Welcome to the Eleventh installment of -


(Winner of 16 UKE Awards)

Please send all comments to pepe.k@eudoramail.com

The following story concerns the Toonsters' freshman year of Acme Looniversity at college level. This tale of mystery is best read from the beginning - the other parts are available at HKUriah's TTA Fanfic site, among others. I suggest you read it from the start or you'll not know what's transpiring.

This story contains many references to music, some of which you may be familiar with. It contains and was inspired by the music of Danny Elfman's soundtrack of the film; MEN IN BLACK.

In order to enhance this experience, I've made notations as to where each specific piece of music fits into the story. If it's available to you, I'd *strongly* suggest getting the CD or cassette tape, so that you'll not only read the story, but hear it happen as well.

All the music is available on CD. Most is from Danny Elfman's Original Motion Picture Soundtrack "EDWARD SCISSORHANDS" (#MCAD-10133) and MUSIC FOR A DARKENED THEATRE - Vol. 2 MEN IN BLACK (#CK 68859)

No, I don't make a living selling music for 20th Century Fox or MCA but Mr. Elfman's music is incredibly beautiful, IMHO and well worth it.

I'd like to thank HKUriah, Thorne, Andy Fox, Dennis Smith, ...and Danny Elfman

This story is dedicated to my Beloved Wife.

In Remembrance of a wonderful human being, a dear friend and actor
- a free spirit always and forever -
the late Drew Hollywood.

And now - Part 11 of -

- "A Time to Break Down"

Chapter XLV


Dr. Lord mumbled under his breath and covered his eyes with a hand in frustration. His other hand tightened into a fist around the edge of the bench he sat on, his claws forcibly digging small holes in the marble. The slamming of Fifi's front door resounded across the mansion's yard as her rejection of her Grandfather crushed his hopes. Mae Bear stood blinking with a bottle of wine in her paws.

"What's going on?" she asked.

{MIB #3 Edgar's Truck/A New Man}

The ominous groan of deep dark music began to play in Lord's mind, building into a monstrous and jittery approach. Something else in his mind was playing it and he covered his ears to try to stop it and leaned down against his knees as his stomach began to turn over.

As she stood angrily fuming inside her car - Fifi also heard it and grew more annoyed, kicking her bookcase of romance novels.

"Stop eet! Leave moi alone!" she said and thought to him. Beads of sweat suddenly appeared on her face as Fifi also felt her belly grow sour inside. Her eyes widened as she realized the horrible thing that was happening!

Mae heard nothing but the wind beginning to blow.

Lord shut his eyes tight, as his hands began to tremble and he clasped them quickly together to hide it. He fought to lift his head and spoke to Mae as calmly as he could.

"My dear, would you...go inside and look after my guestssss...who just got in? - I - must attend to.. something out here." he said through the pain.

Fifi doubled up and fell onto her bed, gasping at the sharp cramps and tension she shared with her Grandfather.

"Non! ...Hold eet-.. don't let eet-!.." she begged through the torture.

Lord fought for control as the Berserker stirred within him, turning to face away from the she-bear.

"Pav, is something wrong?" asked Mae, putting a paw on his shoulder with concern.

Lord bit his lip and struggled to keep himself from visibly trembling.

"There's a storm coming." he told her through clenched teeth.

"No, I mean, what's wrong with you?" she asked.

Lord was not about to tell her.

"Hurry, Mae!... -The rain will ruin your hair..."

"What rain? -..."

A flash of lightning and a crack of thunder answered her question as Mae looked up to see a massive black thunderstorm moving swiftly down upon the city. The wind kicked up as the cloudburst began to rain down on them. Mae quickly turned and ran towards the door of the mansion, covering her hair.

"Oh gee! And I just had it set!" she complained as she disappeared inside.

Behind her, Lord's trembling became a cold shivering as his muscles spasmed nearly out of control. Fifi rolled on her bed, holding her stomach as she shared his agony through their mental connection. Lord's pangs of pain continued as the rain fell on him. Lightning struck the fence nearby, but he did not hear it, his face grimacing.

"Mustn't!...can't -...Stop It!!...NO!!..."

