Kiwis In Space II: The Search For Cuteness

Courage is your greatest present need.

        The sun shone brightly, warming the ground and reflecting pleasantly off the water in the stone fountain. Tall buildings in lightly toned marble and granite circled the fountain, stretching towards the clear blue sky, their spotless walls dappled with the shadows of the numerous trees lining the street before them. Dapper doormen stood guard in the buildings' entryways, greeting residents as they left and holding doors open for them upon their return. The sidewalks were clean and even, free of loiterers and kiosks; the streets were similarly well-manicured, and the only vehicles lining their sides were those that were receiving or returning passengers.

        All in all, a very nice place to live, Drake mused, striding down the sidewalk. The blocks of expensive apartments and brownstones melted into a more commercial area lined with banks, jewelry stores, and other richly-furnished shops. The duck looked about himself approvingly. This city was definitely nicer than the dark, dirty, and utterly discourteous one he had just left.

        Granted, San Viano was a much younger metropolis than New York City, but still

        He walked onward, wondering just how far he was from his intended destination. The ship's computer was still reeling from D'Gal's attack, and hadn't been able to transport him with pinpoint accuracy. Not that that bothered him overly much – he had taken his captain's advice this time, and was clad not in his standard SpaceFleet attire, but in a version of its dress uniforms that looked remarkably similar to this country's naval dress blues. This uniform was drawing much more favorable looks than his standard one had in New York – and all without drawing too much attention to himself, as the port city of San Viano was accustomed to sailors and their uniforms.

        Speaking of uniforms, there was the one he was looking for! Up ahead, a squirrel clad in the uniform of this world's law enforcement officials sat mounted on some sort of large quadruped, stopped at a corner but headed, it seemed, for the green park-like area across the street. He thought for a minute. What were they called again? Police? Yes, that was it. And one addressed them as 'officer'.

        “Excuse me, officer,” he approached the pair, “Could you direct me to your headquarters?”

        She turned to face him, her head cocked in curiosity. “Why? You need to report something?”

        “Oh, no,” he assured her, “But I'm supposed to meet a friend of mine when their shift ends, and I've gotten all turned around out here.” Well, it wasn't exactly a lie…

        “Ah,” she nodded, “In that case, the station's down another four blocks, on the right.”

        A light on a fixture across the street changed, and the ground vehicles that had been speeding by slowed to a stop as those traveling perpendicular to them began to move. The squirrel guided her mount across the street, and he waited for the light to change again.


        Brent glanced up from his coffee as the door opened, admitting a duck in a naval uniform. Hmm. No threat there. Given the precinct's distance from the shore, he was probably just lost. No matter. Mackie would handle it. He glanced at his partner, nodding in the direction of the duck. The younger mouse sighed, taking his feet from the desktop and rising to greet their visitor.

        “Can I help you?” he asked, bored.

        The duck paused, as if trying to figure out how to best word his question. “I'm looking for a pair of cops,” he finally said, “They're friends of mine, but I'm not sure what precinct they're from or what their badge numbers are.”

        Mackie rolled his eyes. Great. “Names?”

        “Arcadia, Squeaks. The other's a bluebird named Ferdia, but I never got her sur-”

        “Hey, what's this about Ferdia an' her partner?” a cheery female voice chirped from deeper in the station, seconds before a brown sparrow bounded up to the front desk, coffee mug in hand. The excitement in her eyes wasn't all caffeine-induced.

        Mackie gestured to the duck. “He's looking for 'em,” he shrugged. The duck looked at them expectantly.

        The sparrow laughed, placing her empty mug down and coming around the desk. “Boy, are *you* far from home!” she laughed, slapping the duck's shoulder, “They work out of the 42nd Precinct. This is the 8th! They're clear across town!”

        The duck's face fell. “Oh.”

