The Good, the Bad, and the Chibi: Part 3
A child of five could understand this. Fetch me a child of five.
- Groucho Marx
San Viano 42nd Precinct House, 6:58 p.m.
Bishop smiled, stretching out a bit and slouching in his chair behind the main desk. Slow night. He loved slow nights. No violence, no accidents, no crazies harassing the citizenry, no high-speed chases and death-defying antics by a pair of detectives he could mention
Just peace and quiet.
Suddenly, the precinct door flew open, admitting a pair of frazzled cops and a horde of screaming children. A little girl in a pink tutu was wailing about an 'owie' and wanting her mother, a bluebird yawned sleepily and whimpered about being tired, and a tiny red Flier hopped about energetically, loudly proclaiming that she was hungry and wanted to eat. As he watched, a kid in a police outfit bounded up to the desk, pulling herself off the floor and leaning across the desktop, eagerly scanning the faces of the policemen at their desks and calling for her daddy. A mousling followed her lead, hauling himself up and resting a knee on the desk, watching the happenings within the station house with great interest. Behind them, one of the officers Casey, he realized - was trying to break up a fight between two young kiwis and a third, who clutched an egg protectively and used far too much profanity for his age. Trevor was trying unsuccessfully to get the grey kiwi to surrender the egg for safe-keeping, tugging a pre-teen through the door as he did so.
So much for peace and quiet.
Hey, Mister Policeman, the bluebird in uniform chirped at him, tucking her legs up behind her and balancing on the desktop, Do you know if my Daddy's here? He's a Policeman, too!
Bishop put on his best grandfatherly smile, reminding himself that all children were gifts and the future leaders of the world, and should therefore be treated nicely so they would never dream of putting him in a 'home. All things being equal, he didn't mind the two urchins on the desk or even the exuberant Flier, whose kind naturally clamored loudly for food to let their parents know they needed to be fed, what with no normal mealtimes but the screaming girl and scrabbling, yelling kiwis he could do without. Smiling warmly at the 'junior officer,' as her plastic badge declared her to be, he asked her who her father was.
Her brow creased in thought. Daddy, she finally said.
Bishop fought down a groan. Right, four years old, he reminded himself. Mommy and Daddy's names are Mommy and Daddy and always have been, as far as she knows. But he should still be able to find the officer in question. After all, all he had to do was
I see. And what's your name, sweetheart?
Ferdia! Trevor shouted, tucking one of the fighting kiwis under his arm and storming up to the desk, where he wasted no time dragging the bluebird back into a standing position, Keep your feet on the floor. No climbing. And that goes for you, too, he frowned at the mousling, who push/jumped away from the desk as the finch reached to pull him down. Landing nimbly just out of reach, he glowered, ears swept back and tail flicking in annoyance.
Bishop blinked. There was something familiar about that reaction. Heck, there was something familiar about the mousling. And, he realized, as the bluebird hopped back onto the desk, there was something familiar about her. The name was probably an affectation of hero-worship, he figured, but still
.He rubbed his eyes, thinking.
It wasn't until the mousling jumped back to his perch on the desk, alongside the bluebird, that it clicked. The aging pigeon's eyes were still refocusing, and for a moment, all he saw of the assembled children were their colors and interactions. Then his vision cleared, focusing on the mousling's oddly mangled tail. That wasn't hero worship; that was an actual injury. One that wasn't easily duplicated.
In his day, Bishop had been one of the precinct's top detectives. Heck, he'd turned down so many promotions he'd had to stop keeping a count. Tracking down suspects and piecing together odd clues was his passion, after all, not management. And while he was by no means as young as he used to be, his deductive skills were still every bit as keen. Slowly, he looked at each of Case and Trevor's 'foundlings,' gradually confirming his suspicions until finally his gaze fell to the oldest of the bunch, a pressed, bookish kiwi with the stiff air of Britannia about him. That clinched it.
Oh dear Lord, he breathed.
Mess Quarters, San Viano 42nd Precinct House, 7:50 p.m.
