. "Might need one before the afternoon's over." Skipper shook his head violently enough to make the vertigo worse.  The flipper that caressed his cheek clamped over his nostrils and when he had to breathe at last, the wet neck of a beer bottle tilted into his beak.  He drank deeply and nearly asphyxiated.

"Take it easy, sweet cheeks, we don't want you to choke, now do we?" Gacy asked and wiped the beer from Skipper's chin. "Happy to get you drunk, love, but we do need to keep you alive, don't we?" 

Skipper looked up again into Gacy's face and wondered what was going on in his head.   How could Gacy get to the point where he thought that this was normal and acceptable behavior? By the Endless Iceberg, how did he himself get to this point, waiting for whatever would happen next in The Game?   He didn't recognize his own voice.  "Whujja --- what did you --- sti-stick me with innat dart, scum?"  

Twitch lifted Skipper like a baby into what felt like an uncomfortable hammock.  The flippers that had fastened his feet moved higher, stretching his thighs apart to the point of pain.  "Garn, Boss, make 'im guess."  Twitch appeared determined to strap every joint Skipper owned down to the Jacobs ladder whose top disappeared into the gloom of the warehouse ceiling.  Twitch pinched the inside of Skipper's knee as he tightened the strap.  "Cor, it's too loose, can't have that."  Velcro zzzirrrred undone and then got done up again as the pressure increased against screaming muscles.  Whatever was in the drug cocktail overcame the pain after a moment, but when Twitch jiggled the Jacobs ladder in cruel fun, the nausea increased.  Skipper swallowed back bile.  The ladder slanted at twenty degrees off vertical to increase the sense of instability.  It was like being on an inversion table before that final sickening flip.

Gacy brushed a loose feather off Skipper's forehead. "My, but you are a handsome one," he said, running a scarred flipper down Skipper's flank, letting it come to rest on the hip. "You are about the plummiest this club's had and that's saying something!" he added almost proudly.  Skipper strained away from the touch. 

"Not yet, laddybuck," Gacy murmured, gliding the flipper through white feathers all the way down to the dimpled skin.  He felt his way up to the keelbone and the notch of the throat. "Don't get too excited before the fun starts."

Skipper managed to croak, "Club?  So thash what they're calling it nowadaysh?"

"Right as rain, straight arrow."  Gacy cupped Skipper's face before yanking off the BlackBerry that had remained in place through all the action of the capture.    "I don't need these because I plan ahead, right, lads?"  

Skipper hissed as the adhesive affixing it to his head pulled out some feathers.  Absurdly, he hoped that he would get the BlackBerry back when this was over because he was responsible for all supplies.  A raw voice said you've got bigger things to worry about, palio, and he was seventy-seven percent sure this was in his own mind.

A tiny voice that sounded like Rico's whispered advice that Skipper strained to hear, but he couldn't understand the heavy brogue as he usually did.  This time he was ninety-six percent certain his brain was playing tricks with him.

Twitch secured his left flipper at the pit and elbow.  He tickled to get a response and failed.  "Aw, 'e's got too much sloop innim, Boss.  We shan't have much fun with 'im if 'e can't even feel a tickle." He moved around the ladder to tie down the right flipper, feeling the brawn along the way.  "These are the real things, not big like us emperors, mind, but good and firm."  He squeezed Skipper's bicep again.  "Nope, these are the real things all right, all right."  There were quiet laughs from the shadows.

"Get cracking with it, Gacy," a voice said by Skipper's feet.  "You always take all bloody day to get them primed and ready."

"Best part, my lad."  Gacy blocked Twitch before he could fasten down the neck.  "No catharpin there, you git!  We want his head free to make things more accessible, like."

"Not even the iron clamp sort?  I like the clamps, makes 'em go all pop-eyed --- "

"Not on this one.  Not this time.  Maybe later."  Skipper retained enough sense to pick out ways that Gacy held sway over this criminal crew.  Sure enough, he invited others into the activity.  "Whose turn to spin?"

"Me.  My turn," said a youngish voice to the side.  Skipper squinted up as a face materialized above him.  It was a tall youth in the midst of moulting.  Regrowing yellow feathers ringed the neck and the rest of the head remained bald.  The other parts of the body were a blur, except for the Swiss Army knife held in a trembling grip.  There was more than adolescent nerves going on here because there was a funny smell coming off him.  It seemed that Skipper was not the only reality-impaired penguin in the warehouse.  

The bound commander dredged up four clear words.  "Turn back now, son."

A dismissive snort coupled with an uneven giggle marked Skipper's cross-eyed look at the blade as it descended to tap his beak.  "I'm fixin' to have me some fun before julep time, y'all."

A chorus of "You gots that right" and "'Bama, you hit that baby on the head" and "Leave some for me" got drowned out by Gacy's "Just do it," which penetrated Skipper's failing senses despite the soft tone of voice.  He closed his eyes as the world spun.  'Bama hauled at the ladder's nearest ratline without putting away his knife and the blade nicked Skipper's shoulder before he opened his eyes to face the dusty cement floor.  Dried paint, shellac and marine diesel oil stained the surface to form a disorienting swirl that resembled vomit.  His weight lay secured so tightly in the Jacobs ladder that his back didn't bow from the pull of gravity, well that was something, at least.  His mind skittered on the surreal thought of himself as a ripe penguin-shaped berry depending from a chestnut-colored tangle of ladder-shaped vines.  To his horror, he was soon to be plucked.

'Bama knelt in the mess, as uncaring as any penguin could be.  He jabbed Skipper's belly with the butt of the knife.  "Gotta give you braggin' rights, Boss, he's at a perfect height and angle for The Game."  He stood.  

Skipper tensed all his core muscles to raise his head and give a dirty look.  His body betrayed him by turning to mush as his head drooped.  All he could do was spot lower halves as he was surrounded by --- he counted dizzily --- fifteen legs and one metal claw that looked like a barbecue implement.  "Twell," he mumbled.

"Ah, did you mean to say go to hell, then?"  A flipper that had to belong to Gacy rolfed his shoulder's gash painfully before venturing downward.  "No doubt, Skipper, no doubt."  The flipper patted and rubbed.  "But we'll die happy."

Skipper could feel the collective excitement growing in the darkness around him.  "Dinefire, Cee."

The laugh that followed was Rico's psychotic one without the happy go lucky undertones.  "Now why would I do that, narc?  Even though there's just one of you with enough guts to try to take us down, we'll enjoy what our Godfather lets us have fun with all the way till tomorrow.  We're his favorites, we are."  

Except there was not just one.  Manfredi and Johnson formed two solid anchors to Skipper's sanity, Manfredi hugging a seafloor that did not shimmer or shake like his untrustworthy eyes said the dirty cement did.   Johnson, good old Johnson, gripped Manfredi as co-anchor, tethered to him upcurrent in the time-honored maritime practice of backing.  A vessel braving a cyclone required backing to secure it from drifting in rough seas, and this was by far the roughest sea that Skipper had navigated in his short career.  He'd belly slid ahead in his eagerness to thwart this motley crew, but his nearest team members surely followed as fast as they could?  Manfredi might be a Size 4X and Johnson a 3X Tall, but they were fit as was any commando.  They'd learned to move their bulk in slower, craftier ways.  He'd drilled them himself and he knew.  Even without being able to see their approach, his faith in them endured.  The other three members battled faulty comm systems.  They'd figure out soon enough to storm the warehouse.  He was sure of it.

"Unveiling time, gents," purred Gacy with a most unwelcome pinch.  A nearly demonic orange glow from the sky filtered down to make the nasty floor look even nastier.  Feet shuffled closer and then the ladder shook with some hauling and pulling to adjust its squared openings behind Skipper.  The movement set off fiercer nausea and he feared he'd lose his lunch in front of his enemies.  He swallowed hard.  "Let's see what you've got, hey?  Don't want to peak too soon."

Hoarse voices started a chant.  "Do it do it do it --- "

"Settle down, lads, you're first after me."  It didn't seem possible that Skipper could feel worse, but the false kindness in Gacy's voice proved him wrong.  "The Game is a serious do and needs some respect."

Skipper looked down his tilted body and tried to tense in preparation for whatever would come.  It was no use; he couldn't stiffen so much as a toe.  He was as limp and accepting as it was possible to be.  He disgusted himself for being so weak.  He could feel the evil around him grow as he slipped towards unconsciousness.  Maybe if he held his breath he'd faint faster and take away some of their fun.  

He gasped in surprise at the solid punch.  "Here now, none of that!  You're sensitive as a nancy cat, well who would have guessed?"

A murmur of appreciation ran around the group and they shifted their weight in hot anticipation of The Game.  The metal leg scraped across the cement floor.  Ahab, Skipper's blitzed mind supplied, he was the skipper with no heart for anything but killing for revenge.  "'Hab."

"What was that oh never mind.   'Bama, gift me with one of your Southernisms.  I'm in the mood for some poetry."  One impatient hissssss sounded before a grunnnt as his fellow thug must have elbowed him into quietude.

There was that giggle again as a trembling flipper waggled Skipper's beak open.  "He's spread out for you like a bluetick coonhound's dinner, Boss."