        “I take it that means you're gonna try walking all the way there, huh?” the sparrow asked, studying him for a moment before shaking her head. “Not a good idea, trust me. San Viano's huge. And things are pretty rough down at their end. But, because I'm so nice – and because we've got some things that need to go down there anyway – I'll drive ya down there.”

        “Callie!” The squirrel behind the desk yelped.

        “What?” she turned, blinking innocently, “We've got at least a dozen compensation requisitions for the cars they damaged last month, some reports they need back, and about a dozen sets of handcuffs that last batch of hoodlums they dropped off here came with. It's been a slower day than usual, and my shift ends in twenty minutes. Why not drop him off?”

        The squirrel sighed, relenting. “Great!” she yelled, turning to the door, “C'mon, let's go!”


        Bob wandered deeper into the warehouse that served as Newt's laboratory. There was just so much *stuff* here!

        Newt was always working on one crazy invention or another. Some of them were actually quite useful – the constant upgrades and repairs to the Dangerboat and Dangermobile, both of which were currently in the shop, kept his spy alter-ego on the cutting edge. The wrist communicator he wore was also a useful toy - the gizmo functioned as a clock, a cell phone, and a pager, and also had basic Internet functions, all crammed into an ordinary-looking digital watch.

        Then again, some of the genius kiwi's inventions would have been better off *not* having been invented. There was that super-flammable lighter fluid he had loaned Bob for a barbecue that had nearly burned down the city. And then there was the flying car, which needed a better ground-to-air transition module so it wouldn't melt the pavement every time it left the ground. And there was always the cloning gun, the banana bomb, the exploding sheep, the artificially-caffeinated coffee, and a little furry toy that squawked annoyingly in some nonsense language until it learned how to recite nuclear secrets verbatim.

        And that was just the recent stuff. He wondered what Newt was toying around with now.

        “So,” he yelled ahead to the green-suited genius as Newt's workbench came into view, “What's so important that I had to drop everything and come over?”

        “I've done it!” Newt yelled, triumphantly holding up a glob of green goo, “I've finally done it!”

        “Done what?”

        “THIS!” Newt cried, cupping the goo in his hands.

        Bob eyed the goo warily. It looked like lime Jello. “When was the last time you got some sleep?” he asked his friend.

        Newt thought about that for a moment. “Sometime last week,” he decided. “But that's not the point! Watch!” he placed the goo on the worktable in front of him, flipped a switch on a radio-like gizmo in front of him, and spoke into a tiny microphone attached to the radio. “Beak, say hello to Bob.”

        On the table, the goo quivered, drawing itself up and extending an 'arm' to Bob. “Hey Bob!” it said, “How do I look?”

        Bob screamed.


        “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUG!!! You turned Beak into lime green Jello!” Bob yelped, peering at the goo, which was shaking out a leg. It was slowly taking on the form of a tiny kiwi, and it looked at him curiously.

        “Jello?” Beak asked, as the tiny green kiwi twisted to catch a glimpse of itself. Beak poked his belly, laughing as it jiggled like a jello mold. “Cool! This is almost as neat as the slinky!”

        “Newt! Change him back!”

        The scientist shrugged. “I can't.”

        “You WHAT?!?

        “Bob, that's not really Beak. He's merely taken control of the Jello and is controlling it from afar. Watch,” he said, reaching under the table.

        Before Bob could react, Newt pulled a mallet out from beneath the table and slammed it down onto the Jello kiwi, which let out a shriek as it splattered across the workbench. Newt lifted the mallet, shaking the last few bits of Jello off the mallet. Bob stood frozen in place, twitching. “You…you…you…”

        Newt turned back to the radio. “Alright, Beak, come on out.”

        A heavy steel door to their right opened, admitting a fully-formed - and definitely non-Jello - Beak. Bob stared, shocked, looking from Beak to the bits of green Jello and back.

        “But he…you…and he…and you…and….and…”

        The Magi laughed. “Yeah. Neat, huh? Sorry if I scared you when he smashed me. But you should've seen the look on your face!”