I still don't buy it, Casey grumbled, scooping out a hefty chopsticks-full of noodles and holding them out to Iiwi, who eagerly lunged at them, slurping them up so quickly the end strands flicked her beak, leaving a spot of duck sauce, It's just not possible.
You got a better explanation? Trevor challenged, once again separating Bob and Beak from Ivan, who had begun beating them with a quart carton of egg-foo-young when they attempted to douse the 'Sign Holder' egg in hot mustard and soy sauce, Because I sure don't.
Bishop absently plucked a set of chopsticks away from Beak before the brown kiwi gouged out someone's eyes intentionally or otherwise. Are you sure you don't remember what happened? he asked Ferdia and Squeaks.
I don't fink so, Squeaks said, chewing his last mouthful as he tried to remember what had happened that afternoon. Ferdia snatched a handful of chow mein off his plate while he was distracted.
We played tag, Ferdia volunteered, excitedly recounting the Epic Game of Tag and subsequent Vanquishing of Cooties. Squeaks took this opportunity to swipe one of her eggrolls in retaliation for his missing chow mein. But it was a fish egg roll which explained why Ferdia hadn't touched it so he put it back and took some chicken chop suey stuff instead.
We didn't touch anything! Ferdia insisted. She then noticed her missing food, and threw a handful of fried rice at Squeaks, who blocked it as best he could.
Actually, Squeaks brushed the rice off his t-shirt, flicking the bigger chunks at Ferdia, We did look at one. Newt showed us, I think. We were all looking at it, but I don't remember why.
Casey glanced over at the British kiwi, who was busily sorting his Chinese food into segregated piles of rice, vegetables, noodles, meat, and 'unidentifiables.' You think his invention somehow did this?
Newt looked up from his plate, holding a pair of chopsticks as if they were forceps. Oh, we didn't look at my invention. It was George's.
Everyone else except for Ferdie, who was snoring peacefully in his kung pow salamander blinked. Who's George? Ferdia asked.
Newt shrugged. I dunno. But his name was on the machine.
You moron, Ivan spat, booting Bob so hard the yellow kiwi's chair fell over, pinning Beak beneath it, That was a acronymph.
A what? the would-be-inventor queried.
You know, Ivan waved vaguely, 'accidentally' knocking a bowl of egg-drop soup onto Bob, who howled, When you make a word from other word's first letters. They stand for things. Like how Bee Oh Bee is an acronymph for Big Old Booger.
It took Bob a moment to figure out the science of 'acronymphs,' but once he did, he snarled angrily and lunged at Ivan, knocking the pint-sized villain from his chair and causing Casey to order them to opposite ends of the table. Once some semblance of order had been restored, a fight broke out over who got the fortune cookies, as there were only three. After Bishop threw the cookies to a group of passing cops just going on-duty, order was again restored. Though Bob and Ivan began making faces at each other, sticking out their tongues from the safety of opposite table ends.
Trevor looked over to Newt, who had stopped eating out of disgust at the faces the kiwis were pulling at each other. So what do you think G.E.O.R.G.E. stands for? What was it supposed to do?
I don't know, Newt shrugged.
But you built it!
Newt looked horrified at the thought. I couldn't've! Mum said the next time I blew up the lawn or burned down the garage, she'd send me to camp! I would never have built let alone tried an invention without her or Pop present!
Casey frowned. So, I take it you don't know how to get yourselves back to normal?
Normal? Iiwi repeated, beak full of noodles and sauce oozing onto her feathers as she perched on the carton, trying to hold it with a wing and work the chopsticks with her talons. Her grip on the carton slipped on some sauce, and she lost her balance, foot sliding into the noodles. What do you mean? We are normal. Right?
No, you're kids, Casey sighed, But you're supposed to be adults!
'S'not true, Iiwi pouted, shaking the gooey sauce off her leg. An' I don' wanna be a grown-up! They're boring!
Casey started to reply, but Bishop cut him off, motioning to the rest of the kids, who, with the exception of Newt (and of Ferdie, who was still happily asleep), were bleary-eyed and yawning. Ferdia and Squeaks were dozing Ferdia was slouched in her chair, head drooping; Squeaks had folded his arms on the table and pillowed his head on them Beak kept swaying forward slightly, eyes drooping, then snapping open, and even Bob and Ivan had ceased their face-making and were now drowsily glaring at each other.