More shouts of encouragement.  "Start 'im off Boss you first Boss aw'ight hurry up Boss we wants our turn --- "

"Let him loose, 'Bama.  Nobody needs to hold any penguin still for me, isn't that so, Skipper?  Easy, easy, you'll get into it right enough," Gacy said, as if to calm an unruly steed.  He pressed himself by Skipper's head.  "We're really in for a treat, gents.  I'll make him love The Game if it takes me all night."

Skipper's vision faded as darkness claimed his heart, too.  Did it matter what happened next?  His team had let him down.  Manfredi and Johnson must have run into a snag and the relative inexperience of Kowalski, Rico and young Private made them misjudge the timing of this whole operation.  

Gacy could wind him up like a clock.


pronker: (Default)

Title:  Nearly A Bodice Ripper

Author:  pronker

Era:  Waaay AU, dream sequence, fever hallucination, what have you

Summary:  Alien bodices are different.

A/N  Written as a drabble inspired by an image of a Pengauani on theforceDOTnet's Fanfic Writer's Desk.  See illustration.


Two moons shone off-kilter on the whitecaps just offshore like the headlights on an Acura that needed adjusting by a state-certified adjuster.  "Is it always humid like this on your planet, toots?" Skipper inquired as he struggled to strip romance-inhibiting combat gear from the willing Pengauani.  The nearest Earth equivalent was a Sam Browne belt, all buckles and snaps and hard-finished leather, a real hnsnzta to undo when you only had flippers.  She'd torn off her goggles before lying back and panting cmoncmon.  It seemed a lot of trouble to go through for a typical penguin dalliance of fifteen seconds.

pronker: (Default)
Title: Cartoon Forgiveness

Author: pronker

Rating: PG

Era: AU (or is it?) directly after the run of the show.

Summary: The funny animal cartoon genre isn't always funny.

A/N Written because not every jerk receives a clean slate to preserve the status quo in a TV program. Let's face it, the show's lead penguin in real life would be somewhat of a jerk. *dodges thrown shoes*


Just after dawn on a Wednesday, the most traveled crossroads of the Central Park Zoo appeared to be cursed by Hecate. Nothing proved that more than Marlene's next words, a classic phrase dreaded alike by girlfriends and boyfriends.

"We need to talk."

Her beau plastered on a big nervous smile, although he hated to smile on general principles. "Hi, Marlene! What's up?"

"I was, when you hoisted me by one ankle while demanding that I show my tentacles. Not cool."

Skipper made the face that used to charm Marlene. "Heh. Heh. Er, heh. Don't you remember the circumstances? Camouflaged space squid infiltrations were a definite possibility given the scenario --- "

Marlene narrowed her eyes. "Definite and possibility are two words that do not go together, Skipper, just like you and me. I don't like you anymore." She turned her back to walk away and this was unacceptable. Skipper dredged up the most effective terse retort he could think of, since he wasn't good with words. What came out sounded desperate.

"Don't leave!"

Marlene kept flouncing, her tail stiff with fury. Skipper felt his own temper surge and for Patton's sake, she deserved a verbal slap. "Forget I said that! I want you out of my life because anyone who ever thought Ringtail was boyfriendable --- "

"That was wild, feral Marlene who kissed Julien and Kowalski cured me, so stuff it!" Marlene shouted over her shoulder as she continued down the path.

"Hey! I dump you, not the other way a---- " But she was out of earholeshot. "Aw."

His troops approached, marching in formation as Kowalski counted cadence. Skipper had thought the morning couldn't get any worse; it seemed he was the opposite of right. He failed to eighty-six the slump of his shoulders, but he refused to surrender without a fight worthy of Yamamoto. "Bring it on. Unmake my day."

To the commander's utter shock, meek Private began. He put his flippers on his hips. "Skippa, I'm cheesed that you even hinted wot you hinted at about me!"

Kowalski was next. "I am not a nutjob that you need to nannycam in my lab! The EM pulses of your intrusive surveillance may have ruined any number of important experiments involving strontium-90! We're lucky we're still alive and not glowing, that's all I can say." The peeved sniff must have unblocked his sinuses all the way up to the top of his oblong head.

Before Rico could weigh in, Skipper marshaled his defenses. "Numero uno, Private, that thing that I may or may not have hinted at --- "

Private pinwheeled his flippers in outrage. " --- is completely untrue! Now Mason and Phil won't speak to me." The young penguin's innate honesty periscoped above his pique. "Well, Mason won't speak to me. Phil won't even sign at me."

Rico finally got in his blunt two cents' worth. "Kippaaahhh bad."

"Numero dos, I am not! And I'm still your commanding officer, all of you. Don't make me report you to the Big Boss."

"Like she'd ever cross the pond to inspect our base --- "

"Leave her out of this, Kowalski. She's got bigger fish to fry than smooth over one team's skirmishes. Things aren't good at our embassy in Atlantis." What to do, what to do. Redirect? Yes, a proven winning strategy. He adopted the tactic of squashing all his own anger over this kerfluffle down into a tiny pinched ball in the Davy Jones' locker of his soul. He was sure he didn't look to them like he felt.

"And now for numero tres. Rico, you endangered the whole team to shop for a Barbie ripoff wardrobe for Miss Perky" --- Rico used his greater height to glare down his beak at his accuser --- "Kowalski, your Chromosomal Curbulator threw the space/time continuum out of whack" --- Kowalski muttered chronal curbulator --- "and I saved the worst for last." He arranged his features into what usually smacked down insubordinate flightless birds. "Private, your mooning over a reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh couldn't have come at a worse time. That lo-er, like affair threatened Christmas itself."

Private had the grace to look abashed before countering with, "Cupid and I saved Christmas, Skippa."

The battle hovered on the Little Round Top cusp as Skipper paused to let his words sink in. What could they do, anyway? He held the better spread of cards.


On another plane of existence, Hecate cackled and pumped a fist as intoxicating discord pulsed through her ichor. Why, they'd be at each other's throats in a moment. Making trouble for mortals never got old.


"It's too late trying to patch things up. We want a divorce." Kowalski mirrored Rico's and Private's crossed flippers.

"Whaaat?" Kowalski was his second and understood him best. At the moment, Skipper regretted unbending enough to become so well known. "You're all crazy! Divorce?"

It could not be that the battle turned into a defeat or even a rout. "Skipper, by any military penguin standards, you are rude, crude and deluded if you think your command is flawless --- "

" --- never claimed I was perfect --- "

" --- so the three of us choose not to forgive you any longer. The slaps, the browbeating, and the sarcasm took their toll. We're leaving you. Not the service, you."

"Where the hell will you go? We live in a braaping zoo exhibit!" Right, curses waited until the end of the argument. This morning couldn't see the end of not only Marlene, but also his troops with whom he had been honored to serve. The one individual in zoomanity who might empathize with betrayal of this degree was Julien. Skipper quailed at the thought of confiding in him.

Kowalski picked up steam. "There are other places to live than at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York. We'll find a new home and spill the mung beans about you to HQ." The other two nodded. Even sweet, naive Private must have hardened his heart to match his uncaring face.

A Pickett's Charge disaster it was, then. He'd never felt this way before. Someone with his voice droned practicalities because, really, what was there left after devotion departed? "You'll want supplies. Take all the petty cash and my share of the fish that Alice will toss this morning. I'm not hungry." This was not seeking sympathy, it was not. The ulcers that flared up now and then burned into a nova. "Do what you gotta do."

"We shall because we must." Kowalski showed leadership, Skipper would give him that much. With the next words came the snap! of longtime comradely ties parting. It hurt as much as he'd ever thought it would. "Um, so long, and thanks for all the fish." Kowalski hupped and the three hustled away in perfect formation. The team, his team, double timed to their lair to clean out lockers, pack Lunacorns in excelsior, doll up Miss Perky in fashionable travel accessories and, Skipper supposed, sneak away with vials of bubbling green goo to play Mad Scientist with.

It didn't matter now.

The commander of nothing leaned against a lamp post. He'd lost battles through the years. Except ... why did this feel unlike a battle? He could not figure it out. Introspection was not his thing. First Marlene dumped him and then his men dumped him. What was going on? How would he defend the zoo against Hans or Blowhole or that demented blue chicken from Delaware? He was only one penguin. Could he have handled the sitches better?

He reviewed his actions because this was SOP in any mission debrief. Marlene blindsided him by being upset about a completely understandable action of his from the distant past, so he defended himself? Check. Private got all dithery about something or other he thought his commander had hinted about him and that Mason and Phil got wind of and overreacted to, so he defended himself? Check. Kowalski missing the point completely about the imperative safety issues inherent to bunking above a fusion reactor core and living with a waddling ammo dump, so he defended himself? Check.

The ammo dump would be Rico. And Rico's blast stung the most, for all its unspecified nature. Bad. Skipper never was bad. Not even once. He was firm and decisive and got things done the right way. Sure, he disciplined with whatever came to flipper. He cared enough to do it. If defending his actions with all his might wasn't effective, what was?

The lamp cast a glow through a clear sunset by the time the day's debrief dimmed. Skipper roused with a jolt and slow look around where he'd found himself. Alice's mucky boots stomped three feet from his position as she groused about schlepping food to ungrateful animals. The plash of Marlene's oysters hitting her habitat melded with Alice's right on underhand pitch of six mackerels to the penguin habitat. A bench's unlovely underside shadowed him effectively from her. He didn't remember sliding to it.

