The Good, the Bad, and the Chibi: Part 2

“A child of five could understand this. Fetch me a child of five.”
- Groucho Marx

2:43 p.m.

“So?” Bob asked, blinking out the spots in his vision staring into the beam had caused, “Did it work?”

“I dunno,” Ferdie replied, rubbing his eyes in an attempt to make them focus, “I think the banana's gone, but I feel kinda funny.”

“I know what you mean,” Bob nodded, “I feel taller.”

“Really?” Beak brushed some powdered banana off himself, “I feel a little smaller myself…”

“Who wants to play tag?” someone asked, seconds before a two-and-a-half-foot-tall blur streaked by, bowling over Iiwi as it passed.

“Tag! You're it!” the blur called, laughing.

Iiwi ruffled her feathers. “No fair! We're supposed to get a head start!” she yelled, scrambling after her tagger. Wings fluttering furiously, she glide-hopped on a course to intercept her target, only to have it dive beneath her as she lunged at it, slamming into Bobetta instead. On her feet again in an instant, she immediately resumed the chase, ignoring the ballerina's sobs at being knocked down.

Ferdia dove as Iiwi leapt at her, sliding on her belly like she did in kickball, then somersaulting to her feet and making a beeline for Squeaks. Grabbing the startled mouse by the waist, she swung behind him, peering out after Iiwi. “Hah!” she yelled defiantly, “Can't get me now! I'm on base!”

Iiwi skid to a halt, fluffing out her feathers a bit. “The base can't be a person!” she cried indignantly, “And even if it could, you can't just declare a base!” she yelled.

“Can so!” Ferdia yelled back, sticking her tongue out at the Flier, “Besides, why do you care, you tagged Bobetta, didn't you?”

Iiwi looked back at the pink-clad kiwi still on the floor. Clutching her elbow, Bobetta was sobbing, tears streaming down her face. Bob approached her, peering curiously at her 'wound'.

“What're you crying for?” he asked, “You're not bleedin' or anything.”

“Waaaaaaaaaa!” Bobetta wailed.

“What's wrong with her?” Squeaks called, straining to see around Iiwi without moving from the spot Ferdia held him anchored to.

“I don't know,” Iiwi shrugged.

“Maybe she's got Cooties,” Ferdia suggested, peering around Squeaks and idly playing with his frayed tail.

Bob jerked his hand away from Bobetta like she was a poisonous snake. “Ack! Cooties!” he yelped, “I'd forgotten about those!” He backed towards Squeaks.

“Cooties?” the mouse repeated.

“Yes. All girls have them,” Bob nodded, then uttered a horrified gasp as he noticed Ferdia clinging to the mouse. “Aaa! Squeaks, now you've got Cooties, too!”

Squeaks looked mildly concerned at this development, which Bob assumed meant he had no idea just how serious a disease Cooties was.

“Hey!” Ferdia yelled indignantly, “I do not have Cooties!”

“Yeah!” Iiwi echoed, “And neither do I!”

Bob looked warily back and forth between the two females. “How can we be sure?” he asked.

“Well, duh,” Iiwi rolled her eyes, “We don't have any of the symptoms!”

“Besides,” Ferdia added, “We do all the things that protect you from Cooties!”

“You mean like a Cootie shot?” Bob asked.

“Kind of,” Iiwi nodded, “But more like things that stop you from catching it in the first place.”

“Like what?” It was Squeaks' turn to be curious.

“Well, we go outside, and climb trees, and get dirty, and have war games, and play sports, and stuff,” Ferdia volunteered.

“And you can't do that if you have Cooties?” the mouse asked.

Iiwi thought about that. “Well, maybe. But if you've got Cooties, all you do is sit and play with dolls, and play dress-up, and have tea parties-”

“-Not the Boston kind,” Ferdia clarified, “Those are okay.”

“And you get scared of bugs and dirt and lizards and cry whenever you fall down or get dirty,” Iiwi finished.

Bob eyed Bobetta warily. “She was with us before, so she couldn't have caught it from one of us…”

“Here,” Iiwi said, slugging him in the arm, “Cootie shot! Now you're protected from getting it!”