Suddenly his shaking stopped as his eyes opened. The two of them felt every strand of their fur stand on end. It was a feeling like the sticky, filthy, skittering feet of thousands of cockroaches and it made Fifi's flesh crawl! And in the center of Lord's mirror-like, sliver eyes - the cat-like triangular pupils were no longer white. Instead they stared a reddish-pink. His ashen face had lost any trace of expression. He rose to his feet and began to walk away like an automaton.

Fifi felt the pain relax as she looked and saw him moving away through the pouring rain. She was shocked at the unblinking, horrific stare on his face as he plodded faster and faster away towards the center of his empty field. Torrents of rain fell on him, running down his face and soaking him to the skin. His leather flight suit glistened as the lightening flashed all around him, but he never flinched. He lurched unswervingly through the puddles as the downpour of rain ran over his eyes and muzzle. His blank look of horror terrified Fifi and she called out to him.

"Stop! Stop eet! - Don't go! Come back!!" the skunkette cried as she ran outside into the rain.

Lord lumbered toward the empty center of the field, his eyes glowing white around the scarlet pupils. His lips were drawn back, the razor sharp teeth gritted tight enough as to break his jaw, his muscles were pumped and expanding as the cold water ran down his face. Fifi watched as his tail dragged through the soaked grass. The music and pain built till she felt she would be sick, but suddenly Lord's body seemed to drop into the ground. In a flash, he was gone! She stared across the dark field, but saw nothing. The cramps diminished, but as the creepy music continued - they returned. Clutching her belly, Fifi stumbled back into her Cadillac out of the rain. The music became sinister as she could only imagine the horror that was occurring. A cold sweat came over her.

"Oh _Mon_ Dieu!" she gasped.

Below the field in his underground complex, Lord fought to keep himself in check. All around him, the giant machinery roared to life as his eyes glowed white-hot. Arcs of high electric voltage coursed through the air as the megatons of power built up towards release. He stood amidst the blinding flashes, shuddering and struggling to maintain control. He tore open the zipper of his flight suit and ripped it off with his lengthening claws, to stand naked before a glass case. With a single slash, he ripped out a strip of the leather and tied it in a band around his forehead, tossing aside the shredded gear.

Fifi fell again on her bed, grimacing as her nausea made her turn green. She clawed at the bed sheets, twisting them as she writhed in anguish! Icy chills raced through her body, her heart pounded as she felt a tightening inside of her - a tickling - like pins and needles everywhere at once! A terrible acidic taste filled her mouth, as if she were chewing on steel filings. She began to turn white! Suddenly the lights went out.

Lord's muscles shook as his fur grew thicker and blacker. His fist smashed through the glass lid of the case and slowly drew out a sixty-pound shaft of steel. The shattered glass fell as the five and a half foot weapon was raised into the air.

Fifi struggled to her rear window as flash after flash of lightning filled the sky and dreadful cracks of thunder shook the ground. The music built to a barbarous, menacing advance. Fifi felt her breakfast about to return - and she suddenly stared in horror!

Something was rising from the earth. It rose slowly on an elevator in the center of the field. A monstrous, ghastly, black form stood hunched over, facing away from her. As the elevator stopped, the gargantuan beast stood up, growing even larger. The lightning flashed and Fifi saw the grisly creature turn. She could hardly force herself to keep looking at it. It's fiendish eyes shone white and red like some unholy demon. With a horrid snarl, it's jagged teeth snapped as it saw her! The terrified skunkette gaped as she saw the sheet of inky blackness coming down from the sky behind the being - and realized what was happening. The thing raised a massive arm up, brandishing a two-handed broadsword in ungodly defiance! The lightning crashed again!

The monster roared! It's eyes flamed red! It's soul-shattering howl made Fifi scream and hide her face...then all was silence.

As she cringed with her eyes shut, trembling with fear, Fifi noticed her pain was gone. The awful taste in her mouth faded away. She heard nothing but the sounds of the rain on the roof and her own frightened breathing. Cautiously, she looked out her back window - half expecting the Berserker to leap up at any moment. When she was bold enough to open her eyes, a strange sight greeted her.

Fifi stared hard at the field, but saw...nothing. Not exactly nothing, but a strange hole in the air, as if she was actually blind in that spot on her eyes. It was as if there was nothing there to reflect light or color, a strange hazy void just where the Berserker had stood.

"Eetz no wonder no one sees zee time travel - frome a deestance, vous cannot see anytheeng!" she thought.