He looked up as Alice clomped further down the zoo's path. Blobs of atomic pink bubblegum stuck under the bench's slats. He grimaced. Nasty humans and their nasty habits. Gross. What he'd come up with as an answer to his problems would never work with them. The solution he'd worked hours on took the form of a snow white dove in his mind and he groaned. Aw, his subconscious bombed on with another spirit guide? What the deuce for?

The white dove fluttered six inches above the ground, just to show off its flying capability, he guessed. When it opened its beak to talk, Frankie The Pigeon's Brooklynese took flight.

"Waddaya doon, hatchin' a egg? Getta move on!"

"Go to hell."

"Where I'm frumz not even close, Leader Man. Ya know what youse gotta do."

"Yeah, yeah. Leave me alone." Skipper pushed the dove and his flipper passed through it. The dove hooted like an owl laughing at George Carlin's best joke.

"Big guy, aintcha? Smackin' a white dove what's one hunnert percent inna right?"

"No white dove has ever had a day like mine. Vamoose."

"I can go youse one better so much that it ain't even funny. Vamoose yerself." The dove pushed in turn and Skipper rocked back from the shove. What the pineapple hamsteaks? He'd never felt Alex The Spirit Guide Lion's touch, so who or what was this buttinsky?

"What's the use? They've all left by now." Sunshiney briny whiney, he hated the sound of his own voice. He bucked up. "So I'll find them, right? That's what you'd say next, right? So don't even say it. I'll go. Just give me a moment, okay?"

Frankie The Pigeon's voice turned softer. "Ya goddit, m'main bird. Lil tip here: start with Marlene."

"Why so?"

"'Cause she's just one animal to practice mutual forgiveness on, plus she'll never desert her habitat the way yer men would. She's a nester from way back."

"Yeah, she is --- Reilly's Aces, how'd you know that about her? Who are you?"

"I'll tell ya when youse older."

"Smarta--- "

"Don't say it. My forgiveness has limits, boychik. Some don't think so, but it does. Gwan now. Do whatcha need ta. They might come around."

Skipper drew on Routine Seventeen, his least favorite: Just Relax And Take It, You Fool. "But they might not."

"True. Ya never know till youse try, goomba. Routine Two, Skipper."

"Peace Out? How do you know our secret routines --- hey! Where'd you go?"

No white feather left behind to show it was all real, no disembodied voice echoing through the calm zoo evening, none of that theatrical stuff soothed one confused penguin. He shook off the mood.

Skipper drew a deep breath as he assayed a little detour before a surgical sortie. Deciding to ask for forgiveness drew on all his strength and now he felt hungry. He'd better hope the men had enough regard left for him to leave one mackerel behind at his usual place at their table.

He'd know when he dropped down the hatch into a deserted lair.


Hecate plumped a cushion under her tush before grabbing a handful of popcorn to split among her three heads. This was going to be good. No way would The Other Side win this time.


The End.

pronker: (Default)
[community profile] three_weeks_for_dw

I am pleased to make a public comment about this fest, after learning of it via the illustrious [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith. Welcome to any new folks from LJ, as well as to others discovering Dreamwidth. This is a fine, easy to use site for fandoms; I've enjoyed the Snowflake Challenge and though I've not the time to do Three Weeks, it looks worthwhile.

In other news, The 2017 Golden Yoda Awards Ceremony over on The also is running until Monday, a big hooha event filled with excellent Star Wars fics, camaraderie and skits tailored to the fics. Woohoo! Come visit for Good Timez that include funny gifs.


Title: Adventures In Babysitting

Author: pronker

Era: Directly after the run of the TV show.

Summary: Marlene joins the commando team. Fluff ensues.

A/N Third entry in a loosely constructed trilogy consisting of "Sunny Days Sweeping The Clouds Away" followed by "Trial And Error." Skilene.


Through the morning murmur of Kowalski's ongoing lab experiments, Marlene could almost make out the lyrics that Rico blared to Momma Duck's latest batch of ducklings. Her imagination supplied the full version. Little Paul and Sarah swayed to the rhythm in the endearing way that babies moved to music.

Now I'm back in the ring to take another swing

'Cause the walls were shaking

The earth was quaking

My mind was aching

And we were making it and you

Shook me all night long ---

Rico leaned over the playpen and crooned, or rather croaked, to the two children. Marlene thought how far he had come from his allergy to mushy love statements and smiled before speaking in a stage whisper. The littles were so young that they didn't talk yet. She hoped their understanding was limited, too. Some invention of Kowalski's burbled on a high shelf of his lab; it must be dangerous because he'd placed it far out of little feathered creatures' reach. Marlene had in mind a more subtle danger, however.



"That's not the sort of lullaby to sing to babies, really it isn't, I mean they don't understand the words well not the way you sing them anyway but I do get the song. They might absorb the meaning oh I don't know much about babies --- "

Rico flung a strong flipper about Marlene's shoulders. "Wrytoomuch."

"Hey, since Private ducked out of babysitting they're your responsibility so if you want them to --- never mind. I guess you're right. Well, um, they're nodding off so I'll sketch the beginning of the surprise for Momma Duck." She leaned into his side. "Jefe Grande, set up my easel, huh?"

He astounded her by pecking her cheek before disengaging. "Yah." Her easel was new and untried, like she was in this plural relationship on the team she was beginning to think of as hers.

The splintered old easel made a campfire when she and Skipper hammered out their plans for the future one night as they roasted marshmeowmeows; namely, that she would join the penguin commando group on an as needed basis. He made it formal. He produced a pearl the color of a blushing peach to give to her, actually taking a knee to present it. "My pebble, Marlene." She'd felt faint as she took it, murmuring that she had nothing to give in return. "I'm sure you'll come up with something," he'd said softly and the words felt like a promise from the Labyrinthine Mollusk Herself.

Marlene swam back to the present as she felt Rico's gaze upon her. "Heh. Woolgathering, sorry. I'll get to work now." She framed the portrait in her artist's eye, arranging them all by height. It would be sweet to paint Skipper and Private helping Sarah to stand with one of her tiny wings in each of their flippers. To the left she would pose Kowalski and Rico with Paul in similar position. She took extra time to figure out how she would fit herself in. Between the two pairs? Cliché. Behind them, standing on a stool, as if she were their marionetteer? Maybe. She'd leave that for future inspiration. Momma Duck was busy teaching her older brood to fly, so the penguins had care of the infants for two whole days.

"'Kay, Rico, do that turn the mind off thing you do so well and freeze. Yeah, like that." Rico's eyes blanked scarily, but she was used to it.

She sketched the basic layout, ovals and circles forming penguin shapes of the penguins not in the lab. Rico she filled in more thoroughly and the babies' cuteness was easy; she condensed her usual broad strokes into more precise ones for their small faces and features. Paul and Sarah could both use a smile enhancement. Hmm, how to get them to smile when they woke up and she could begin work fine-tuning their tiny expressions?

She poked Rico when she was finished and he turned his mind back on. Marlene could nearly hear the vroom of his little gray cells at peak acceleration once more. She anticipated a simple day of sketching and playing with ducklings while leaving most of the work to penguins who had, you know, promised their mother to take on the awesome responsibility of caregiving.

What Rico did next amazed her.

Zipping from a blank expression to hyper alert commando focus, he homed in on her without saying a word. He leaned into her neck, sniffed hard and then tilted his head back with beak open. With his tongue slapping against the roof of his mouth, he made sounds that reminded her of the sump pump that Handyman Gus installed when her habitat flooded.

"Er, Rico, what are you doing?"

He did not reply, and the sump pump slurped at high speed. She grew uncomfortable.

Her curiosity got the better of her when he waved her closer. "C'mere." Now he slithered his beak into her right pit and she darted back when she felt a long lick.

"Stop! I don't like touching like this, penguin! Quit it!" She pushed him off.

His gaze refocused. "Sowwy." He looked concerned. "Yukay, 'Eenie?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why did you taste me?" Marlene blotted away his spit from her pit. "Ew."


She sniffed. "Well, you're weird, too, and you smell bad sometimes, but you don't hear me mentioning it."

What he asked next dropped a bomb into her lap. "Pregs?"

"What? No! How is that even possible!"

His lifted brow said it all. "kaffKipppaaaaahkaff --- "

" --- is a penguin. Honestly, Rico." She burst out laughing. "Really! Can it be that you don't know how impossible it is --- "

Rico indicated the two snoozing babies wordlessly.

"Sure, I'll keep quiet," she whispered, "but gosh, what gives?"

He shrugged as confusion rumpled his face. "Dunno. Yutastefny."

It had to be this next thing that he sensed, it had to be it. "Not that it's your business, but I'm coming into heat. This stays between you and me, okay? I'll tell Skipper if he needs to know." She looked at him sideways. "Do you realize what that signals, Rico?"


"Ha! The opposite, actually, because it hurts sometimes why am I telling you this?" She shook her head. "Just forget about it. It's only ten days, three if I get lucky."

He grinned.

"I don't mean lucky that way! Look, there are no other otters in Central Park Zoo so I can't become pregnant, the zoo never loaned me out for a breeding program or brought in a male otter --- I wonder why?" She fluttered her lashes because the grin deserved a comeback. "Aren't I pretty enough?"