“What about her?” Squeaks asked, nodding to the still-sobbing Bobetta.

“Oh, Bob can take care of her now,” Ferdia assured him, “Once she stops crying, he'll give her a Cootie shot and then she'll play with us!”

Iiwi watched Bob circle Bobetta carefully, looking to see if she was really hurt and trying to get her to calm down. The ballerina/princess continued her pitiful wailing, ignoring him, and Iiwi turned her attention back to the bluebird still crouched behind Squeaks. “I don't think she wants ta play,” she sighed. Scanning the area for other potential targets, her gaze fell on Ivan, who had his back turned to her and thus didn't see her coming until it was too late. “Tag! You're it!” she yelled, slamming into him and knocking him onto his side.

It?” he repeated, looking puzzled, “But I'm not even playing!”

“Oh,” she sighed disappointedly, turning away. Spotting Ferdie inching slowly towards 'base', she darted for him.

Ferdie froze for an instant as she charged him, eyes widening as he stood rooted to the spot. Survival instinct kicked in an instant later, however, and he broke into a dead run – for the door. Wings half-spread, Iiwi increased her speed, tackling the bluebird a split-second before someone tackled her from behind.

Squeaks watched the mound of clutter shudder as the three birds slammed into it, causing a minor avalanche. Curious about where this was going, the mouse approached the trio. The game of tag seemed to be rapidly devolving into a game of 'pounce,' and he idly wondered if they might let him play if he volunteered to be 'it' instead of the base. Beak, who looked even more befuddled about the wailing Bobetta than Bob did, decided to ask Newt if he knew what they were doing in a garage.


Newt stared up at the contraption in wonder. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie! Nifty! He wanted to go over to it, see what it did, but he knew better. The machine was clearly labeled 'George,' and he knew better than to mess with other people's inventions. That sort of thing got you buried in the sandbox very quickly.

“Hey, Newt?” a voice behind him queried. He turned to see Beak looking up at him. That struck him as odd; he could have sworn the brown kiwi was taller than he was. But no matter. Beak was asking him where they were.

“I think we're in a lab of some kind,” he ventured, gazing around the room. As he did so, he caught sight of Iiwi, Ferdie, Squeaks, and Ferdia scrambling about a mound of gadgets, involved in some sort of king-of-the-hill struggle. Even Bob had joined in the fray, abandoning a sobbing Bobetta to her tears. As various devices clattered to the floor around them, it dawned on the child genius just how destroyed the lab looked. Like someone had knocked over shelves, slammed into gizmos, and test-fired a few rockets. And seeing as how no one seemed to be around except them, they were probably the culprits.

Ohhhhh, they were in trouble….

As quickly as he could, Newt made his way over to the others. “We've got to get out of here!” he yelled, “Look at this mess! Whoever owns this place is gonna be mad!”

Beak looked perplexed. “I thought this was your place, Newt,” he said.

Newt broke into a cold sweat. This place must be his pop's! “I'll be grounded for the rest of my natural life!” he howled.

At the word 'grounded,' the wrestling urchins near the door paused in their game, looking around at the wrecked lab. “All in favor of abandoning ship?” Squeaks suggested.

There was a mad dash to the door. After checking that no grown-ups were around to see them leave (and then tell their parents), the crew bolted outside, down the street, and into the semi-wooded playground two blocks over.


West San Viano Park, 3:29 p.m.

“Something is (gasp!) amiss,” Newt wheezed, gazing about at his companions from where he lay sprawled on his back in the grass.

“Me!” Bobetta yelled, pointing to herself, “I'm a Miss! And you ruined my ballet slippers, making me run on the street like that! And now I've got grass stains on my tutu! Mummy will be so very upset with me!” she bawled.