{MIB #9 "Petit Mort"}

The image blurred as she watched, then the inky blackness was suddenly there - then it was climbing away to the heavens like a ghost fleeing the daylight. Fifi jumped as her lights came back on, then looked out to the field again.

A figure stood there - apparently Dr. Lord. He seemed to sway and catch himself, then with a cry of despair, he flung something away and Fifi heard a dull thud. Lord wavered and she saw him fall to his knees. Fifi's first reaction was to run to help him, then her fear and anger took hold and she nearly stopped. Had he done this to warn her? Had it been a punishment, making her go through the pain with him? Why had he allowed it to happen? Emotionally torn, she walked hesitantly out towards the field. Her instinct was to help him, but.....

Lord's blood ran colder than the rain that dripped from his forehead. The deluge fell on him as he knelt where he had fallen. As the cold water soaked his fur, he shut his eyes tight and tried to shake the savage images of carnage from his mind. Expending the Berserker's fury in the past had left him dazed and shaken and he struggled to forget what he had done. The frigid downpour drenched his shivering naked form and something stung his eyes. He bit his lip and and squinted, trying to remain stoic, but his eyes smarted and he wiped them away. His hands were sticky, covered in -


He wouldn't allow himself to think of it or to look, but realized he couldn't stay there in the open without being seen. He started to rise - and saw his matted fur covered with blood - blood not his own. His hands, his arms, his chest - even his face was sodden with what had been the Berserker's opponents ... his victims.

"No!" he cried miserably as he collapsed down on the muddy grass.

But everywhere he looked, there was proof of his guilt. With all of his naked weaknesses and terrible shame exposed, Lord wept in misery and cursed his existence.

Fifi held her tail over her head like an umbrella and hugged herself against the chilly weather as she walked onto the field. She could see her Grandfather with his face in his hands. The tragic scene made her forget her anger and she began to run through the puddles to help him. But as she splashed towards him, the wretched creature retreated onto the muddy top of the entrance to his underground caverns, literally crawling down to hide in his hole in the ground.

"Wait! Don't go!" she called, but he shook his head and turned away atop the grass-covered elevator.

"Please....don't look at me..." he cried in embarrassment, as the patch of ground descended.

Fifi ran to the edge of the elevator shaft, but could only watch as her grandfather disappeared into the darkness in shame. She stared into the pit and didn't know what to do.


Art by Murray Mouse

She stopped - not knowing what to say. The elevator came back up empty, its door closed and Lord's broken thoughts came up to her.

["..I'm -...I'm sorry, Fifi...I can't.. talk now.."]

Confused and upset, the purple skunkette stood in the deepening gloom and wrung her hands uselessly. What should she do? Was it her fault? Why did this have to happen? The miserable rain fell on her and she turned back for her home, sadly trudging across the soggy field. The melancholy sky was as gray as her mood. As she returned, she saw something laying in the grass by the fence. A blaze of lightning illuminated the lawn and she saw it!

It was the Berserker's huge broadsword. Blood dripped from it's blade and formed a dark red pool as it mixed with the rain. The true realization fell on her all at once and Fifi froze in absolute terror! Too shocked to scream, she ran in horror from the gruesome sight! She bumped blindly into the fence, knocked over an oil drum in the junkyard and leaped into her Cadillac, locking the door behind her.


Chapter XLVI

Lord sat shivering on the cold cement floor in his underground complex. His sobbing had stopped and he hugged his furry knees and rocked back and forth, trying to recover his senses. He looked at his hands tearfully and tried to wipe the blood away.

"Yet here's a spot." he said softly to himself. "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One - two - why then 'tis time to do't. Hell is murky."

His silvery eyes darted here and there as he stood up. "Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier and yet afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to accompt?"

He closed his eyes and shook his head violently to clear it. Out of the dim light ran his black cat, Pyewaket. Seeing his distress, she rubbed herself against his shins and began to purr to comfort him - but then she sniffed and suddenly backed away with a hiss at the scent of the blood and death on him.

"..Et tu, Pyewaket?" he said taken aback, "Please?"

He reached for her, but the cat slunk back. Relenting, the forlorn skunk began to return to his mansion.

"The Thane of Fife had a wife. Where is she now?" he asked no one. "What, will these hands ne'er be clean? No more o' that, my lord, no more 'o that! You mar all with this starting."

"I wonder what can be keeping him?" thought Mae as she looked toward the rear window of the mansion.