Fat tears formed in Rico's eyes. He rolled her into a protective hug that had her gasping.

She broke out of it. "I'm kidding, you goofball! I have loads of green memories, working backwards from Skipper to everyone who's none of your business, m'friend." She patted his broad belly. "Aw, I'm all right. You know, maybe there are otters in Central Park." She frowned. "I've never thought about it. I've never scented any, though." She'd likely remain childless; she hadn't always been okay with that, but she was now. The solid relationship she had with Skipper helped immensely.

Sarah picked that moment to rouse and bop Paul's beak. He squalled and dotted her eye. The noises arising from the playpen took Rico's attention and Marlene's, too, as they each held a baby to soothe away tiny duckling owwies. Cuddling Paul, Marlene thought that babies were more interesting than she'd considered before two landed intimately into her life. There was the moro reflex, the rooting reflex, the walking reflex ... She mused herself into a reverie as she bobbled Paul up and down.

Skipper's and her baby would be an otguin, a furry black and white stub-tailed shape sporting penguin feet and flippers, but with an otter face. He or she would be the apple of her or his parents' eyes. She squeezed small Paul's yellow fluffy fuzz fondly and he farted. "Let wind be free for there shall be --- oh, skip it. Did you pick up that habit from Rico, Paul sweety?"

Rico huffed as he put Sarah on his shoulder to rub her back and jiggle her. "Nope. Kwoskii."

"Heeee, right! He farts, you burp, Private boushes and Skipper --- what does he do that they could pick up?"

Rico finished comforting. Sarah toddled around the playpen once again and Marlene placed Paul at the opposite corner. She gave him a fish plushie and Sarah a plushie that resembled a partially eaten ear of corn, but on closer inspection proved a mockup of Kowalski's abacus. Paul gnawed the fish plushie and then slapped Sarah with it. It was soft as an otter's winter fur and didn't hurt. "Oh. That's what they're picking up from him."


Kowalski held the lab door open while Skipper poked his head around it. "Hey, artiste, how's it going?"

"Wedun." Rico exited the lab at Kowalski's wave. Skipper approached his ladylove.

"You look cute today, Marlene."

"So do you, honey."

"Yeah, um, well, mirrors don't lie. I look exceptional." He caressed her shoulder. "Wanna fool around?"

"Nooooo, unless you mean sketch." An ache began low in her belly to signal her condition of reproductive ripeness. If Skipper had taken the flehmen position like Rico did, he would have swallowed her scent like the finest Beluga caviar. As it was, he looked taken aback, but only for a moment.

"Okay. It would have had to be quick, anyway. We've got a full mission schedule today, and I was hoping you could cover for us in the babysitting sitch, what say?"

The peach of a pearl formed a tie with him and all the team, really. "Sure. What's up?"

"Kowalski needs to fix his first fixing of the zoo clock, Rico is itching to scope out Gus' excavating the main fountain, Private wants to pet the bunnies in the Petting Zoo and I am determined to face them head on in do-or-die combat drills."

"Combat with bunnies?"

"You didn't see what they did to us once, Marlene. We were pwned. Never again, not on my watch! Learn from your enemies, babe."

Her brow crept upward. "I don't have any --- "

"Sure you do! Anyone who's lived as long as you have has enemies. That's a given."

She sighed. "Same planet, different worlds, I guess. All right, Skipper, mission away. I could use downtime, anyhoo."

"Why so? You're usually gung ho to come along." He didn't appear worried, only curious, thank goodness.

"Let's just say it's my time of the year."

"I don't get y--- oh. You mean that." He looked at her like she was a fragile ice sculpture, melting if he so much as breathed hard on it. "Out of my jurisdiction and out of my league, Marlene. Tell me what you need. I'll get it for you, no matter what."

She did melt, but deep inside. "Awwww, honey. I don't need anything. It's just the Labyrinthine Mollusk's way of doing things to make otters make more otters. I'm fine."

He couldn't seem to look her in the eye. "Er, how do you handle ... everything?"

"You mean blood, Skipper?"

A wordless nod in the direction of the lab's door, which he might sprint for any moment now. She could tell he was cringing where it didn't show.

"I swim a lot. You may have noticed."

"Oh. Yeah. That'd work. Um, onward, Marlene, I will belay calling on your expertise when that sitch is on the calendar. Just let me know the times."

She wanted to lighten this moment up before he squirmed away. "It's not contagious, Skipper. I've been doing this a long while."

"I can imagine, but it's okay, Marlene. You take it easy today, you hear? We'll dash in at noon for smiling and waving and to bring you some cotton candy for lunch. We'll wrap our missions up by chow this evening and then you can split for home."

She just had to tease because messing with him was such fun. "So you're not spending the night at my place even though it's Saturday?"

"No, got things to do here at HQ." His eyes popped open wide with inspiration. "Can't leave these adorable moppets alone."

"With three others to watch them?"

"We'll take shifts overnight. The more penguins, the fewer hours in each shift. Yeah, that's it."

"I see. Uh huh."

He rubbed the back of his neck. "It's just that I'd never thought about dealing with this thing about you because birds don't --- uh. You know what I mean."

"Yes. I do."

"You mad?" Before they got together-together, he'd never have asked this. Her heart switched from melting to pinging like the sonar did on their sub when it homed in on a school of anchovies.

"Nope." She considered a moment. "I'd never thought about what this would indicate to you. You believe I can't perform on any mission you'd assign me at these times." She crossed her paws tightly over her white bib of fur and contemplated the lab door as if she were going to bolt for it.

He wasn't becoming angry, yet she caught the whiff of challenged authority. "You are so wrong, Marlene. I'm afraid that I'd think of you first and put the mission and the team last. I'd put you ahead of the mission. If that makes you think I'm mean, I can't help it."

He was serious. He was actually serious. Ah me, another pile of spraint to step over, as her mom would say. She ought to resist blurting what was on her mind, but her growing bellyache made her fractious. "For a tough guy, Skipper, you sure have a lot of fears."

"You never know the meaning of the word fear until you lead a team." Ooh, he'd been working on such a response because that sounded rehearsed.

Her heart pinged more, nevertheless. "I guess I never will know it, then. Let's table this discussion because you need to go and these babies need tending." Paul and Sarah played quietly. "Or they must, at some point today."

Okay, now he was at the door where he'd been hankering to be. "Bye!"

"Bye, Mr. Touchy-Feely. Be careful kung fuing those bunnies. Ouch, that was a dirty look!"

The door slammed louder than usual.


The End.

pronker: (Default)
Title:  One To Embody Power, Another To Crave It, A Third Along For The Lulz

Author:  pronker

Era:  Movie-Verse, fifty minutes prior to the film's beginning.

Disclaimer:  I make no profit from this fanfiction set in Dreamworks' franchise The Penguins of Madagascar, which I do not own. 

Summary:  Survival of the fattest.


A squabble didn't last long in a March of the Penguins.  For one thing, adults had learned by a certain age how to defuse, contain and laugh off their differences for the thirty mile trek.  It remained for the youngest to heed their elders' example and some of the youngest took longer to pick up hints on how to play well with others.

Skipper, for instance.

"What's the holdup?"

Kowalski eyed his new friend.  "Statistically, Skipper, we all waddle at an average speed of --- "

"Aw, you're going over my  head again, Smarty Beak."  Skipper paced in circles because scowling at the towering black back in front of him didn't work to hustle it along.  "I just want to move."

It had taken only two minutes after making his acquaintance for Kowalski to figure out that moving formed Skipper's raison d'être.  There was probably a song to be written about that, but for the moment he was more interested in a rotund penguin their own age belly sliding up to them past adults waiting in line like patient bowling pins due for a seven-ten split.

"Ahgrommtzmoooov," said the newcomer.

Kowalski noticed the recent scar savaging the edge of the left eye to score through the beak as it ripped down into newly regrowing neck feathers.  He didn't want to stare and focused on the words instead.  "What's that you say?"  What dialect was this?  He thought it was Hamarskaftet Nunatak, but he'd need more research to confirm his hypothesis.  He could tell that the voice had changed some time ago, like his own.

Skipper pounced on the bird as a distraction from inactivity.  "Hi!  My name's Skipper!  I know kung fu!"

A grin big as all outdoors split the beak of the half-grown penguin.  "Rico."

Skipper seemed untroubled by any strange accent as he plunged into what he did best.  "Well, Rico, this here is Kowalski and we're bored stiff.  C'mon, let's you and me change it up."  He bobbed and weaved like Chayaphon Moonsri, surprisingly light on his feet for such a chunky young penguin as he punched the air.  He caught Rico's glance askance at his shorter stature.  "Aw, don't be afraid.  I won't hurt you."

Small bird, ego the size of the Pantanal at full flood, analyzed Kowalski as reality tempered the glow of new friendship.  Nevertheless, he wanted to do something, as well.  "I'll be umpire."

Both of the other penguins burst out laughing.  "Umpire?"


Kowalski tried again.  "Shimpan?"

There was dead silence as Rico and Skipper traded glances.  "Um, yeah, Rico, Kowalski is the brainy one so I just throw his big fish words like recalcitrant back into the gobbledygook pool."