On the whole, the group ignored her. Ferdia dusted off her police costume, adjusting the Junior Officer badge pinned to her chest before taking out her nightstick and batting at a nearby tree lizard with the hollow plastic tube. Ferdie climbed onto one of the park's benches as stood there for a moment, posing dramatically with his chest puffed out and his head held high, before leaping off and running around in circles, arms held out from his sides at shoulder height. He tilted dramatically every time he turned, making airplane noises. Squeaks straightened out his t-shirt, making sure the Alliance's crest wasn't rumpled, then turned to watch Ferdia battle Beak, who had a glow-in-the-dark extending plastic sword in his hands and was yelling something about defending bananas.

“What I meant,” Newt clarified, “is that something isn't quite right here.”

“Oh, that's easy,” Bob interrupted. “It's Ivan. He's got an egg.” Bob's voice took on a lecturing tone, “Boys aren't supposed to play with eggs.”

“It's NOT my egg!” Ivan fumed, “It's my sign holder!”

“Sign Holder?” Bob repeated.

Beak, rejoining the group and attempting to re-assemble his sword, looked skeptical. “How's an egg supposed to hold a sign?”

“It can't! But it – I mean, when it - hatches, - I mean – well…” Ivan stuttered.

“Ivan's got an e-egg! Ivan's got an e-egg!” Bob and Beak chorused. Ferdie joined them, dancing about mockingly.

With a snarl of rage, Ivan lunged at them. He got in a good slug or two as the birds scattered, and chased after Bob, yelling something in a language the rest of the group couldn't understand, but figured was a foreign way of calling someone a boogerbrain. Bob did a pretty decent job of staying out of Ivan's reach and tossing insults back at him – things in plain English, like snot-for-brains and doodyhead – while Ferdie ran back and forth, squealing excitedly at his ability to avoid being chased at all. Beak, on the other hand, went for Ivan's egg.

“Hey, look what I can do!” he yelled, tossing the egg high into the air. Ivan froze mid-stride as he did so, shrieking in terror as the egg tumbled end-over-end before Beak caught it again.

“My Sign Holder! Give it back, heathen!” He yelled, charging Beak with a murderous gleam in his eye. Beak waited until he had cut the distance between them in half, then lobbed the egg at Bob, who ran a few paces, then leapt and caught it in incredibly intense football-quarterback-freeze-frame-at-the-40-yard-line catch that made Ivan make a choking noise and clutch at his heart.

As Bob and Beak ran back and forth, playing egg-football with Ferdie cheering them on as an increasingly-hysterical Ivan scrambled around after them, Newt turned his attention back to the rest of the group. Iiwi was busily stalking a grasshopper, oblivious to the rest of the world, while Squeaks seemed to be arguing with Ferdia.

“Give me the gun,” he repeated, reaching for the semiautomatic pistol she held away from him.

“No!” she yelled, pushing him away from her and holding the gun as far back as her arm would reach, “It's mine!”

“You're too little to have a gun!” he protested, making another grab for the weapon, “Somebody'll get hurt!”

“No! It's mine!”

“Just let me make sure it's not loaded or anything!”


“Give it!”


Newt blinked. Where had Ferdia gotten a gun? Granted, she was dressed as a police officer, but guns weren't sold with the costume. He hoped she hadn't found it on the playground….Cautiously, he moved around the pair, trying to get in a position where he could make a grab for the gun.

        Ferdia noticed him, however, and jerked the gun away from him as he lunged for her. All this served to do, however, was effectively hand the gun to Squeaks, who quickly snatched it out of her grip and lifted it out of her reach.

        “Hey! Give it back!” she screeched, making a leap for the weapon. However, as she was a full foot shorter than the mouse, her jump fell short. She settled for latching onto his elbow and hanging there.

        Squeaks found himself incredibly thankful that Ferdia was a bird, as her hollow bones made her weigh – even when dangling like so much dead weight – about as much as the small kitten he'd had as a toddler. Still, she showed no signs of letting up, so he figured it would be best to make sure the gun was safely free of ammunition before she snagged it back. To his surprise, however, the gun appeared to have no clip, or loading device of any kind. Moreover, it was far too lightweight and flexible to be metal. Lowering it to eye-level to get a better look at it, he realized it was a squirt gun. A highly-detailed, amazingly accurate, quality squirt-gun replica of a police special, painted matte-black for that extra bit of realism.

