Chapter Fourteen

Ferdia, Ivan, and Iiwi approach the entrance to the building. The thick iron door is heavily rusted, its hinges yielding only after considerable effort. Ferdia throws her weight into the door, slowly pushing it open.

The interior of the building is deathly quiet and very ill-lit, the only light filtering through the cracked and dingy barred windows. The trio enters cautiously, with Ferdia leading the way, gun drawn. The ruined interior of the room reveals it to be the remnants of a typical military compound, and leads to a cluttered hallway with a stairwell at the end. They slowly ascend the stairs, emerging on the slightly better-lit but just as run-down third floor. Again, the hallway is cluttered but devoid of life; the walls of the bordering labs and offices have crumbled, and dust hangs in the air, reflecting in the filtered sunlight and bathing the rooms in an eerie glow.

Iiwi: [whispering] Spooky. It almost feels haunted.
Ivan
: Don't you start. This place is already giving me the creeps.
Ferdia
: No, I agree with Iiwi. It does feel like we're being watched.
Ivan
: Probably just your minds playing tricks on you. Adrenaline does that sometimes...
Iiwi
: It's too quiet.
Ivan
: Not anymore it's not, with you two talking.
Ferdia
: Hush.

They approach the room at the end of the hallway -- the only one whose walls are intact. Ferdia pauses and leans against the door for a moment, listening. A soft scuffling can be heard through the door. Ferdia takes a step back and kicks the door in, darting inside and sweeping the room. Perplexed, she lowers her gun, frowning and motioning to the others. The follow her in.

The room is empty.

Ivan: Well, 'Redbird', I've got to hand it to you, you sure can call 'em. Should we read 'em all their rights now, or do it individually?
Iiwi
: [ruffles her feathers] Shut up.

Ignoring them, Ferdia goes to the room's window. The only one they've seen in the building with neither bars nor glass, it gives access to a small fire escape with a ladder to the roof.

Ferdia: What do you say we go check out the roof?
Iiwi
: [eyes light up] Yes! The helicopters!
Ivan
: [following them up the ladder] Well, it's a consolation prize, but, hey, I'm down an aircraft anyway...

The three survey the rooftop -- Ferdia and Ivan from the ground, Iiwi from the air. Three Apache helicopters perch atop the roof, with crates of various shapes and sizes stacked around them. Familiar with ambush set-ups, Ferdia warily scans the grouped stacks of crates. Ivan eyes the Apaches appreciatively.

Iiwi: Hey, the Huey transport isn't up here!
Ivan
: [shrugs] Guess they've left already. [begins walking toward one of the Apaches] Well, might as well take one--Aaaa! [he cringes as a bullet grazes his shoulder]

That and a startled squawk from Iiwi are the only warnings they get before all hell breaks loose. Bullets scream through the air from every direction as the armed guards in and behind the crates spring into action.

Dodging, running, and emptying half a clip returning fire, Ferdia retreats behind the closest unoccupied crate, with Ivan close behind. Coming up every few seconds to return fire and keep the gunmen back, she peeks around the corner of the crate, mind racing for a way out of this situation.

Ivan: All right, what now, fearless leader?
Ferdia
: I've got an idea! But we'll need to cross over there! [points]
Ivan
: Ha! You may have a bulletproof vest on, sister, but I don't!
Ferdia
: Well-- [ducks down as bullets ricochet off the crate's lid] --Iiwi! [calls up to Iiwi, who is frantically circling, diving at the gunmen, and dodging the shots fired at her] We need another gun!
Iiwi
: [bullet rips through trailing edge of her left wing, missing the flesh but tearing free some flight feathers] Squawk! Oh, sure! [ducks] Piece 'a cake! [banks left] Eeee! [bullet glances leading edge of her right wing]

Iiwi flies off to edges of battle, gains some altitude, then dives into a group of gunmen with their backs to her.

Ivan: [hears Iiwi's screech as she dives] Geez! You're gonna get her killed!
Ferdia
: And you care?
Ivan
: No!...but then you're gonna try to send ME out there without a gun-- [Stops as a sub-machine gun falls into his lap. Iiwi dives down to swamp-level, then uses her speed to propel her upward, above and out of the battle.] ---err, never mind...
Ferdia
: Great. Now, on my mark, we charge! Ready? Mark!