This might kill a friendship, new or, um, newer.  "Take that back!"

The audience factor likely played a big part in the tussling takedown of all three by all three as they spun out of the line: Kowalski smarting over being dismissed by Skipper in front of Rico while Skipper wanted to show Rico the ropes about how to fit into 'tween penguin society, at least the way he saw it, with Rico simply pining to show off what he could do.  Soft snowflakes flew everywhere in the flurry until the scuffling threesome reached harder packed snow and Rico had had enough.  He coughed, wheezed and hacked after he toppled over until both Kowalski and Skipper stopped throwing wild punches.  They gathered around in concern.  

"What is it?  What's the matter, buddy?"

"Do you have asthma?  Where is your inhaler?  Show me quick, Rico!"  Kowalski always knew his nurturing instinct would push him into a leader's position if the situation called for it.

Rico ceased breathing.  He added a convincing rattle.

"No!"  Kowalski pounded on Rico's chest, or meant to; in his panic, he hit the belly again and again.

Skipper edged away, noticing for the first time that the three of them had moved the venue of their bout quite a distance from the stalled March of the Penguins.  "I'll get backup!"

Before Skipper could belly slide for help, a rainbow colored silk parachute blossomed out of Rico's gut.  It ballooned over the three birds to trap them inside and it was only long after the incident that either Kowalski or Skipper could piece together what happened next.  

Kung fu-ing with both flippers inside a gaily colored straightjacket that fuzzed his sight, Skipper registered that some penguin upended him with what seemed super strength and slammed his head upon the gritty ice underfoot.  "Gah!  Wh-What?  Stoppitteemergencygottagetbackup --- "

Kowalski heard the desperate words as he concentrated on stop-drop-rolling upon the ice, thinking to spin out from under the enveloping shroud.  What occurred was that he tangled himself further.  Shroud, he thought, they'd need a shroud for Rico if he didn't free himself so he could search for Rico's inhaler, which must have fallen along their squabbling path.  "Eeeeeeeyurgh, I'm trapped!  Rico, hang in there!  I'll give you beak to beak if I can't find your inhaler --- "

Grunts, thumps and a series of ouches in Skipper's voice that hadn't changed yet reached Kowalski's earholes.  He bellowed back in his premature baritone.  "Skipper, I'm your backup oh if I only knew better curses than dangit --- "

Something resembling a laced whalebone corset compressed his flippers and squeezed them against his body.  Kowalski felt his breath sluice out of him until he couldn't breathe, either.  The pressure kept up until he saw spots.  Ooh, pretty little bubbles like dolphins make, he wondered in amazement.  I wonder how they taste?  He stuck out his tongue in a daze and then air pumped into his lungs.  The bubbles popped.

Between Skipper's angry mutters and Kowalski's befuddled huhs came the whisper of rainbow silk whisking off to drift away in the stiff Antarctic wind.  Kowalski and Skipper gasped like babies in a gale as Rico posed before them, hale and hearty.  

He fixed them with an arched brow and disciplinarian gaze.  "Nuffnao, Kwoskii.  Nuffnao, 'Kippaaahhh." He patted his gut.  "Morewherezatcamefrum."  He started to say something else and settled for batting his baby blues at them before rumbling thanx.

"So you're okay?  And you can do weirdo stuff with your blubbery belly?"  Kowalski halted at a warning frown.  "Um, well, it is.  Sorry if the truth hurts."  

Rico glowered before breaking into a sunny smile that showcased his good nature.  He bounced his spare tire with a gleam of pride.  "Eh, whayagonnado?"

"What was this, a lesson --- oh, I get it."  Skipper rubbed his head.  "You pounded some sense into us."  Rico and Kowalski swiveled to stare at him.  "Okay okay, mostly into me."  He nudged Kowalski.  "Science Boy, he squeezes like grinding pack ice, don't he?  You look like a pipefish."

Kowalski sized up Skipper.  "And your head is a --- "

"All right, point taken."

"Taken off, you mean," Kowalski jabbed back.  He was willing to be a friend and follow this dynamo of a penguin but that didn't mean he diluted his own spice.  He passed some sauce along to Rico just to be fair.  "What did you do to your top feathers?  Did your mama fix them this morning?"

Rico drew himself up as he curled a flipper into a fist.  "Aye."

Skipper stepped in fast to lead them from the brink of disaster.  "Guys, guys, mamas are off limits, agreed?"

Kowalski thought of what other tummy contents might lie in wait for anyone who crossed Rico and gulped.  "Agreed."

The three melded into a trio by the time they waddled back into their place in line.  After five minutes that seemed like five days to Skipper, the March resumed.  The three 'tweens passed the time marching by playing the dozens until they came into view of the ocean.

From an icy cliff two hundred fifty feet above the floes that dotted Weddell Sea, the water gleamed as blue as a wetter version of the sky.  The view took their breath away as much as any lung squeezing asthma.

"That's a beautiful sight, boys."


"It's cerulean as anything gets on our good earth, I think."  Kowalski forgot to use a smaller word and winced as he waited for the figurative knock out punch.  He was pleasantly surprised.

"Cerulean or not, it's as lovely as a new laid egg."


"Right, Rico, or lovely as a freshly caught smelt."  Skipper did a double take.  "Wow, you can sing?  All we need is one more penguin and we could do barbershop!"

As the March continued, Fate eavesdropped to grant the request in four ... three ... two ... one ...


The End.


A/N   SPOILERS FOR FILM Rewatched bits and: 

[1] took literary license with Rico in this fic (he is unscarred in the films); 

[2] noticed that as Eva is carted to her seeming execution in the equivalent of a tumbrel near imprisoned Kowalski that there may be a Star Wars reference (Kowalski stretches out through the bars to her and says 'I know'); 

[3] the scene with Skipper showing apparent beard stubble made me laugh hard as ever

[4] heard excellent James Bond-ish music (a la Thunderball) and absorbed

[5] that McGrath voice acted well to project softer and younger (while portraying kid!Skipper) than Skipper sounds as an adult.  
pronker: (Default)

Edited drawing and reuploaded here; growled while exercising patience using Photobucket with sloooowwww loads and popups not as bad as Angelfire, though, grrrrr; dragged and dropped onto the site for the first time, go me! Pencil onto white fiberboard then traced with sharpie before putting into Adobe CS2 for coloring. Photo taken with laptop camera to meh effect; my scanner no longer talks to laptop after beginning Windows 10, which seems a common issue with it. Onward.
pronker: (Default)
Title:  Trial And Error

Author: pronker

Era: Sometime after the return from Åland in Watermelon Snow.

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

Summary: Ars longa, vita brevis.

A/N Extrapolated from various eps in which Marlene's cave shows art supplies and various canvases standing against its wall.


"If Namath can do it, so can I!"  Skipper reclined on his side on Marlene's bed, stretched his legs coyly and propped up his head on a beguiling flipper.  

"Namath?  He's from, like, ice ages ago!  How old are you, Skipper?"

He winked at her and her heart skipped a beat.  "Need to know, Marlene."

"Yeah whatever keep your secrets."  She rolled her eyes.  "Pretend Kowalski's freeze ray zapped you when I get done posing you, mmmkay?"

Marlene adjusted his top knee to cross his other one to touch the bed's surface.  He winked again and she flushed as she aimed a cuff at his earhole, quickly enough for him not to dodge her blow.  She discarded the pillow and ruffled her blanket artfully around him to suggest movements from the recent past, blushing even more.  She tilted his head up.  She was satisfied with the pose.

Skipper was not.  "Does the model ever give suggestions?  This one has a doozy."

She crossed her eyes before narrowing them.  "Okay, yeah, I'll use it but only if I like it.  That's why I'm the master and you're the --- "

"Padawan?"  he said solemnly.

Marlene blew a raspberry.  "Go on, you silly!  Hurry up!  I'm losing the north light here."

"Slip me one of those pansies."  He pointed to her vase, which was out of his reach.


"From your bouquet, Marlene.  That's the right name for the purple flower, am I right?"

"Pblbpbpbl, Kowalski must have told you."  She passed him one.  

He adjusted it upright in front of himself at the natural crease between legs and torso.  She could tell he was barely holding back the chortles by the way his shoulders shook.  He looked up at her with doe eyes.  "Purple on black and white, outstanding, don't you think?"  He waggled the posy.

She took two steps back to frame the pose between her paws à la Renoir.  She shifted from portrait to landscape and back again.  She covered one eye.  "Needs something."

"Aw, come on!  It's perfect!"  

She realized that it was a daunting thing for a commander to share or give up command, but she was positive he'd like her addition to his suggestion.  She selected two more pansies from her vase, opened his grip on the original flower and pressed the three stems together before closing his grip again.  "You could do with more coverage.  Hold still while I adjust your, your --- "


"Uh, I was going to say accoutrements but okay, stance will do.  Only you're not standing."  She placed his flipper closer to his body and stiffened the pansy stems.  "We'll need to get this sketch done quickly before the flowers wilt."

"Mine won't dare wilt.  And what's a cootermon?  Is that some artist lingo like easel and Ben-Day?"

"Never you mind.  Hold that position and look pleasant.  No, not like that."


"Something else."


"Better, but with less determination.  Think of coming home to a nice warm lair or visiting a nice warm Kitka."  