        The thing looked real enough to pass for the real thing, and that made it dangerous. He made Ferdia pinky-swear to keep it locked in her hip holster before he let her have it back. She pouted a bit, but eventually gave in, solemnly crossing her heart and hoping to die as well as pinky-swearing to their deal. As long as nobody came after them with water guns or lobbed water balloons at them, Squeaks figured that promise was good for a few hours. Provided it didn't get any hotter outside.


        Newt watched the pinky-swearing ceremony with interest. There was something important here. Something he was missing. The solemn faces of the participants reflected how seriously they viewed this form of promise. That in and of itself wasn't important, though – most kids under ten held the pinky-swear as a sacred oath. (Newt, being a ripe old age of eleven, knew better.) Squeaks' insistence that the gun – when he had believed it real – be surrendered and properly unloaded before anyone got hurt – was somewhat important, but not all that special. Squeaks was almost nine, from the looks of him, and had the bearing of a soldier's child, so it was hardly remarkable that he knew proper gun safety procedures. Ferdia's father was a cop, so even the experienced ease with which the kindergartner replaced the gun in its holster could be attributed to carefully copied play-acting.

        He turned his attention to Iiwi, but quickly shifted it over to the kiwis. There was nothing unusual about Fliers amusing themselves in strange ways. Iiwi hardly looked more than three or four, with tiny flight feathers just emerging from under tufts of reddish down. Not yet fledged, obviously, and a Flier that couldn't fly quite yet would still be quirky. Bob and Beak were still merrily playing high-toss with Ivan's egg – perfectly normal for six- and seven-year-olds – and Ferdie was excitedly cheering them on like any three-year-old would. There was something about that egg, though, that tugged at Newt's brain. That, and Ivan's dedication to protecting it.

As he watched, Bob caught another egg-pass, then got on one knee and held the egg as if it were a football about to be punted. Beak obligingly charged forward, setting a course to kick the egg.

“Children of the damned!” Ivan screamed, running full tilt in an attempt to reach the egg before Beak, “Give me back my minion!”

Something clicked. Bob snatched the egg away a split-second before Beak's foot made contact with it, causing the brown kiwi to lose his balance and careen backwards to the ground in a move straight out of a Peanuts cartoon. As he did so, Ivan leapt over him, slamming into Bob, grabbing the egg away from him, and rolling to relative safety. As the grey-feathered villain - Villain? Where hade that come from? Sure, Ivan was mean sometimes, but he wasn't a bully or anything…. – cradled the egg protectively, Newt had the sudden mental image of a small, light-brown kiwi. One that carried a rather large sign, and followed Ivan everywhere.

Newt thought really hard. What did Ivan keep calling the egg? His 'sign holder'? Was that what the small brown kiwi was? How could Ivan know this, since the egg was still an egg? The prodigy scrunched up his brow in thought. It all fit, somehow. He just had to figure out how.

Think, think, think. He saw an image of an older Iiwi, flying expertly about, and of Beak, practicing fencing moves, and of Bob, doing fancy but overly-dramatic martial arts moves. What was going on? An older Bobetta, dancing on stage; an adult Ferdie, leafing through an ancient book with monsters in it. Ferdia and Squeaks, both grown up, both cops, being interviewed on the telly. It made no sense. Perhaps he was simply daydreaming. He did that sometimes – dream of inventions he'd make when he was older. That triggered another image – banana goo, explosions, a huge gaudy science fiction machine-of-the-week, and a bright blue glow.

Newt sat heavily on the grass, holding his head. It made no sense. And yet, it did.


5:15 p.m.

“Watch me! Watch me fly!” Iiwi yelled, fluttering her wings and hopping about excitedly on a tree branch some ten feet above the ground, “Watch me! Watch me!”

        Ferdie frowned up at her. “Aw, you can't do it from there! It's too low!” He shook his head, pointing at a cluster of branches another twenty feet above Iiwi's head. “You should jump from there. That's a proper distance.”