        Bob growled.

        Seeing what was about to happen, Newt stepped between them. “Now, now. Let's not fight. Don't you want to know how it works, Bob?”

        “How what works?”

        “My new invention. The Intergalactic Kiwi Network.”

        “The what?!?”

        “This thing,” Newt said, patting the radio and gesturing at the steel room Beak had been in. “You see, one of the most hazardous parts about being a spy – or a detective – or a Magi – is that you've got people trying to kill you. But with this new invention, you can do all your information-gathering without ever actually being in danger!

        “What the Intergalactic Kiwi Network does is really quite simple. It scans for the coordinates you give it, establishes a connection with the location, and creates a virtual representation of the location in this room here,” he waved to the room Beak had been in, which appeared empty except for a set of virtual headgear and a bodysuit. “Well, in the room's computers, actually. The subject merely puts on the virtual hardware, and instantly sees everything in their designated location from the viewpoint of whatever the network used to connect it to the location. The subject then controls this 'anchor' and can guide it about the location.”

        Bob gave Newt a LOOK. “In English, please?”

        Newt sighed. Even Beak's eyes had a glazed look to them. He tried again. “You tell me where you want to go, I type it into the computer while you go into the room and put on the virtual suit, and then you control whatever the system chooses as an anchor point. Beak's anchor point was the Jello, so he saw – and reacted to – everything the Jello did. And you saw how he could talk and move about as the Jello. He could do everything he would normally be able to do, but he wasn't harmed when I smashed the Jello because he wasn't really the Jello. The system was merely using the Jello as an anchor. Understand?”

        “So…” Bob tried, “It's like virtual reality, except everything you say and do is really happening somewhere?”

        “Right,” Newt said. “Kind of, anyway.”

        “Interesting,” Bob said, “But why call it the Intergalactic Kiwi Network?”

        “Well, for one, it only works on kiwis. And second, in light of your recent adventures, I decided to up its range in case you ever needed it outside of Earth.”

        “Uh-huh,” Bob said, peering at the invention. “Very nice, Newt. Is it portable?”

        “Well…no. Not yet. The system takes up too much space right now. But you have unlimited movement once you've established a connection. Your 'virtual self' can move around as much as you please.”

        “But it's not portable,” Bob pouted. “Oh well. Good work, Newt. Put it on the shelves. I'll let you know if I need it.”

        “It still needs a little fine-tuning,” Newt went on, oblivious to Bob's indifference, “and then it'll work better, faster, and it'll be smaller. I'm working on that now.”

        “Great, Newt, you do that,” Bob said, turning to go.

        “Bye!” Beak called to the inventor, “I've got to go to work now!”


        Light-years away, a small form watched the scene with interest. What an interesting discovery! And to think he'd almost missed it! He had mistaken the scan for that of a translocation beam, and had scrambled to isolate it and find its origination and destination – only to find it was an energy leakage from a parallel dimension!

        Fascinating! He had to tell the others! He turned and ran down the corridor, yelling for his friends.

        “Bob! Beak! You must see this!”


        Drake gazed about the precinct, looking for signs of life. He couldn't find any. Aside from criminals in the holding cells in the back of the station, the place was deserted. Well, almost deserted. The sparrow, Callie, came back into view, shaking her head.

        “There's nobody here,” she said, shrugging. “Something big must've been called in. It's only early evening, but even their captain's gone!” She frowned. “I've called the 43
rd, and there's no one there either. My precinct's got no idea what's happening, so I'm supposed to hold down the fort until the 42nd gets back - this isn't a part of town you want to leave a station unguarded in. You can stay here and wait, if you want…”

        Drake peered out at the street. “Doesn't look so dangerous,” he mused.

        “That's one of the reasons it is. *Especially* with no cops around.”

        Drake considered his options. He knew where the station house was now. He could find his way back to it if he had to. Waiting had always required a patience he didn't possess. “I think I'll go out and see if I can find anything.”