He lowered his eyes and looked unsettled.  She had the impression that he wanted to open up about the Kitka situation but instead he said,  "Okay, um, Marlene.  Operation: Poser is a go."

"I didn't agree to that name."  She hustled her easel in place and made broad circles with her pencil.  She squinted harder at him after one minute had passed.  "Breathe, Skipper, it's okay to breathe."

"Lying about isn't my thing.  I at least look at picture magazines when I goldbrick around the HQ."

She had heard of models needing conversation to stay focused and multi-tasked for all she was worth.  "Oh yeah?  What do you guys subscribe to?"  She outlined boxes, circles and spirals and now the body was done.  The facial expression would be more of a challenge.

"Ground-To-Air Missiles Quarterly, Tanks Unlimited, Superior Strategies complete with pie charts, stuff like that.  Now and then Penguins Illustrated."  He paused.  "The annual beach bunny issue falls apart three days after it's delivered."

The blanket's ripples gave her fits.  "Mmmhmmm."  She could only imagine how difficult drawing would be if animals wore clothes.  The shading she could fill in later.  Skipper was showing signs of restlessness.  Oh well, vigor was only one of the things she liked about him.  Hmm, vigor ...  "Aw dang."

"What is it?"

"A change up in the pose, sorry, my friend."  She erased the bottom third of the body.  "I had a brainstorm."

"Marlene, I've got things to do this morning --- "

"Okay!  Two more minutes then you can split!"  She scrubbed furiously at the sketchpad with the eraser.  "Shoot, I dropped my rubber.  Toss it back, would you?"  

"Your ... rubber?"

"The eraser, Mr. Bad Pun.  See it bounced by the bed oh never mind I'll get it --- "

"Don't get your tail in a twist, Ms. Otter."  He moved from her meticulous posing and she groaned.  After a moment's fishing by the bed, he tossed the eraser to her.  She replaced it on her easel's tray.  

"Before you settle, here's a better pose.  Just relax and let me position you."

"That tickles!"

"Sorry sorry, now recline again on your left side.  Flipper under head, yeah like that.  Left leg crooked slightly, no a little more.  Now angle the right leg up like this" --- she slid a paw behind the knee --- "my goodness, you're ticklish!  I'm barely touching you!  Relax the right foot --- what's the matter with your pinkie claw?  It's shiny and new ---"

"I got hurt on Åland blah blah can we just get on with it?"

"Oh!  That must have pained you!"

"I barely felt it.  I was busy fighting a sasquatch.  Come on, let's do this thing and I'll get out of your fur."  He softened.  "Not that I'm unwelcome, I know.  Stop the pity party, okay?  I hate that.  The toe's all healed up, see?"  He wiggled it.  

"Did the sasquatch tear into you that bad?  Where was your team?"

"Yeah, Private was the only one with me that battle.  Come on now, I don't have all day."  The mood in her cave soured.

She assessed him.  He was uncomfortable talking about Åland.  A story would need to be told ... but not today.  "Gotcha.  Moving right along, Skipper, I'm ready to work."


She stifled her comeback as she shifted into artiste mode.  Now the pose was perfect and she sketched the open legs' apex garnished by the pansies and then the relaxed posture, saving the face for last.  A few defining touches about the beak and she declared the first sketch complete.  "All done.  Te ves grandioso.  Thanks. "

"Okay, uh huh, sure.  I'm not even going to charge you."

"Haw.  Haw.  Let me make tea --- "

"I'm a coffee penguin, you know that."

"Whatevs.  Vamoose, then.  Catch you later, alligator."

"After while, crocodile."  Action mode restored, he waddled to her drainage grate and disappeared down it.  

Marlene whooshed out a breath.  "Girl, you will never learn all the penguins' secrets no matter how long you live.  Get used to it."  She sat on her bed to critique the sketch.  "Hmm, not bad.  A Caillebotte I am not, but not bad."


The End.

pronker: (Default)
This is a chocolate-orange cake that sounded fantastic. It is delicious.


And here is the recipe from my go-to comm, Vintage Ads on LJ:

Behold the KABOOM!!! cake.


The recipe for the frosting actually doesn't need the 3 T. OJ because of all the orange pulp; the frosting is more sauce-y even with 1 extra cup powdered sugar to thicken it. This took an entire box of unsweetened chocolate and so I omitted the shaved chocolate on the top layer.
pronker: (Default)
Title:  Absence

Author: pronker

Era: Far, far in the future, we hope.  Or maybe never.  

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

Summary:  The four times Skipper listened and the one time he didn't.

Warning:  Not a happy story.






"Ski--- p-p- uhhhhhhhh ---- "



"I want to discuss options with you, Private."  Kowalski's eyes were red-rimmed but his voice held steady.  

Rico turned away from his remaining teammates to give privacy.  He settled near the TV beloved by all of them, turned the sound down low and watched this morning's Lunacorns' Episode 86 of Season Three: Feelings, Whoa Whoa No Feelings.  That had been an artsy episode, filled with stylized scene fades and sparkling effects when Queen Pleaseandthankyou ceded leadership of all the Lunacorns to Princess Self-Respectra.  The transition of power shifted royal court dynamics as smoothly as Rico had ever seen.  He could not help but wonder if humans could take a leaf from the episode's Big Pastel Picture Book Of Politeness.

Private spared no glance for his favorite TV program.  "I don't care where I end up, K'walski."  He shrugged.  "Assign me any old place."

"Skipper would not wish you to drown in the Slough of Despond."  Kowalski cast a look at the unfinished Sloop John B at the empty place near the head of the table.  After one week, no one had had the heart to either discard the ship in a bottle or finish the project.

Private followed Kowalski's line of sight.  "Too late!"  He swallowed hard.  "Everythin's all wrong in my heart, somehow."  He studied his clasped flippers.  "My head says it wasn't my fault because I warned Skippa, I did, that the gun Hans aimed looked like a Webley Mk VI and not a harmless freeze ray but Skippa claimed Hans would never use anythin' but a Danish Madsen ranged weapon oh why didn't he listen to me before rushin' out from cover --- "

" --- and so your heart tells you that it was your fault he was killed, but Private, we all know our Skipper.  Sometimes he just didn't listen to any animal."  Kowalski's face grew as long as Private's.  "And so he's p-paid the price."  He swiped a flipper over his face.  "Ahem.  HQ Skyped this morning while you were sleeping and put me in charge of this unit.  We're going after Hans, Private, and I want you along on the mission.  What do you say?"

Rico tired of simpering Lunacorns; he clicked the TV off and a glum brooding silence shrouded the team's lair as it had for many days on end.  He waddled to the all-purpose table to fetch the deck of cards and returned to plotz once more by the TV without taking notice of anything or anyone else.  Kowalski shared a puzzled look with Private.  Rico could have regurgitated the deck where he sat, but the explosives expert had produced nothing but burps from his gut in a week.

Kowalski began another tack as he indicated the healing bump on the younger penguin's temple.  Rose pink replaced purple as it protruded twenty per cent less than yesterday from glossy black feathers.  "Rico stays with the Central Park Zoo team because he insisted and has seniority, so The Big Boss agreed.  I wanted to give you options, though, because you can choose reassignment to HQ for trauma treatment and select another team to join for more training.  Our team might hold unpl- er, I mean, guilty, oh drat, overwhelming memories."  He made himself continue.  "This may influence you to leave.  It's my job to present all options, even those I h-hate."  The lieutenant-turned-commander faced his subordinate squarely.  "You might even quit commando life altogether.  Rico and I would understand."

That got a rise from a confused and grief-stricken heart.  "Wot?  No!  Skippa kept me under his wing since forever and I'll dive headfirst into bein' a commando if it kills me.  This" --- he poked his bump savagely and then winced --- "is nothin'."  He slumped again.  "He tried to teach me everythin' but wot he taught me most, whether he meant to or not, was that I needed him."

The depth of Private's tragic loss in harrowing circumstances hit Kowalski for perhaps the first time.  He leaned forward earnestly.  "When you're in a hole, you oughta stop diggin'."

"That didn't sound like you, K'walski."

"Er, it was Dr. Phil.  I quote him a lot.  You may have noticed."

"Righto."  Rico's shuffling of the deck of cards supplied background noise as Kowalski swam through his own sorrowing sludge to supply guidance from a tiring brain.  Finally, he took a deep breath.

"Private, bad things in life take it out of us and we get stuck in a hole with a hole in our heart.  I know.  But" --- he jerked his head in Rico's direction, who was laying the foundation for yet another house of cards --- "life gives to us, too.  You'll find life makes a way to fill up the holes and little by little, other events, and and interests, and well, just living day to day smooths out the, the holes until you're on level ice again."  

The dull look on Private's face showed that Kowalski had not reached him and the fledgling commander sailed onward.  He luffed the canvas of his argument to prolong the tack into a friendlier port.  "Promise me you'll sleep on your decision tonight and we'll revisit this tomorrow morning.  Redier's ringlets, not too early, we still need extra rest to process ... everything that's happened.  And Private," he forced a smile, "take Rico as a good example, okay?"