I think it's bed-time, Bishop supplied. We'll figure this out in the morning.
Saint Celestine's Foundlings Home, San Viano, 9:30 p.m.
They were still talking.
They were down on the first floor, and they were whispering, but he could still hear them. They were probably standing right under a vent. Grown-ups didn't notice things like that.
Thanks again for taking them in, Sister, Mr. Bishop said, We were at a loss for where to put them. We didn't want to put them in an empty cell, and the 18th Fire Brigade didn't have any room for them most of their people are overnight-ing there tonight. We didn't want to impose of Mercy General they're busy enough as it is, without needing to watch after a cadre of kids but we couldn't very well send them 'home.' The Birdies are the only ones with family in the area, and their poor mother is under enough stress as it is without being told her children have suddenly regressed back to grade-schoolers.
It's no problem at all, Officer, the woman replied, still using her don't-worry-everything-will-be-fine voice. The tone she had used with them when the policemen had started to leave and people had begun crying. Iiwi had screeched for her Daddy for so long she lost her voice, and he was pretty sure her wings would hurt her tomorrow, since she'd tried really hard to fly away and find her Daddy, but the Sister lady wouldn't let go of her. Bobetta wanted her Mummy, and her Dolly, and her Beddie-Bye, and Floo, her pink, pillow-sized stuffed poodle. Ferdie wanted his Boo-Bear, Beak wanted a glass of banana milk, Bob wanted his special coffee pajamas, and Ivan
Ivan had insisted his egg have a blanket nest to keep it warm and safe. Squeaks wasn't sure, but he figured the egg had to be Ivan's little brother or sister or something like that. Ivan kept calling it his 'minion,' but Squeaks was pretty sure that was a type of vegetable. Or the name of a bad person, but he couldn't see why an egg would be bad. Maybe it was a type of pet. The tigryph kitten he'd had as a toddler had hatched from an egg. Maybe it was like that.
Ferdia had fallen asleep on the ride over, after shouting 'good night' so loudly she'd probably woken up the firemen who lived across from the police station. She'd groggily asked where 'Sarge' was on the way to her room, but had fallen asleep again before they could clarify what that meant. From the quiet reigning their area of the hall, he figured everybody had either fallen asleep without their special things or had gotten some sort of substitute. He was the only one awake now. Well, except for the grown-ups downstairs, but they didn't count.
He hadn't bothered asking for anything, because he knew he couldn't have it. Scree wasn't here, and it didn't look like this place allowed pets anyways. And they hadn't been able to get Ferdie or Bobetta stuffed animals, so even an inanimate stand-in was something he couldn't have had. But even so, he found it hard to relax and go to sleep without his warm, feathered kitty curled up on the bed behind him, keeping him safe.
Someone knocked softly on his door, timidly pushing it open and peering into the dark room. Squeaks? Ferdia whispered, tentatively, Are you asleep?
Can I come in? she asked, tiptoeing in as he nodded and quietly shutting the door. I can't sleep. It's cold and dark and spooky in my room.
Squeaks shrugged, It's the same here.
Yeah, but you're here, so I'm not alone, and that makes it less spooky, she explained, hugging the pillow she carried. Usually I have Sarge to stand guard, but I didn't bring him
My policebird. He's soft and fluffy and he's got his own uniform and badge and everything. One of the policeladies Daddy works with made him for me. She said he'd keep me safe from bad men and stuff. Ferdia grinned sheepishly. He's just pretend, but he makes me feel safer.
Squeaks nodded. Yeah. Scree my kitty usually sleeps on my bed. She sleeps through anything, but I feel safe when she's there.
So you can't sleep either? He shook his head. Ferdia cocked her head for a minute, looking thoughtful. Could
.could I sleep with you? You could pretend I'm your kitty, and I can pretend you're Sarge, and we can both go to sleep.
Squeaks considered this. He didn't really like the idea of sharing his bed with a girl that was the sort of weird stuff grown-ups did but he had to admit, she had a point in might work. And he was so very, very tired