        Iiwi scowled back down at him, fluffing her feathers. “You think you're so hot, you come up here and do it!” She turned her attention back to the others. “Hey! Watch me! Hey! Hey, Squeaks, watch me! Watch me!”

        “I'm a little busy right now!” the mouse yelled back, making a grab for Ivan as the grey kiwi ran by, chasing after Bob – who once again had the egg – while brandishing a rather heavy branch as a club.

        “Hey, Iiwi!” Ferdia darted into view, waving furiously up at the Flier while dodging away from the kiwis and staying out of Squeaks' reach, “Go ahead! We're watching!”

        “You are not!” Iiwi pouted.

        “Iiwi!” Ivan yelled, throwing the branch at Squeaks and tackling Bob just as the kiwi tossed the Sign Holder's egg to Beak, “We are so! Just do it already!”

        “Oh.” She considered this a moment, then brightened considerably, bending her knees and leaning forward. “Okay! Here I go!” Tensing, she flexed her tiny wings once, then pushed herself off the branch and into the air. Wings flapping furiously, she tumbled through the air briefly before skidding into a rough landing in the grass. Picking herself off the ground and quickly brushing herself off, she looked around at her 'audience' – which at the moment pretty much consisted only of Squeaks, who had been temporarily winded when Ivan's branch plowed into him – and flashed him a grin. She tried to make a victory sign, but found that with neither fingers nor true flight feathers, it came out as more of a salute. “Ta-da! Victory!”

        Squeaks quirked an eyebrow. “You do that often?”

“Of course,” she nodded happily, then paused, cocking her head in confusion. “Why?”

        “Nothing,” Squeaks shook his head, looking around for the others. “It just explains *so* much,” he muttered to himself.

        “Hey!” Another voice shouted. Ferdie was up in the tree, on the cluster of branches he had shown Iiwi. “Now watch how it's *really* done!”

        “Ferdie!” Ferdia yelled from the base of the tree, “You can't fly, you dork! Get down here before you hurt yourself!”

        “Can too!” he yelled back, “Look!” he pointed to a red cape tied at his neck, “I'm Superbird!”

        Ferdia banged her head against the tree.

        “He thinks that rag is gonna give him the ability to fly?!?” Squeaks managed.

“It won't work,” Ferdia stated knowingly. “I know. I've tried.”

Squeaks gawked at her.

“'course, I was only this many then,” she added, holding up two fingers.

“Ah,” Squeaks nodded, “I see.”

“Cardboard wings work much better,” she added.

Squeaks shook his head. “I never got those to work. Had more luck with blanket parachutes. If you used something large, airtight, and wind-resistant, you hardly got hurt at all!”

“Cool! I gotta try that!”

“Hel-lo!” Ferdie called down, irritably. “Jumping here! Pay attention or you'll miss it!”

With that, he struck a heroic pose, then broke into a run, diving headlong off the branch and stretching his arms in front of him as he took flight.

His performance was notably swifter and smoother than Iiwi's, cutting a clear, straight path to the ground that only faltered when Ferdie realized he couldn't pull up and began flailing about in an attempt to brake in midair. He plowed into the ground, displacing quite a bit of dirt and wood chips as he did so, and it took him significantly longer to recover from his landing as it had taken Iiwi to recover from hers.

“See?” he said, staggering painfully about, “Nuthin' to it.” He then promptly fell backwards, groaning as dirt settled into the cuts and scrapes he had acquired in his landing.

“Hmph,” Iiwi sniffed, “I can do better than that, and I've still got downy nestling feathers.”

“Owie…” Ferdie whimpered.

Bobetta, sensing someone else was in pain and that said person was getting more attention and sympathy for their wounds than she was for her banged-up elbow and hurting feet, set about wailing again in earnest.


Whether it was Bobetta's cries – one would think she had broken something, she screamed so loud and bawled so earnestly – the rather loud sound of Ferdie smacking into the ground while attempting to land, or the amount of shouting and yelling going on in the Battle of the Egg that got their attention – or simply someone who lived near the playground and felt obliged to report a group of unsupervised kids wreaking havoc therein – a police cruiser soon appeared and pulled alongside the park.