Private swiveled his head in the direction of the TV.  "Wotever for?  He's done nothin' but build a house of cards every braapin' day since we laid Skippa to rest in the park."  A petulant frown creased a white brow and Private squirmed where he sat.  "Useless, if you ask me."  He tapped both flippers on the table as if barely able to sit still as his shoulders hunched in agitation.

The smile vanished.  "Rico grieves in his own way.  His decision to stay with the team was the right one --- "

"Says you!"  Private jumped onto the table and dropped to his haunches for an expert sweep kick at the ship in the bottle project.  The Sloop John B shattered on an unyielding cement floor.


From out of nowhere, four flippers held the tantrum under concerned control.  Private heaved to rise to no avail on the table as his face worked to stem tears.  "Crikey, let me up.  I'm good to go anywhere.  I'll leave right now, in fact."

Rico tightened his grip.  "'Rivatedown," he said firmly.

"No, Rico, let loose.  He needs to work through this --- "

Rico stood by his judgment as he had on the soothing nature of constructing a house of cards with no help from his amazing gut each day only to deconstruct it each night.  "Down!"

He was proven correct at Private's next words bitten out through a trembling beak.  "K'walski, you say other events and livin' day to day fill in holes and you were meanin' to add other friends at some point in future, am I right?"  Private stopped struggling at Kowalski's helpless nod.  He pretended to be fascinated by something on the ceiling.  "Wot if there are no other friends?  I've got no one else to lose."  He went limp and Rico eased up.  Kowalski loosened his hold, too, and circled the table to approach Rico's side.  At one step short of goal, he made a grab to block Rico's lightning fast strike.

Rico slapped as hard as Skipper ever did.  "Wubboutus?"  

Kowalski seized Rico, who wrestled out of the grip as Private rolled with the blow to land on nimble feet on the opposite side of the table from his teammates.  The three took a beat to gather themselves before Kowalski produced another option in desperation.  "Nigel!  Talk to Nigel!"

Kowalski could tell that Private was thinking at least a little because he tapped his flippertips together.  "Yeah, right, Uncle Nigel said I could stay with him awhile to get sorted.  I dunno wot to do, K'walski.  Life is all gobsmacked."

He turned away from them both as he headed to his bunk and rolled over to face the blank inside wall.  He kicked his Princess Self-Respectra doll to the floor.

"Lights out, Rico."

Rico did a double take.  "Zmornin!"

"You heard me.  Lockdown, computer."  Kowalski had nothing left to give to this day.  


"Rowan's message, not you, too!  I said lockdown!"

The lights dimmed to night setting and the only inorganic sounds in the lair were the slamming shut of the topside hatch and whssshpt of porthole coverings activating.  Heavy organic sighs continued for some minutes.  Private's trophy fish that at one time was organic gaped as uncaringly as ever.


Twenty-two hours later, Private stretched languidly.  Rattling snores drifted to his earholes from above and below his bunk and he smiled.  He'd awakened first.  He felt rested.  He'd dash to the latrine, prep for the day and show how ready he was for duty to Sk-


He'd held off memories for a tad shorter this time.  That was good, wasn't it?  That showed progress?  He was adjusting better?

No.  The new reality was unthinkable to adjust to.  Leave the team after returning to HQ for treatment of his puny injury?  He stuck up one flipper to represent that decision.  Talk to Uncle Nigel first?  He raised the other.  He zipped looking from one flipper to the other faster and faster, like the one time he had played Pong with Skipper in a bar featuring retro arcade games made into cocktail tables.  Of course, Skipper had won before hustling Private away from sitches bad for young penguins, his favorite term for anything from the zoo's St. Valentine's Day Serenading Sleepovers to drinking beer, even root beer.  

Private stirred the air in his bunk faster and faster with both flippers because options were the first thing on his mind, well, after that horrible wave of memory receded.  His whole body hurt and not just his bump.  He slammed his flippers down.  What was this pain?

It was the same pain as yesterday morning and the morning before that and the morning before that; in fact, every morning since he had surfaced to a throbbing head and shattered heart.  He couldn't remember how he'd returned to the lair from the dock.  Only one memory seemed more than hallucination: Rico plodding slowly beside Kowalski, Skipper's body slung over one brawny shoulder.  Private must have been carted in similar fashion by Kowalski at Rico's side, only he could open his eyes enough to see Skipper's beak trailing nervelessly down his soldier's back.  He gave a small cry at the recollection of glimpsing white feathers blown away from his commander's throat.  Face it, Private, he thought: you're bollocksed.  

He groaned and pressed his pillow over his face.  Serenity swam away from him as fast as a tarpon could flash through the briny mid-deep.  He had to do something or go mad.  He listened to the snores a moment more and acted.  The lab.  Yes, the lab provided solitude for the option that he had in mind.

With a stealth that came hard-learned, he dove from his bunk, landed in a roll and then waddled in circles while firming his resolve.  At last he straightened and eased open the heavy door.  Inside, the large space was black as Hans' heart.  He knew exactly where the light switch was, of course, but navigating in the dark provided one more way to avoid thinking about his loss.

No device glowed or hummed; Kowalski used his lab to putter aimlessly these days, neither completing nor beginning a project.  Private began his final morning workout in total darkness.
With a muted hi-yaaaah!, he became a ball of furious energy, concentrating on keeping all his movements inside a proscribed area.  He leaped high, he crouched low, he karate chopped and hip-flipped his invisible foe.  He stood on his head and bicycled his feet to distract Hans from aiming the kill shot.  Fast as the cheetah that the zoo was promised but who never arrived, he spun, kickboxed and capoeiraed the imaginary deadly puffin into submission.  In the dark, it was easy to imagine Hans' gasping, hateful face ground into the wooden dock.  Private allowed himself the joy of victory.  It was only fair to the situation in general since the team had thwarted Hans' scheme.  

The agony of defeat returned.  True, Hans hadn't succeeded in his attempt to hijack their submarine as he and Skipper set off to visit Atlantis.  If he had, then he would have learned the coordinates to that fabled continent, broken into their armory of superior weapons and returned to blow away more righteous citizens along with Skipper.  As things stood, Skipper's death was a reasonable price to pay for securing Atlantis' privacy as well as the peace of the other seven continents.  Skipper would have called the outcome a win-win-lose and not a true defeat at all;  Private knew himself unable to be so lighthearted with such a cost.

The sound of his labored breathing filled every square centimeter in the lab, Private figured.  A tale told of three princes who would receive their old king's crown if one could fill a room completely.  The first had shoveled sand into the room floor to ceiling; the king demonstrated how one more grain could be forced in.  The second son filled the room with feathers; the king compressed the feathers to add more.  The third son placed a candle in the middle of the room and lit it.  "Now it is filled with light," he said, and the king agreed.

Private's unanchored thoughts in the dark drifted from fairy tale to recent history.  It was supposed to have been partly a pleasure trip for them both, partly a training exercise for Private to separate the wannabes from the bees, according to Skipper.  When Kowalski challenged the skewed analogy, he'd been laughed off as Skipper ruffled Private's head feathers.  "C'mon, go with it, man!  I'll come back with an Atlantis turbo sea sled for you to reverse engineer.  Maybe even a sample of their permeable whatsis that they use to keep water out of their houses, how about it?"

Kowalski had persevered.  "Make the analogy separate the worker bees from the queen and I'll be happy."

"Queen?  Aw, have it your own way, sure.  Let's be gone, hey, Private?"

The memory of that day bit deep.  Rico and Kowalski waved them off in farewell, they sped to the docks via oblivious buses and made to retrieve their sub from Dock 25's underbelly.  That was when everything went pear-shaped.  Hans had been lying in ambush, the coward.

Private had trouble catching his breath.  He steadied himself with a flipper on the precise quadrant of work table where lay his desire.  More memories bloomed.  Skipper had listened to Rico's advice just before departing.  Rico had exploded the commander's notion to go off the grid and communicate only at their return with their sub's phased array.  He'd pressed a walkie-talkie into his leader's grip with a goofy grin and powerful clasp.  Skipper had rolled his eyes but accepted the device.

Private closed his own eyes to sharpen his senses for what he was about to do.

"Yeah, Ringtail, that's a good idea you've got there.  Mark my words because I'm not likely to ever say them ever again.  Ever."

Private snapped his head to the corner of the lab that was darker than dark.  "Wot?  Who is it?"

It couldn't be who it sounded like.  

Private touched his bump gingerly.  Kowalski said that the concussion was improving; had he been lying to comfort an aching soul?  

Okay, now that was just wishful thinking, or was he still asleep?  He pinched himself.  "Ow!"

The dark corner spoke again.  "Marlene, for a mammal, you've got a good head on your shoulders and I'm proud to high-uh-four you.  Men, follow the otter's tactics and off we go!  Hurry up, Private, hustle that muscle!"

Right, then.  He'd gone nutter.  Actually, this event made his decision even more wise and true.  Private reached up on the worktable for the weapon that none of them had gotten around to disposing.  When Skipper's terse "Backup!  Dock 25!" produced Rico and Kowalski in record time, Hans proved inept at evading Rico's furious chainsaw attack at the quay deserted by humans; he lost half a wing and he'd never fly again.  As he raced away, the Webley Mark Vi dropped and Rico retrieved it before Kowalski signaled him to help with their fallen warriors.  They were only able to help one of them.