        The sparrow scowled. She obviously didn't want him to leave – but, then again, she'd flirted with him the whole drive down here, so that didn't necessarily mean her objections to his departure were based on danger outside.

        “I'll be fine,” he assured her.

        She sighed, giving him a dismissive wave. “Yeah, whatever. It's your funeral.”


        Bullets ripped through the squad car's fender as Ferdia jerked back out of sight. When she found out who was responsible for giving those punks up there automatic weapons, she was going to *hurt* them. A lot.

        She crept to the bumper, risking another glance around the car. Across the street, a group of gunmen had taken control of an office building. Small clusters of them defended the building from different points – the entrance, the first floor windows, the second level, mini-blinded office windows, the third floor, etc….there even seemed to be one or two madmen on the roof. She wasn't concerned with them right now, though. Her attention was riveted to the small form cowering behind a car in the middle of the street.

        She hadn't been there when it happened – she and Squeaks had been among the last to arrive, and their squad car was parked farther back, out of danger for once – but she could figure out what happened easy enough. The gunmen had been taken by surprise - the burning squad car hung up on the curb in front of the building was evidence enough of that – and in their scramble to eliminate the threat of the police, hadn't bothered aiming their well-stocked automatic weapons and had splashed the small coupe's driver in the process. The car's small passenger, however, had made it out and sat, bawling, with her back to the car, pinned there by the gunfire. Which, tragic as it was, wouldn't normally have been a problem. However, the car's engine was still running, and the mouseling was hunched right beneath its gas tank. A stray shot…

        She ducked back behind the fender, putting the battered prowler's engine between her and any bullets that might be coming her way. She turned to her partner. “I count twenty guns. You?”

        Squeaks lifted his head to glance above the hood for an instant, then nodded. “At least. I can't see the guns on two of them, though.”

        “The hostages?”

        “Out of sight, if there are any.”

        “Twenty guns…” Ferdia threw another glance at the kid, nodded, and checked her clip. “I'm going in.”

        “The hell you are!”

        “Look, I'll get Casey and the others to help with cover fire, but I'm still going in. She needs our help, Squeaks. Look at her, she's terrified. We're cops! We're supposed to protect her, damn it! And that's exactly what I'm gonna do!”

        “Case!” she yelled to the prowler a dozen yards away, “Cover me!”

        The orange finch's eyes hadn't even finished widening as she darted out from behind the car.


        Shots immediately erupted from the building, ripping through the air around her as the gunmen on the upper floors opened fire. Oh, sure, to them, this was a simple issue of keeping their opponent as far away from their positions as possible. She didn't bother returning fire. That was Squeaks' and Casey's and everyone else's job. Her job, at the moment, was to run as fast as possible. And run she did.

        Five feet from the car, she dove, rolling into a ball to cut the size of a target she made. She slammed into the side of the coupe feet-first, and in one fluid movement scooped up the mouseling and kick-somersaulted to the front of the car – away from the gas tank. There, she considered her next option. She was in a very vulnerable position; bullets skipped along the pavement in front of her and ricocheted off the car in back of her – obviously the gunmen could reach her if they ever bothered to start aiming. At the same time, she heard the clinks of service revolvers reaching empty and reloading.

        The hell with it. Casey's cruiser was closest to her position, its front doors still wide open from their hasty exit. If she timed it right…

        Above her, the rearview mirror exploded. No time to debate the matter further. She sprang to her feet, sprinting hard for the prowler, the mouseling clutched tightly against her. A bullet whizzed past her arm, too close for comfort. They were aiming now. The kid had been like a hostage of sorts – a way of keeping the police farther away from the building, lest they put her in danger. The gunmen were none too happy about losing her.

        The cruiser loomed closer. She charged it with all the determination of one with a single purpose, leaping at the last second to slide across the battered hood. Only then, relatively safe behind the car, did she pause for breath.