She and the others waited in a large drawing room. Bugs and the others were still chatting about the possibilities of an Acme Loo Flight School.

"I know ol' Sam will wanna get in on dis." said Bugs.

"D-de-d-Daffy will too. He hates to b-be left out." agreed Porky.

"Plucky will wanna join up - you know how he craves glory!" snickered Babs.

"Yeah," Buster nodded, "Come ta think of it, we already have some pilots around already - Monty for one!"

"And Calamity too!" Hamton concurred.

"And Wile E....Of course, most of them spent more time crashing planes than flying them." giggled Petunia.

"I thought ab-be-be-be-uh considered that and I think we should use toon airplanes as the training planes so they can't be d-d-de-uh wrecked."

"Dat's a good idea, Porky", Bugs agreed, "Dat way, nobody'll poimenantly destroy a real plane and our insurance will stay low."

"You could use all the old Warner Brother's planes" suggested Honey Bunny, "Otherwise they're just gathering dust in the Cartoon Props Department Building."

"How about Sweetie Bird?" asked Babs "And Concorde? They fly too."

"Or Tweety and Beaky Buzzard?" said Petunia.

"Plucky and Shirley can fly too." Hamton reminded them.

"So can Daffy and Foggy", Bugs laughed, "I guess we could save on parachutes."

As they chuckled at this, Kirrik entered silently through a side door and began walking swiftly towards the upstairs. Mae saw him and called out.

"Hey, where have you been?"

Lord's human form turned, genuinely startled.

"Uh...Miss Mae.. I was helping the Master. He was..caught outside in the rain and now he needs..a bit of help..." stammered Kirrik as he turned to leave.

"He was outside during this downpour?!" the she-bear persisted.

"Yes", the man said uncertainly, "That's why he needs my help. If you'll excuse me."

Mae watched him as he climbed the stairs and disappeared into the upper halls. His behavior had always been odd, but she'd never seen him be insecure.

"I hope Doc's all right", said Petunia anxiously as she looked out the window at the continuing rain storm, "These queer thunderstorms have been coming out of nowhere lately."

"Yes, and all these blackouts too", said Honey, "It's very strange."

Hamton looked to the top of the staircase to find Dr. Lord walking gingerly down the steps. He wore a plain grey Nehru suit and an odd frown on his face. He walked slowly to a chair and sat before addressing them.

"Good evening."

"What were you doin' out in all this rain?" Mae asked.

"Rain?" the skunk echoed, " ...Oh yes...Terrible, isn't it?"

Lord's subdued manner puzzled everyone.

"I think we've got most everyting ironed out fer the flight school, Doc." Bugs said, changing the subject. "All we need is a base of operations."

Lord didn't seem to hear him and spoke indifferently as he stared out the window.

"Just like Cappy. The rain never seemed to stop." he sighed absently. "Damp..bleak, filthy...the sod pockmarked with bomb-craters..."

He abruptly noticed everyone's confused looks.

"You can have an airfield right here, I have a few hangars and we can build a couple more of them." he said, pulling himself back to the present.

"Uh - yeah... I guess we could at that." remarked Bugs.

"Gee, Doctor - do you have more airplanes?" Hamton asked with wide eyes.

"Yes", said the Professor brightening a bit, "My triplane is mostly just for fun...and old times' sake. I have a Tiger Moth. That should make an excellent training plane. And there are ..others."

"Could we see them, please??"

"Perhaps later" Lord sighed as he lay back into his chair.

Porky noticed that for once, Lord was barefooted; his large, black clawed feet shifting uncomfortably on the floor.

"D-d-de-Doc?..Are you okay?" he asked with concern.

Just then there was a loud insistent knocking at the front door and Arnold went to answer it. He returned with Shirley and Plucky who appeared to have been soaked by the rain. Everyone was surprised to notice how happy they both seemed.

"Like, I have to talk to you privately, Sensei." Shirley told Lord urgently.

"I know." Lord nodded as he rose and walked into another room with her.

"Hiya Hammy!", smiled Plucky, "Thanks fer dumping all that paint on me!"

"Gee, I'm sorry Plucky, but you should know better than to vandalize - what do you mean - "Thank you"?" Hamton puzzled.

"Best thing that ever happened to me, chum" the duck said in a slick fashion.

"Huh??..." said the disbelieving pig with a double take.