"Soon, sir."  By touch alone, Private hefted the weapon and checked the chambers.  The empty one he jacked around to be certain that it would not be in play when he next used the weapon.  He ran a double check, congratulating himself on his thoroughness.  

Private's throat ached with holding back tears and his head ached and pain raced through him like sheet lightning on the prairies of Nebraska.  Crikey, what was it?  Why wouldn't this pain go away?  No animal could survive it.   He knew he was going to die of it because it ripped his being to shreds every day.  He gave himself options: he could reverse the decision he'd made this morning, or he could push through the pain and make the decision real.  All the suffering would be over --- his breath caught in his throat --- and maybe he'd see Skipper again!  In a few minutes!  

Whyever not?  he counseled himself.  With that happy prospect before him, how could he not go through with it?  Who would deny him such a joyful reunion?  He knew exactly where on his chest to place the barrel, how to use the Webley Mark Vi neatly and sweetly to fix his problem.  It would be simple.  He'd better do it now before anyone woke up.  For a moment, he was complete.  His team and his uncle would grieve and then move on, like Kowalski said regular folks do.  He'd be put in a hole, where regular folks go.  

"Comin', Skippa."  

Private pulled the trigger.  

There was a white light and then nothing.


Kowalski flicked the switch and his lab blazed to life.  "He's got to be in here, Rico."


"I'm worried about him --- Leonidas's loincloth!"  Kowalski knelt by his youngest soldier.  He opened a slack eyelid, slapped a feathery cheek and sighed.  "What was he doing?  He likes science about as much as you do, so what was he doing in my lab?"

Rico took in the scene with the gun on the floor within Private's reach.  He cocked his head in thought as he replaced the weapon on the work table.  He looked down at Kowalski's bowed back while the erstwhile lieutenant laid his earhole against the softly rising and falling chest.  "Kwoskii."  He upchucked a sphygmomanometer.

Kowalski grabbed the instrument without a second look.  He listened and palpated and declared Private fit to be moved to his own bunk.  Rico did the honors and Kowalski slid the blanket up to Private's pure white throat before tucking it in tightly about him.

It was a half hour before Private awakened.  He stretched without opening his eyes, a smile on his beak.  "Skippa?"

Rico gestured to Kowalski, who spoke a few hurried words into his Skype before clicking it off.  He'd heard Private's first utterance and shared a concerned look with Rico.  "Private, it's just us."

Private's blue eyes opened wide.  "Skippa's not with me?"  He got to his feet, wobble-legged.  He tottered forward into bracing flippers.  "Where is he?  And why are you lot here --- oh.  Oh, no.  Nothin's changed?  Nothin's better?"

It must have been this feeling that bent but never broke Skipper.  Kowalski could do no less in service to his bequeathed team.  "Private, Skipper is dead.  He'll never be with us ag--- "

Private's eyes watered.  "Don't."  

"I've got to."

The young penguin stumbled across the room and a laugh bubbled up.  "I had the answer to everythin'!  I had it!"

Rico pulled Kowalski aside and whispered into his earhole.  Kowalski's eyes dilated to nearly black.  "What?  Private, Skipper would not want you to do such a thing and I will not let you!"

"You don't understand, it's nothin' to be afraid of, it's not it's not --- "

Kowalski's voice cracked.  "You must understand that Skipper no longer lives, he'll never lead us again, he'll never command the sub again or play with Eggy again.  Not even once."  Rico had remained staunchly at his new commander's side, his face wet, but now his knees buckled and he sank to the floor.  

Hoarseness could not keep Kowalski from securing his team's safety.  "Promise me you won't try this again."

More laughter erupted as Private remained torn between hysteria and pain so great it blinded him to the friends he had left.  "Why?  I heard Skippa speak to me, he was this far away" --- he placed his flippers two inches apart --- "and he, he commanded me to come --- "

Rico croaked a question.  "'Kippaaaahhanted?"

Science proved Kowalski's salvation from insanity once more.  "Haunting is not possible, Private.  As much as we'd all love to see him again, it's impossible.  Let him rest in peace, for Blavatsky's sake.  He earned it."

With every word, something in the deepest part of Private withered.  He nodded distantly as he stared at the floor.  Rest.  Gone.  Earned.  Peace.  The ache inside him swelled to blot out all else, and then it receded the teensiest bit.  He looked around him.  Rico contemplated six square inches of the same floor in front of his slumped body; Kowalski strained to make eye contact with his distraught junior soldier as he stood with flippers akimbo in an unconscious imitation of Skipper.

Private lifted his gaze as his exhausted mind discerned a puzzle to seize upon as a distraction.  "Hang on.  I pulled the trigger after I heard Skippa or thought I heard him.  Wot am I doin' still breathin'?"  He looked even more confused than before.  "Or am I?  Am I dead, K'walski?"

Now this was something that Kowalski could sink his analyzing beak into.  "I am firmly convinced that you are not and neither are Rico and I.  Let's examine the evidence."  He looked down at Rico, who still had a depressed air.  "Er, I'll go it alone."  New energy gained from twenty-two hours of restorative sleep strengthened his steps as he paced in front of his team.  "What did you do right before you took up the Webley?"

Private waxed poetic.  "I played handball with Hans' head, so to speak.  I smashed his bleedin' beak in, I gutted him like a shrimp for jambalaya after rippin' off his legs and I made him pay --- "  He didn't seem to notice the tears that finally fell.  He sighed.  "In my mind, anyway, but on the outside I finished quite the tough workout and had to stop to get my wind back.  That's when I heard Skippa."

Kowalski invaded Private's personal space by a factor of one third.  "Stand still."  He brushed away the tears before gently feeling the bump.  "We found you on the floor with the gun near.  It had not been fired."  He frowned as he ran a flippertip around the pink circumference.

"I remember pullin' the trigger, K'walski.  Am I bonkers?"

Kowalski's smile was sad.  "I think we're all a little nuts lately.  What did Skipper say?"

"Somethin', somethin' --- oh, it's hard to think --- he gave in and really listened to, to you, and Rico, and Marlene and even Julien.  It was like a mishmash of the times I heard him take advice.  It was so nice to hear, K'walski --- "  Private started to sob.

Kowalski wrapped Private in a hug and comforted as would any good commander.   "There, there, now, Dr. Phil would say winners deal with the truth and the truth is that your bump isn't fully healed.  All that exercise shot up your blood pressure and you fainted when you lifted the heavy gun.  The rest was not real and you imagined you heard what you needed to about Skipper taking advice."

Private turned woeful eyes up to his tall friend.  "You really think so?"

Kowalski nodded and patted the quivering back.  "I do.  HQ is dispatching your Uncle Nigel here to liaise with you, and them, and us, and uh, me.  You two will have a nice visit, especially since he's not doing that dippy daffy doofus impersonation as a cover anymore."

Private pulled away a trifle.  "Yeah, um, thanks for fetchin' him, K'walski.  One thing, though."


"Wellll, I pinched myself to see if I was dreamin'.  And I wasn't."

Kowalski patted some more.  "Another hallucination that's entirely natural, Private."

Rico got to his feet and squeezed them both hard.  "Wuzthere," he said.

"So, Rico, you're sayin' Skippa knew I needed him one last time?  So he swam back from the Endless Iceberg through the Eternally Foggy Sea to help?"

Kowalski had the last word.  "Well, if any penguin could do it, he could."


The End.

pronker: (Default)

Slashy Penguins of Madagascar cartoon; yeah, it's hard to tell with birds. Premise extrapolated from episode "Marble Jarhead," in which Kowalski's invention that is supposed to level a radius of five miles ... doesn't. Attempting manga/doujinshi layout with conventions of red lines for blushes, sparkly diamonds for shiny happy moments, and 'CHU' for kisses. Apologies for quality of photo; I own no scanner, so this is a laptop's camera shot. Sharpie on white fiber board. Submitted to deviantArt for St. Valentine's Day 2017 community-wide celebration. Sent valentines to about 100 arters whose slashy goodness in various fandoms makes me smile.
pronker: (Default)

I spent the morning cleaning a closet and discovered binders filled with printed out fics that I used to read, prior to owning a Kindle in '13, on trains, buses, doctor's waiting rooms, at the beach, etc. Wow. Some were from defunct sites such as GeneralsGrrls Fic Archive on Geocities, but to my delight, Five Deaths To Die by Cassia that I printed is still up at her site. Also in the binders were cartoons by Elthegeneral and manips by Bodeewan along with her delicious slashy stories.

Five Deaths is one of the few stories that came close to making me tear up; it didn't, because I am a tough old bird, but it came close. In bits and pieces, I've been reading Was Fanfic Any Different In The Olden Days? and must say it's a treat to share memories with others from the 'zine age.
pronker: (Default)
Is there a better way to start this work week with a/let up in the rain and Roof Leak #2 not worsening while #3 remains only a black spot with no drips, b/finding THE LAST BOX OF CHOCOLATE COVERED CHERRIES ON THE CHRISTMAS DISCOUNT SHELF AT THE DRUGSTORE LUCKY IF THEY LAST THE DAY, and c/Nice Guy at mailing depot allowed me to pay next time for making numerous copies because all I had was my credit card and he didn't want to fuss for such a small amount?  I am blessed.


pronker: (Default)

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