Newt took no notice of them - his brain was pounding against his skull, trying to break free of its prison, to escape the riddle they were currently trapped in. Bob and Beak were engrossed in their game of keep-away, so busy tossing the egg back and forth and laughing at Ivan's cries of “Stop, you heathens!” that they might not have noticed a coffee-and-banana parade if it went right by. Iiwi had disappeared up another tree, and Squeaks was too busy trying to calm Bobetta down – while keeping both hands firmly over his ears – to take notice of the newcomers either. But Ferdia, growing weary of her brother's groans of pain, had stopped to take a moment to see what the others were doing. Thus is was she who saw the cops first.

“Hey!” she yelled, running up to the two officers and saluting. “Hello, mister policemans! Are you gonna help my brother? He jumped out of a tree and hurted himself.”


        Casey blinked at the little girl for a minute, refusing to believe his eyes. She looked like a four-year-old version of Ferdia, right down to the casually abused uniform. It was eerie. Really eerie.

        Trevor, sensing his partner's mental facilities had ground to a screeching halt due to the girl's uncanny resemblance to their friend and fellow officer, decided to step in and take charge of the situation. She had mentioned that someone was hurt, after all.

        “Your brother? Is he the one screaming?”

        “Nah,” she shook her head, laughing, “That's just Bobetta. She scraped her elbow a while ago, and she's being a baby about it. My brother's over here,” she pointed back to the trees, trotting towards them and waving the partners after her, “Come on!”

        Trevor waved Casey over to the screaming little girl on the playground bench. She really didn't look hurt, and his partner didn't look like he was going to be able to do anything more complicated than breathing in the presence of Ferdia's time-delayed double. Mentally shrugging, the green-feathered finch followed her to where her brother sat, propped up on his elbows in upturned dirt and wood chips.

        The boy gave him a sheepish grin as he approached. Ah, yes, caught in the act of defying gravity, Trevor thought. Noticing the bird's red Superbird cape, he had to suppress a grin. He'd tried that himself as a kid.


        Satisfied that the grown-up policeman was doing a good job taking care of her brother's owies, Ferdia trotted over to the park bench, where the orange policeman was trying to get crybaby Bobetta to calm down.

        “Please make her stop,” Squeaks shouted to the policeman. “She's hurting my ears!”

        Ferdia could see why Squeaks had his hands over his ears. Bobetta sure cried loud! She covered her own ears, giving the mouse a sympathetic look.

Bobetta, suddenly realizing there was a grown-up around, gave one last wailing sob, then stopped crying altogether, sniffling softly as she waited for her tears to dry. She fixed the orange bird with her best big-and-teary-eyed look of anguish, her lower beak trembling as she pointed to the small scrape on her elbow. As the policeman cleaned the scrape with one of those tissues that come in plastic squares, Ferdie joined the group, leaning over the bench's edge to peer at the source of the ballerina's day-long misery. Behind him, the green-feathered policeman was trying to get Bob and Beak to stop throwing Ivan's egg around. He managed to snatch Bob off his feet, but not before the kiwi got off one last toss of the egg. Bob's aim was off, however, and the throw fell short, dropping the egg a good ten feet in front of Beak. Lucky for the egg Ivan was close enough to throw himself into its path and catch it.


Trevor walked back towards the park bench, dragging the yellow and brown kiwis along with him while the grey one followed behind, clutching the egg protectively and glaring rather suspiciously at his uniform. He couldn't quite place it, but there was something…familiar…about the grey kiwi.

The girl in the police outfit waved at him exuberantly, cheering excitedly as he returned the egg-stealing culprits to the group. The little yellow kiwi in the pink ballerina leotard had stopped crying, and actually didn't look hurt, astonishing as that was when compared to her cries.

Instructing the two kiwis he had by the hand to sit on the bench, he walked over to the edge of the trees, where an eleven-or-so-year-old kiwi lay sprawled on the grass. Trevor was willing to bet this was the kids' babysitter, exhausted from looking after such a turbo-charged group of kids. But he had to check anyway – if for no other reason than to chastise the boy for letting them run about unsupervised.