**********

A small, wavering light pierces the darkness. Coming to rest on a wall, the small circle of light gradually enlarges, as Squeaks, Ferdie, and Bob come to the split in the tunnels.

Bob: Oh no, not another one!
Squeaks
: Any suggestions?
Ferdie
: Let's go right.
Bob
: No, left!
Ferdie
: We just went left!
Bob
: No we didn't! We just went straight through the last four intersections!
Ferdie
: We did not!
Bob
: Did so!
Ferdie
: DID NOT!
Squeaks
: Knock it off! We'll go left.
Bob
: [sticks tongue out at Ferdie] Nya!
Ferdie
: Why, you!...

The two continue to argue as they proceed to the left. Squeaks ignores them, as he has been doing for the past half-hour. ~ I'm beginning to remember why I hated the war with the Minervian mole-people so much as an ensign. Even a compass is useless in these tunnels once you've gotten as badly turned around as we have...~

Fifteen minutes later, the tunnel suddenly opens into a cavern, dimly lit by phosphorescent bacteria and moss. As they enter the cavern, the sudden, harsh light of fluorescent bulbs blinds them as a voice echoes off the walls.

Dr. Periwinkle: Well, well, well! I must say, detectives, I am most impressed! I hadn't expected anyone would prove capable of tracking me to my cliffside factory, much less finding their way through this underground maze!
Bob
: Actually, we didn't really think we'd find our way through this maze ourselves. [Ferdie punches him in the arm] Ow!
Dr. Periwinkle
: Heh heh. All this, and honest, too! I confess, you are the most worthy of adversaries! I'd look forward to playing this game again, detectives.....if I didn't have to kill you for getting so close to ruining my plans, that is!
Ferdie
: You don't have to kill us! Really! Just knock us unconscious and leave us dangling upside-down from the stalactites or something....
Dr. Periwinkle
: Sorry, I'm afraid I can't do that. A pity you split up -- I'm sure my comrades are having fun with your friends, but it would be so nice to let Ivan tell this story. He's so much better at it than I, you see. But, alas, he is not here. Pity.
Bob
: Where's Bobetta? I demand you hand over my fiancÚ!
Dr. Periwinkle
: Oh, she's safe, kiwi. Just away from the fighting. I said I would return her to her home, unharmed, and I meant it. I only needed her to draw you out here, away from my current operation.
Squeaks
: What exactly is your current operation?
Dr. Periwinkle
: Ah, a detective to the last. I admire that. And I guess I might as well tell you....I suppose revealing your 'master plan' to the 'heroes' right before you destroy them is a sort of rule among villains......I am Dr. Periwinkle, a world-renowned technological genius and infamous mad scientist. Or so the papers say. And yes, I am the one responsible for setting the events up north in motion....but with good reason, I might add!
Ferdie
: Let me guess -- you're competing for the Villain of the Year award.
Dr. Periwinkle
: No! ....Well, yes, actually, but that's beside the point! I did this for one reason, and one reason only --- THIS! [leans forward into lights]
Bob
: For what?
Ferdie
: I can't see, the lights are too bright!
Squeaks
: Then turn around and look at his shadow. [they do so]
Ferdie
: Whoa!
Bob
: AAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Dr. Periwinkle
: See?! That's exactly what makes me so mad! This isn't my fault! I was the hapless victim of a science experiment gone wrong!
Ferdie
: Aren't they all?
Bob
: They who?
Ferdie
: Mad scientists. Aren't they all hapless victims of something-or-other?
Dr. Periwinkle
: My work was sabotaged by corporate spies! They did this! And for that, the entire hair-growth empire will suffer! Wahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!
Ferdie
: I do believe that is the first truly maniacal laugh I have ever heard.
Bob
: This guy has problems.
Dr. Periwinkle
: And now, I must kill y-- What! I'm in the middle of a maniacal scheme here, you dolt! [Yells at a lackey that runs up to him from behind the lights. The lackey leans over and whispers something to him.] WHAT?!? Can't you imbeciles do anything right?! Stop them! [Lackey whispers something else.] Arrrrg! [Smacks lackey over the ledge he is standing on. The lackey tumbles down and lands at the detectives' feet.] Well, detectives, due to the incompetence of my associates, you have been granted a stay of execution. But I shall prevail another day!