        Trevor hardly glanced at her. “You all right?”

        “I think so. How about you?” she asked her charge. The only response she got was a whimper as the mouseling squeezed her eyes shut even tighter and strengthened her grip on her rescuer. Ferdia turned to Casey. “We've got to get her farther back!”

        The only answer she got was a bright flash from the roof of the hijacked building.


        Ferdia didn't stick around to ask what had caused the flash. She had a good idea what it was - and at any rate, the automatic fire temporarily ceased as the fireball barreled in. Casey and the others joined her in retreat as the rocket slammed into the coupe, exploding the gas tank and sending the small car airborne.

        They fell back to the next line of cars – although Ferdia ran until she reached one of the ambulances at the edge of the mess. She pushed her way past the swarms of reporters (vultures, all of them, she muttered to herself) to an EMT and handed the mouseling over.

        Or tried to. The poor girl didn't want to let go. It took a good ten minutes to pry her loose, as she shrieked her protests.

        I don't have time for this, Ferdia muttered to herself. She took the hysterical child's hand in hers. “Hey,” she said gently, “What's your name, kid?”

        “M-Marie,” came the quivering reply.

        “Hi, Marie. I'm Ferdia. I-”

        “You saved me!”

        Ferdia smiled. “Yes, and I have to go back help my friends save the other people in that building right now, so I'm gonna leave you with -” she checked the EMT's nametag- “Janie here for now, okay?”

        Marie sniffled, but nodded. Ferdia let go of her hand and tousled her hair before heading back to the fight.


        “Where were you?” Trevor greeted her. The fight was no more than a standoff now. Hostage negotiators and SWAT teams had arrived, and snipers were setting up shop on the nearby buildings.

        “I had to calm the kid down,” she shrugged, counting the gunmen she could still see, “poor thing was scared out of her mind, didn't want to let me go. Count sixteen guns.”

        “Ah,” Trevor nodded. A chorus of shots rang out as one, and the SWAT team surged forward even as the snipers confirmed their hits. “Now, why couldn't they have done that a few minutes ago?” he grumbled.

        “I doubt it would've played as dramatically on the news,” Casey mused, “and after the punks opened fire on the girl, the heads of the department didn't need to worry about cries of excessive force.”

        “I'll be sure to keep that in mind when I'm getting reamed for pulling that stunt,” Ferdia muttered, “It might cut the lecture short a bit.”

        As they watched, the hostages were lead out, followed by the SWAT team and whatever members of the gunmen were still breathing. Their radios chirped to life, informing them that most of them could return to the station. Not surprisingly, Ferdia's name made the list of the homeward-bound.

        “C'mon, guys, we'll take our car. Believe it or not, it's still in one piece,” she grinned, “Unlike yours, for once.”

        Trevor grimaced. “I don't think this should count. After all, if you'd gotten here sooner, you'd've been just as close to that explosion as we were.”

        “Story of our lives, Trev,” she laughed, “ 'If things were different, they wouldn't be the same.' But since that never applies to us, there's no reason it should apply to you. Now come on.”

        Trevor sighed. “Well, I guess there's still time. I mean, you two have until midnight to wreck that car. A lot can happen in four hours, you know? You're bound to scratch it, if nothing else.”

        “If you don't like losing bets, why bother making them?” Squeaks chided, striding forward to catch up to Ferdia. “A word with you-”

        “If you're gonna yell at me for what happened back there, don't waste your breath. An innocent kid was in trouble. I risk more for them because their lives are worth more. Got it?” Her eyes flashed angrily.

        “Take it easy,” her partner replied, holding up his hands. “I just wanted to know how she was doing.”

        “Oh.” The anger died away. “I think she's okay, but she's minus a parent, and that hurts. The ambulance was one of Mercy General's, I think. I'll check on her when my shift ends.”

        “Not to interrupt,” Casey piped up, “But are either of you expecting a visitor?”

        They shook their heads. “Not that I know of,” Ferdia supplied. “Why?”