As he drew nearer, the branches overhead rustled, and before he could react, a bright red bundle of fluff came hurtling down at him.


“Banzai!” Iiwi yelled, leaping from her treetop perch and onto the green-feathered officer's shoulders. He let out a startled yell as she did so, twisting to get a look at her as she laughed gleefully at his confusion.

“Piggy-back ride!” she giggled, “Piggy-back! Piggy-back!”


Casey tore his attention away from the still-sniffling ballerina-in-training on the bench as his partner returned, grumbling something about being insulted by a three-year-old. Turning, he saw that Trevor was tugging a pre-teen by the shirt-sleeve while a bubbly red Flier rode on his shoulders, merrily singing to herself. She refused to get down when he reached the bench, and pecked at his hands when he tried to take her from his shoulders. With a sigh of resignation, the green finch let her be, turning to talk to Casey, who was busily trying not to laugh.

“Hey policemans!” the little Ferdia look-alike chirped, running up to them, “Can we go for a ride in your police car? Can we, huh, can we?”

With the exception of the brown kiwi – glasses, green tweed jacket, pressed shirt and pants, classic science nerd – and the grey one – who evidently thought police were not to be trusted – the other children joined the bluebird in clamoring for a car-ride. Even the mouse, who'd been silent except for his plea to stop the ballerina's crying, looked excited at the prospect.

It struck Casey as somewhat odd that a mouse was part of this little avian play-group. Not that he found anything wrong with that – not at all – but, still, it was a bit unusual. Children his age usually had plenty of playmates their own age – if not their genus – and the only one he'd seen the mouse interact with was the bluebird, who was easily half his age.

Suddenly, Casey gawked.

Trevor, sensing his partner's mental facilities had crashed yet again, turned to see what the bird was staring at – and for the briefest of instants, a look of shocked astonishment froze on his face. But the moment passed, and the look melted into an amused grin.

“Talk about taking hero worship to new heights,” he chuckled, nudging his partner in the ribs to snap him back into reality and gesturing in the direction of the bird and mousling that looked to be chibi versions of Ferdia and Squeaks.

Looking over at the mousling, he jerked his head at the magenta inverted triangle just visible under a mop of neatly-tousled white headfur. “Nice work there, son. That a removable tattoo?”

The mouse scowled. “It's not a tattoo, it's an Arellian naval captain's rank insignia,” he grumbled. “All the navy pilots have them,” he added, folding his arms defiantly, “But, yeah, this one's only a temporary.” He rubbed the mark to prove his point, looking at his fist curiously when no ink came off on it. “Or maybe not…”

“Marker, eh?” Casey laughed. “I used to do that. Easier than paint, but harder to get out. So, kid, what's your name?”

Clicking his heels together, the mouse snapped to attention, saluting smartly. “Captain Squeaks Arcadia, ship's commander and ace pilot, sir!”

“Quite a healthy imagination you've got there,” Casey managed. He glanced warily at the bluebird, as if debating whether to ask his next question. “And you are?” he prompted her.

“Ferdia daBirdie. I'm gonna be a policeman when I grow up, just like my daddy! He's a policeman too! He's got a car like yours, and when I grow up, we'll both be policemans together!” she beamed. “Hey, do you know my daddy? Can we go visit him? Huh? Can we? I promise we'll be good…”

Vaguely, Trevor was aware of the fact that Casey's mind had crashed again. However, he was too busy dealing with the smoldering ruins of his own mental processes to do anything about it.


“Hey! Hey!” Ferdia waved her arms in front of the policemen, trying to get their attention. They were daydreaming or something. She hadn't thought grown-ups daydreamed, but police officers worked hard and didn't get to take naps, so it would make sense that they might be more tired than other grown-ups. Daddy was usually tired when he got home from work, she knew, and he was the very bestest policeman in the whole world, so he probably didn't daydream, but maybe these policemen were just new and hadn't learned not to do that yet. “Hey! Mister policemans! Wake up! We wanna go see my Daddy!”

Run Away! Run Away! | Onwards and Sideways to Part 3!