The shadow of Dr. Periwinkle runs off, headed deeper into the cavern. Squeaks breaks into a run, following him. Ferdie and Bob run after him, followed by the limping lackey.

Dr. Periwinkle darts down dimly-lit passageways, unaware he is being followed. He takes a sharp left turn into a dark passageway. When Squeaks does the same, he finds the passageway dead-ends, and searches the walls for a switch or lever or other indications of hidden doors. Ferdie, Bob, and the lackey puff into the room. The lackey gasps for breath for a second, getting his bearings, then walks up to a wall and pushes on a section that looks like all the others. A rock slab on the ceiling above him opens, revealing a ladder to the surface.

Lackey: Hurry! He's got a helicopter up there!
Squeaks
: [scrambling up ladder] You do realize, you're under arrest.
Lackey
: I'll be safer in prison. He's really pissed at me now. And with him, that usually means you live until he fetches a weapon.
Ferdie
: Nice guy, huh?
Lackey
: For a pit bull, maybe.

Squeaks emerges from the hole on a long tarmac. He manages to get a glance at the retreating form of Dr. Periwinkle hurrying into a Huey helicopter with its rotors spinning. The Huey lifts off the tarmac as Dr. Periwinkle disappears into it. Squeaks breaks into a run for the helicopter, leaping up and grabbing hold of a strut just as a bound and gagged Bobetta is tossed out of its passenger cabin. Bobetta falls into the mouse, breaking his hold on the strut and sending them both tumbling to the ground.

Bob and Ferdie run to Bobetta's side, untying her as Squeaks picks himself off the ground and starts after the ascending helicopter. He stops short, though, as the helicopter turns and fires a round at him, forcing him back. The Huey, having gained about a hundred feet in altitude, begins to advance on the group....

....until a strafing run rips into its side, jolting it backwards and sending sparks running along its length. Turning to flee, its tail rotor catches the full force of the next round, a small air-to-air missile. The shrapnel from the destroyed tail rotor, propelled by the centripetal force of its spin, sails into the body of the helicopter and upward into the main rotor. Miraculously, the Huey does not explode, but pitches forward into a dive, spinning out of control deeper into the swamp.

Stunned, the four gawk after the failing aircraft, brought back to reality only by a familiar screech. Iiwi levels out of her dive and lands by Ferdie, Bob, and Bobetta. Watching her land, Squeaks ears prick up at the whine of another helicopter....coming down right behind him.

Whirling, Squeaks takes a step back as the Apache stops its drop and bobs a few feet above the ground. Waving enthusiastically from the pilot's seat is Ferdia. And behind her, in the raised gunner's seat, sits a rather smug-looking Evil Sir Ivan Kiwi.

Ferdia: [calling jubilantly over the whirlybird's speakers] Hi, Squeaks! Was that cool or what?
Squeaks
: A little wobbly, aren't you?
Ferdia
: You'll have to forgive me. The Army trains its pilots for months in simulators before it even lets them near Apache trainers. I've had about fifteen minutes. I've got to get one of these!
Ivan
: And you're welcome!
Squeaks
: Careful, there, you might be learning some manners, Ivan.
Ivan
: Manners, my tail feathers. I agree with your partner. I love this thing!
Ferdia
: Radar says there's another Huey at the other end of the complex. We found it first, before we saw the other one. You can fly those, can't you, Squeaks?
Squeaks
: Why do I get the feeling that's your way of saying you're not giving up that helicopter?
Ferdia
: Come on. Let me have a little bit of fun before the Army takes her back.

**********

Dusk. Two choppers fly back north at an altitude of five thousand feet and an aircraft-to-aircraft spacing of forty feet. The Apache frequently breaks off to perform aerobatics; the Huey stays straight and level, mindful of its tired crew. Inside its cabin, the two yellow kiwis snuggle together while Ferdie watches Iiwi preen her damaged feathers and helps bandage her wounded wing. Inside the cockpit, the pilot reviews the newest details of their latest case with the pilot of the Apache.

Squeaks: ...and then you two finally showed up, and shot him down.
Ferdia
: Chief's not gonna like the fact that we couldn't find a body at the crash site...
Squeaks
: We contacted the local law enforcement and got them to send a forensics team. It's not our problem if they can't find a body. And even if it were, it'd be the least of our problems.
Ferdia
: You've got that right. The reports on this case are gonna be their own book.
Squeaks
: Maybe the city'll make a movie out of it. You still sure taking that Apache was a good idea?
Ferdia
: Think of it as an armed escort. Besides, maybe it'll stop some of the looting if people see an attack chopper cruising the streets.
Squeaks
: If nothing else, it'll make a good entrance.