Shirley reappeared with the Doctor and headed for the back door, pausing to squeeze Plucky's hand.

"I'll be back in a while, Darlin'. I need to like, talk to Fifi."

Plucky, surprisingly, didn't say a word - just gave her a kiss on the cheek. Most everyone was surprised at this and stared as Shirley gave him a peck as well.

Hamton shook his head wildly to clear it. "Oh my gosh! I forgot about Fifi! Has anyone seen her??"

"She, uh ..was in her car, the last I saw of her." said Mae, not wanting to volunteer anything further.

"I'll go with you, Shirley!" Hamton said hurriedly joining her.

Lord and Shirley exchanged glances and thoughts.

"Like, I hafta talk with her privately, Hamton. - Y'know? Girl-stuff."

"But I wanna see her. She should have come inside with the rest of us."

Lord got the attention of the others as he walked slowly to the side door.

"C'mon everyone - I think I will show you the other airplanes and hangars."

Hamton's head spun between Shirley and Lord.

"Oh gee!" the pig frowned.

"If you like the Fokker D VII - you'll love these." Lord remarked.

"Well... I guess I can see her after you do, Shirley" Hamton said following the others.


Chapter XLVII

Shirley hugged herself as she made her way through the swirling cold rain. Even before she got there, Fifi's strong smell hit her. The Cadillac's door was locked and Shirley knocked on it impatiently.

"Feeph?! It's me - oben ub!" she called, holding her beak.

After a long pause, the door's lock clicked and Shirley was suddenly pulled though the door! Inside, Fifi clung to her like a furry octopus, her fur all frizzed out and shivering. Shirley struggled to get loose.

"Like, now I know what yer old boyfriends felt like!" she said prying the scared skunkette off herself.

As Fifi zipped to hide in her bed, her fumes found Shirley. The scent was overpowering and the Loon swooned onto the floor as a green cloud of skunk fumes billowed out through the doorway. Fifi sat huddled on her car seat, hugging her blankets around herself as she shook with fear. Speechless, she stared at Shirley with huge scared eyes. The loon held her breath as she lit some incense and opened the windows partially. She thought of donning a gas mask, but didn't want to upset Fifi any further.

"I guess ya saw him, huh?" she asked gently.

Fifi's eyes grew huge at the thought of admitting what she knew. She shrank back and said nothing.

"Look Feef - I know yer like, totally blown away by everything that's happened, but ya just gotta get a grip." said Shirley.

"Ah - ah dunno what vous are talkeeng about." the skunkette stammered nervously.

"Oh, gimme a break - I've like, talked to Doc and I'm here ta help you."

"Ah dunno what vous mean." Fifi said turning away stubbornly.

Shirley sighed in exasperation and said aloud ,"Doctor Lord? Is it okay fer Fifi and me to like, talk?"

["Yes...within the proper limits."] Lord's thoughts told them.

Frightened, Fifi dove under her covers and shuddered at the echo of his voice in her mind. Shirley felt for her friend and sat next to her.

"Look, I know like *some* of what's been goin' on these past couple days, an' I know how ya feel."

The anguished skunkette shook her head.

"'Ow can you know?! How can you know what eetz like to find zat notheeng eez like eet waz?! To ave zat -!"

She stopped abruptly, frightened that Lord might be listening.

"It's o-kay, Feef. He can't hear us now" the clairvoyant reassured her.

Fifi was still scared and the blonde bird beside her sighed.

"I don't rilly blame ya.. I like, felt the bad vibes all the way across town and it made me wanna do the Technicolor yawn...I guess it was kinda difficult in person, huh?"

"Ah - ah've nevair been so scared een all mah life!" Fifi whispered.

"What did the Berserker look like?" Shirley asked gently.

"Like...like a huge werewolf!" the skunk said cringing at the thought. "All hairy - and black... eyes like fire! ..And when eet howled - I - !"

"Take it easy, like - everything's gonna be okay, kay?"

"Non! Everytheeng eez *not* okay!" Fifi stammered. "...Out zere! -ah saw-!! " With a sharp gasp, Fifi realized the truth. "...He'z a madman! ..He'z a maniac!! ...Shirlee - 'ee eez a murderer!!!"

Shirley clamped her hands around her friend's muzzle to quiet her.

"That was in_the_Past, Feef. He told me he went back to a battle he'd fought, like ..eons ago. He had to, like, totally appease the Berserker."