        Casey nodded at their squad car. “Because he looks like he's waiting for someone.”

        The other three followed his gaze to the end of the street. There, leaning against the lamppost their prowler was parked under, was Drake.


        Drake sighed as he saw his friend's expression change as the group spotted him. Given what had happened in New York, he had of course expected them to be less-than-thrilled to see him – after all, he had come to them for help, only to repay them by relating the news of Squeaks' discharge from SpaceFleet. But he had hoped for a better reception nonetheless.

        The bluebird, of course, made no pretense of hiding the distrust and open hostility glistening in her eyes. He'd expected as much from her – he'd made a bad first impression on her, and had rubbed her the wrong way ever since. Squeaks' reaction was what made his face fall. His old friend scowled as he saw him, sweeping his ears back in annoyance. The two officers flanking them seemed surprised by their reactions, and cast suspicious and angry glares his way.

        The change in the cops' demeanor was not lost on the passersby. They crossed the street and darted into shops, scurrying out of harm's way as fast as they could. Overhead, one of the helicopters that had been leaving the crime scene paused, slipping into a slow arc as the reporter in its belly noticed the commotion below. This, in turn, attracted the attention of the police chopper in the area, and officers that had left the area minutes before swung around and slowly cruised by the block.


        Squeaks waved the others off with a backwards sweep of his hand as they reached the prowler. “I'll handle this,” he growled.

        Ferdia would have followed him farther, but his tone brooked no argument. She hung back, slightly ahead of the others, and simply glared at Drake. The similarity between their formation and that of a gang confronting a trespasser was not lost on her. No wonder people had ducked out of their way.

        “Who *is* that?” Trevor's voice was a whisper.

        “Remember that duck you were looking for after we disappeared?” Ferdia replied.

        “That's *him*?!?” Trevor hissed.

        “Yep.” Her scowl deepened. “He's *also* the dolt we had to bail out of Brooklyn a few weeks ago.”

        “And Squeaks knows him?”

        “From his navy days. They used to be friends.”

        The verb's tense wasn't lost on Casey. “Think there'll be trouble?”

        Ferdia laughed, a short, humorless bark. “With four cops here, a dozen more circling the block, and two helicopters overhead? I'd like to think Drake's smarter than that.”


        “What are you doing here?” Squeaks growled at the duck.

        Drake spread his hands in a cross between a shrug and surrender. “Easy, Ace. I had some shore leave coming, and I figured I'd use it to catch up with an old friend.”

        “I'd rethink that if I were you. You're not exactly welcome here.”

        “That's cold, Ace.”

        “Maybe. But it's true.”

        “Look,” Drake pleaded, “I'm sorry about SpaceFleet. We've appealed their decision, of course, and tried to explain the situation to them. And I've learned a lot since New York. I'm not about to start any trouble. Really.”

        Squeaks smirked. “Oh, I don't doubt that. But you don't belong here, old friend. You've been a bull in a china shop in everything you've done here. You can't adapt to this world fast enough, and what happened in New York is a perfect example of that. You wouldn't believe what we had to do to get you out of jail-”

        “But…that wasn't my fault! D'Gal-”

        “D'Gal can blend in with his environment. You can't.” He shook his head. “Go back to your ship, Drake. You'll make a good captain someday – as long as you stay off-planet. You're giving these people the wrong idea about SpaceFleet, and the fact that you don't realize it only makes it worse.”

        “Look, I won't mention SpaceFleet to anyone. And I swear I won't get in your way. I'm just trying to figure out what everyone seems to find so alluring about this world, and figured I might as well see if I could patch up a friendship while I was at it. Plus, from the looks of things, I've still got a ways to go before that partner of yours stops growling every time she sees me.”

        Squeaks considered him for a moment. It was obvious the Duck wasn't about to back down. “Fine,” he sighed, “but I am *not* going to bail you out of anything else. And stay out of our way when we're on duty. Now, scram, you're loitering.”