Epilogue

Late evening, San Viano, 42nd Precinct. Casey, Trevor, and Bishop mill around in front of the newly-scaffolded Precinct building, watching as their fellow officers and National Guardsmen patrol the calming streets. It is getting darker, but few lights illuminate the street.

Trevor: Power's out across half the city.
Bishop
: At least the looting has all but stopped. This is the worst thing I've seen in years. It swept along the entire western coastline - cities, towns, corporations, power plants. Everyone's been hit pretty hard.
Casey
: I talked to one of the Guardsmen. He says a state of emergency's been declared. We're up for federal disaster relief money.
Trevor
: We need it. And I still can't believe the Chief bailed on us. [motions to the left, where the Chief and Vernon are conversing with the mayor and an army general] I mean, Vern I could understand. The guy's got no backbone. But the Chief--
Bishop
: The Chief's got a family to take care of.
Trevor
: Well, fortunately, something like this won't be repeating any time soon. Most of the gangs are in jail.
Casey
: Or in the hospital.
Bishop
: A lot of good cops are there too, boys.
Casey
: Speaking of good cops, have either of you heard from Ferdia or Squeaks?
Bishop
: Not since they came by yesterday for the lab results. Didn't they mention where they were going?
Trevor
: [shrugs] Do they ever?

He turns his head in the direction of a faint engine whine. The other two do the same, catching sight of two helicopters' landing lights as they round a corner a hundred feet from the ground, slowing to hover near the station. The smaller, stub-winged Apache swings around to the side as the two begin to land. Across from the cops, Vernon and the Chief look surprised, the mayor, annoyed, and the general, alarmed. He runs to the trio.

Trevor: You don't suppose....No... they wouldn't...
Casey
: [grins] Yes they would.
General
: What's going on here?! I wasn't informed that more troops were being sent!

The choppers touch down, their rotors slowly winding down. The Huey transport's cabin door slides open, as does the cockpit door. The pilot and his passengers disembark and approach the stunned crowd of law-enforcers.

The Apache's hatch is slower to open, its pilot reluctant to end the flight. Finally, the pilot shuts down the chopper's systems and vaults out the side, unfastening her helmet and walking toward the group of cops.

Ferdie: [as Ferdia approaches the group] Sis, do you know your tail feathers are singed?
Ferdia
: Yep. [waves at the general] Hey, gen'ral! [thumbing to the Apache behind her] That is one sweet ride! Where can I get one?
General
: [frowns] Where did you get that one?
Casey
: Glad to see you two made it! Do you know you've been declared a force of Nature?
Ferdia
: Huh?
Bishop
: [shrugs] Something about a Federal Disaster Relief Fund.
Vernon
: [running up to group] You! What have you done?! Look at this city! It's a mess!
Ferdia
: Oh, and that automatically makes it my fault?
Casey
: Vernon, the city was hit by missiles!
Vernon
: Exactly!
Ferdia
: And just how is that my fault?!?
Chief
: [walks up from behind the group, with the mayor trailing behind] Ferdia!
Ferdia
: [cringes] Uh....hi, Chief...
Squeaks
: [beside Ferdia] About the helicopters....we recovered them from a militant gang southeast of here. After turning the gang over to the local authorities, since these were the fastest way to get back here....
Trevor
: [incredulously] You solved the case?
Ferdia
: Well, sort of...
Mayor
: Wait, you two are the officers from the museum incident three months back, aren't you?
Casey
: [defensively] Hey, they stopped those freaks, didn't they?
Vernon
: And leveled a good part of the museum in the process.
Mayor
: I thought I recognized you! And now you've stopped the madman responsible for this destruction as well? How?
Ferdia and Squeaks
: [surprised at the mayor's cheerful attitude] Well...

The group listens as they relate the past four days' events. No one notices the small shape slip out of the Apache's gunner seat and dart into an alleyway.