"Weather eet waz a thousand yearz ago or only five minutes - 'Ee keeled someone! Ah saw zee blood!" the panicked purple furry exclaimed.

Shirley stopped and put her beak in her palm, shaking her head.

"...I know.. This is totally heavy...Just be thankful he had enough control not ta let it happen here in the present" she said fatefully looking into Fifi's eyes. "And - like it er not - yer the only one who can stop it."

"Moi!?! 'Ow could I evair stop zat creature?!"

"By joining yer mind with his - and helping him fight back the darkness."

The two friends stared at each other. Fifi shook her head in dismay.

"Zere must be anozzer way! Zere must be somebody else!"

"Feef, - ya like - grew up with him. You've been partially linked since you were born! Nobody else is as close ta him."

"Vat about all heez friendz??", Fifi pouted bitterly, " Zat - zat bear!"

"Fifi La Fume -you're jealous." the Loon said taken aback.

"Vat do vous mean? 'Ee eez mah Grandfather - not mah boyfriend!" the skunkette said indignantly walking away.

"Then why're you reacting like a jealous lover?"

Fifi turned and stopped, gazing sadly out at the mansion.

"Ah know ah am." she whispered. "...All these yearz..'ee raised moi. Like 'ee waz mon papa. 'Ee took care ov moi, 'ee read moi wondairful bedtime stories, tucked moi een.. taught moi to ride a horse.. art, musique, poetry, language. 'Ee can speak Latin and Greek - not just read eet - but speak eet, lahk ah'm talking to vous...Ah guess - now ah know why."

Fifi paused introspectively, watching the rain trickle down the windowpane.

"Mah parents grew too old to play weeth moi..and mah seestair hardly ever deed - but Grandpere would always play weeth moi....Ah dunno 'ow many times we played "Alice in Wonderland" een ze vineyard, running up and down ze rows ov grapevines... Ah would turn a corner and zere 'ee would be, az anozzer character: Ze White Rabbit, ze Queen ov Heartz, ze White Knight or zee Mad Hatter. What we had togezzer waz so special...'Ee taught moi swordplay, 'ow to dance, to sing, 'ee took moi to ze Theatre...All these yearz, 'ee has had anozzer life. One zat ah never knew about...".

The skunkette turned to Shirley, her words bittersweet.

"Ov course ah am jealous", she said softly, "'Ee has been mah loving guide throughout mah life..Ah nevair had to share heem weeth anyone before.. Ah just can't believe zat ee'z so evil eenside!"

"He's *not* evil! " Shirley said comforting her. "It's like - he's Doctor Jekyll and the Berserker is like - his Mister Hyde. They're _two_different sides."

"But ah waz nevair afraid ov heem until today" Fifi confided.

The Loon clasped the skunkette's hands in hers.

"You know in yer heart of hearts that he loves you - and that you love him."

"...Ah know",Fifi nodded, "ah must talk to heem again. Ah waz wrong to snub heem az ah did."

"Um..like, yeah..", Shirley said uncomfortably,"You rilly shouldn't block him out. Ya gotta control yer temper, cuz ..well..yer only making it worse."

"Moi? But eetz not fair! Ah had no choice but to be zis way!" Fifi stormed at her suddenly, "'Ee nevair told moi! Why?"

"Like, chill out, Feef" Shirley urged, "I dunno why - that's sumthin' you'll have to ask him yerself."

Fifi slumped onto her car seat, staring absently out the window at the grey sky and the rain.

"...To ave your familee lost to eet? ..To find zat your life waz predestined before you were even born?"

Shirley could see what was happening and tried to calm her friend.

"Fifi? Ya just gotta relax and center yerself-"

Again the skunkette overreacted, her scent now starting to rise with her agitation.

"'Ow can ah control mahself when mah whole world eez turned upside down?! To find zat ze face ah knew waz just a mask for sometheeng else?!"

"Aww c'mon!", Shirley countered, trying to keep her calm - and her scent at a tolerable level, "Is he rilly all that different towards you?"

She stood with her hands on her hips and lit another incense stick as Fifi's gaze fell.

"...Non. 'Ee haz alwayz been kind to moi" she admitted. "He'z been tres nice to Hamtone and moi".