        That last part took Drake by surprise. He'd been dismissed. Scowling, he shook his head. “You've changed, my friend,” he said, turning to head back the way he'd come. “You've changed.”


        Squeaks watched him go, aware that the circling helicopters and squad cars were also departing.

        After a moment, a hand rested on his shoulder. Her turned to see Ferdia. “You didn't have to run him off,” she stated. “I'm sorry,” her eyes added.

        He shook his head sadly. “He does well enough in space, but down here he's been nothing but a menace. Someone had to tell him. He'll forgive me, eventually.”

        “And if he doesn't?”

        “Then he's no loss.”

        His tone held none of the certainty the words did. Drake was an old friend; in spite of everything else, Squeaks didn't want to lose him. But at the same time, if his friend couldn't learn to adapt, then they would always be at odds.

        Ferdia saw the depression kick in. Her friend had had enough for one day. “Come on, let's go back to the station and call it a night.”

        He nodded.

        “Casey!” she tossed the startled finch the keys, “You drive!”


        Bob watched the recording Newt had made earlier that day. Beak gawked at it as well. Not because it proved the existence of parallel dimensions – they had never doubted Newt's theory about that – but because it told them two things - first, that they had warp-capable doubles out there, and second, one of those doubles was a Magi.

        And with the Java Empire breathing down their necks and demanding they surrender their dimensional-translocating technologies, a Magi was just what the Hooties needed.

        They began to make preparations immediately. They were going to need to visit their doubles.


        “Hey!” A voice greeted them, “The prodigal cops return!”

        Casey groaned as the sparrow came into view. “What are *you* doing here, Coffee?”

        She scowled. “It's Callie! Callie!”

        Trevor laughed. “Whatever, oh Caffeinated one. What're you doing this far downtown?”

        “Yeah,” Ferdia chimed in, “The 8
th's *that* way,” she pointed, “Uptown, where the streets are clean, the streetlights work, and the traffic tickets are embossed.”

        Callie's scowl deepened. “I'm starting to remember why I don't come down to visit you guys. There's nothing wrong with working someplace less crime-infested than this precinct! Oh, what, *now* I get the dirty looks! You oughta think twice about badmouthin' someone's precinct, if you don't like it! Hmph!” she sniffed, turning her back on them.

        Casey sighed. “Look, Cal, just tell us why you're here, okay?”

        “No more teasing?”

        “No more teasing.”

        “Great!” she was all smiles again. “In that case, I'm here 'cause a couple 'a hours ago, this duck came into our precinct and was looking for you two-” she waved at Ferdia and Squeaks “- and I figured since I had this great big bunch of paperwork to take down here I might as well bring him along, so I did. But then he left. But there was no one here, and my precinct said to stay here and make sure that nobody came in and torched the place or whatever while you were gone, so I did, and boy do you guys get a lot of phone calls! But then I got kinda thirsty so I helped myself to your coffee and oh by the way you're out of it now but that's okay 'cause you're here now an' I can go back to *my* precinct and get more!”

        She paused for breath, then cast a glare at the four officers standing in silence. “What?”

        Ferdia was the first to react, striding up and snatching the nearly-empty coffee cup from her. “No more caffeine for you!”

        The sparrow 'hmph'-ed again, folding her arms and glaring at the bluebird before shifting her gaze to Squeaks. “So, that guy ever find you?”

        Squeaks sighed. “Yes, he did. But we'd've been better off it you'd just dropped him off outside city limits.”

        “Oh? Why, is he trouble? He didn't look like trouble…”

        Ferdia paused in her battle to scrape the coffee out of the mug and into a holding cell. “Na, Drake's problem is more along the lines of he's got trouble-magnetism.”

        Callie's face fell. “Oh. Too bad, he was kind of cute…”

        “Callie, weren't you leaving?” Trevor asked, opening the main door and motioning outside.