Casey and Trevor: [looking dumbstruck as the story ends] Wow...
Bishop
: You two have really outdone yourselves this time...
Vernon
: Ha! I'll say! Practically no evidence other than a trail of dead bodies, and not even an arrest!
Mayor
: [pats Vernon on the back, then steps forward and shakes Ferdia's and Squeaks' hands] Don't be ridiculous! These two put a stop to that madman, caught his underlings, and recovered four stolen army helicopters! They deserve to be congratulated!
Ferdia
: [shakes her head] Oh, no, that's not -Yawn!- necessary....[she yawns again.]
Casey
: A yawn!? Is it possible that our blue blur is tired? [Squeaks yawns as well] Gasp! And her partner, too?
Trevor
: Alert the media! Stop the presses! Call--
Chief
: Knock it off, you two. Ferdia, Squeaks, go home, get some rest.
Mayor
: [calls after departing group] Rest, nothing! Take a vacation!

Iiwi: Hey, has anyone seen Ivan?
Bob
: [looking around] He's gone!
Bobetta
: Hrumph. That scoundrel. I still think he was really behind all this!
Iiwi
: How can you say that? He's probably gonna have the FBI following him 24 / 7 now 'cause of that submarine he let us use, and half his contacts and fellow villains'll be out to get him because he worked with us! And that Periwinkle guy was trying to kill him, too!
Bobetta
: Well then why'd he help all of you?
Iiwi
: Because....because....oh, never mind! I'm going to bed! [flies away]
Bobetta
: Well, fine then, be that way! I'm going home!
Bob
: But, Bobetta, the mansion is a mess!
Bobetta
: Oh....right. Well, guess I'll just go to my condo in San Bernadino, then.
Ferdie
: As long as you're headed there, can you drop me off? My car's at the airport.
Bobetta
: Certainly. Bob, call a limo.

Squeaks: Walking home?
Ferdia
: [shrugs] Have to. We trashed our prowler, and I didn't see any trains running as we flew in. The subway's probably caved in all over the city. But my apartment's not too far from here anyway. [Surveys smoldering remnants of an intersection] Assuming the building's still standing. [looks over at the Apache]
Squeaks
: [following her gaze] So, how's she handle?
Ferdia
: A little tempermental, and difficult to hover, but she flies beautifully. And she's got so many computerized instruments and gadgets on 'er that she'd probably fly herself. How's the Huey? [runs a hand through her hair]
Squeaks
: Not nearly as agile as the Apache, bun fun nonetheless. It's been a while since I flew a helicopter... [catches sight of a cut on her forehead] You're bleeding? [brushes her bangs back, revealing a patch of drying blood.]
Ferdia
: [ducks head back] Bullet only nicked me. An' the vest took care of most of the others.
Squeaks
: [noticing the blood on her uniform] Most of the others?
Ferdia
: [shrugs] One doesn't charge a group of militants and come out unscathed. I'm fine.
Squeaks
: You sure?
Ferdia
: The hospitals are busy enough already, if that's what you're thinking. I know how to treat a bullet wound. I'll take care of it myself. [catches sight of a cab and flags it down]
Squeaks
: [shrugs as she gets in the cab] Suit yourself.
Ferdia
: [starts to close door, then opens it again] Hey, Squeaks, where do you live?
Squeaks
: Eh? Fourth and ninth. Why?
Ferdia
: My apartment's up that way. Come on, we'll split the fare.
[Squeaks hesitates for a moment, then climbs in. The cab speeds away.]

Trevor: [elbows Casey in the ribs] Eh, eh, eh? Ya see that?
Casey
: [rolls his eyes] Trev, they live within a block of each other.
Trevor
: No, not that! I meant-
Bishop
: Don't you boys have anything better to do? Patrol, perhaps?
Casey
: Er...right...

***Somewhere in the swamplands of southern California...***

The battered shadow stumbles through the underbrush. Favoring a leg, it continues along its way in the darkness, unwilling to risk detection by those searching for him.

Finding his way out of the swamp and onto a road, the bloodied bird glances over his shoulder before removing a well-hidden motorbike from a nearby ditch.

"You may have one this one, detectives, but I'm not through yet. I'll have my revenge! Nobody messes with Dr. Periwinkle!"

Starting the bike's engine, the mad scientist let loose a peal of maniacal laughter, speeding off as the sound echoed through the night.

End

<-- Back to Part 3 | Back to Index -->