        “Bah, you people are no fun at all if you're not battling terrorists or smugglers or whatever,” she whined, reluctantly heading to the door. “By the way, did he give you the number he's staying at?” she asked.

        Petty or not, Trevor just couldn't help himself. The door slammed in her face.

        “Hey!” Callie yelled indignantly, “It was only a joke! Really! Well, okay, maybe it wasn't, but I just remembered I was supposed to tell you that Mercy called and - ”

        The door swung open again, revealing Ferdia – and a trio of worried faces behind her. “They did?!?”

        Ha. She had 'em now. “Yeah, something about a kid wanting to see yo- Hey!” she yelped as they darted past her, “Where're you going?”

        Her only response was the sound of tires screeching away from the precinct.

        “Um…guess it's back to desk duty…”


        “Are you sure this is the right place?”

        “Yes, I'm *sure* this is the right place.”

        “Just like you were sure that last place was the right place?”

        “*NO*, not like the last place. This one matches those coordinates Newt gave us exactly. It *has* to be the right place.”

        “You're sure?”

        “Look, Beak, just scan the city, print out the address, and find us a discreet place to land,” Bob growled.

        “Fine, fine…here, how's this?” Beak tossed a set of coordinates his way.

        “That'll do,” the yellow kiwi agreed, setting the coordinates without bothering to look at them.


        “Mommy, look! A U.F.O.!”

        “Don't be silly, dear, it's just your imagination.”

        “But it just crashed into that building!”

        “I'm sure it did, dear.”


        Ferdie was sitting at his desk in the reception area of the Kiwi Detective Agency's office, calmly drinking coffee and reading of his sister's latest escapade from the Times, when the wall exploded.

        Well, maybe not exploded. 'Imploded' comes to mind, although that wasn't exactly the case, either. And it wasn't really the wall…it was more like the window. *And* the wall, yes, but only because the object slamming into it was too big to fit through the window.

        At any rate, it sent Ferdie toppling backwards. By some miracle, he managed not to spill *all* his coffee. What's more, he managed to keep a level head. An angry one, mind you, but a level one nonetheless.

        “@%$#!*@& contractors!” he yelled, hauling himself back up, “Can never figure out exactly *which* building it is they're supposed to wreck!”

        He grabbed for the phone. They were gonna get it this time! Really, how hard could it be to distinguish the broken-down condemned heap of a building two doors down from this one! Honestly, it's not *that* shabby! He gulped his coffee as he waited for that featherbrain contractor to pick up, glancing over at the damned wrecking ball that…had…so…rudely….

        Wait a second. That wasn't a wrecking ball – that was a flying saucer!

        He choked, coughing and sputtering and generally spray-painting the rubble with coffee. A flying saucer! A spaceship! Aliens!



        “Oh, brilliant landing, Bob!”

        “Oh yeah? Who was the stupid Hootie that gave me those coordinates?!?”

        “Well you should've…hey, did you hear that?”

        “Yeah. Sounded like a war whoop or something.”

        “Think it's safe to go out?”

        “Nah, but if you actually took us to the right place, Beak, then our doubles should save us.”

        “Umm….you first?”


        Ferdie gaped as the saucer's bottom panel lowered, revealing a set of steps and a glowing interior light. This was just like the movies! Well, okay, not exactly like the movies – the saucer was, after all, only three feet high and six in diameter – but hey, he wasn't about to complain!

        Well, as long as the government didn't find out, anyway. Them and their cover-ups! But they still hadn't figured out about Squeaks, and they hadn't found out about what happened a few months ago – and they had no idea whatsoever about Lita or Ivan's fighter ships. But then again, this thing'd ran into a city building in the middle of the day…

        A shadow fell across the ship's ramp, bringing Ferdie's attention back to the present. Slowly, cautiously, two small figures emerged from the craft.

        Bob and Beak.

        He was just glad there wasn't anyone around to see his jaw hit the floor.


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