"I think you'll find that he's pretty much the same skunk you've always known. His aura's, like - the most amazing thing I've ever seen! You've just gotta keep centered on this now, cuz ..wull - yer driftin' on me, Feef."

Fifi stared at her. "Ah am??"

"Yer acting like Doc is right now. And _that's_ the whole problem", Shirley affirmed, fanning away the fumes that were starting to make her woozy.

"Vat do vous mean?" the skunkette asked, her tail whipping about irritably.

"You two are mentally joined. And yer joined by yer emotions - whatever you feel - he feels too. Yer like Siamese twins, only you're connected by your hearts. He feels miserable right now because you do and vice versa, er sum junk. Um..mind if I open the windows some more?"

"Well ah feel meezerable because ov what 'ee haz done to moi!" Fifi snapped. " All these yearz 'ee haz lied to moi! Kept moi from knoweeng zee truth!"

Shirley nodded reluctantly, but said," Wull.. like - I dunno why he did that, but he must've had a good reason to. 'Sides, it's not a lie to keep the truth to yerself. Now, let's see if we can't get you calmed down."

The skunkette suddenly stared at her.

"Our feelingz are joined??"

"Yes, Feef - yer not listening to me! You experience each other's emotions. Maybe not at the same rate, but -"

"Zen ah feel so bad because - Oh no!"

"Yes. The hurt feelings are bouncing back and forth between both of you and are, like - snowballing worse and worse!"

Fifi sat back down with a awful realization.

"Zen I made him feel so bad zat our anger made heem lose control to ze Berserker?!?" she asked with shame.

Shirley nodded reluctantly and put an arm around her friend.

"..Eet waz mah own fault" Fifi whispered sadly as she hung her head.

"Relax Feef, you had no way of knowing." Shirley told her gently. "Um - haven't ya noticed that like..well, since yer Mom died, that yer feelings were a bit out of control, er some junk? It's cuz you were both tuned to like - the same frequency of spirit. Now don't feel guilty about it, cuz that'll just make ya both feel bad again."

"But what can we do zen?"

"Like, the *first* thing we do is get some fresh air in here!" Shirley said opening all the car's air vents. "And second, we get you all centered and calm. Then we'll talk about what ta do."

Fifi impulsively hugged her as they sat together again.

"Merci beaucoup, Shirley! Ah dunno what ah'd do weethout someone to talk to!"

"That's what best friends are for" the Loon smiled, giving her a squeeze.

They sat together on the bed and Fifi copied Shirley as she assumed her lotus position for meditation. The psychic bird closed her eyes peacefully and rose into the air.

"Now..like breathe deeply with me..".

They both drew a deep breath. Shirley tried to hold her breath, but suddenly broke the silence as Fifi's la fumes made her cough.

"Um - could ya tone it down, please?" she whispered.

"Oh, sorry!" said the skunkette, stuffing her tail under the pillows.

"Now find yer center and say, "Ohhhhhmmmm..."

Fifi sighed serenely with a smile, as she began to relax.


Shirley opened one eye to peer at her.

"Nonono - it's like, "Ohhhhhhhhhmmm."

Fifi also opened one eye.

"Zat eez what ah said" she remarked as she returned to her meditation. "Uuuuuuuuuummmmme..."

Shirley shrugged and continued.

"Like, whatever."

Chapter XLVIII

"So, what color will you paint the Fokker DVII?" Hamton asked with enthusiasm.

Doctor Lord was seemingly blase as he led the group of toons into the next of his airplane hangars.

"I hadn't really thought about it...yellow perhaps, like Lothar's plane was..."

"Lothar Von Richthofen?! The Red Baron's brother?" exclaimed Hamton.

"He really wasn't -...",Lord paused in the doorway, catching himself, "-always flying a yellow aeroplane.. But he did fly a yellow triplane to distinguish himself from his brother in the air."

Lord turned and led the others into the hangar that contained his Fokker triplane. The red machine stood proudly, it's engine dripping oil into large pans on the cement floor. Hamton, Buster, Babs and Plucky scampered up in front of the plane's propeller to look.

"Doctor, may I try the controls?" the pig asked impulsively.

"I wanna! Me too! No, me first!!" clamored the duck and the bunnies, waving their arms in the air at Lord.

"Hamton asked politely, so he may sit in the cockpit." he said patiently.

"Aaaww!" the Toonsters sighed as Hamton climbed up and into the Fokker's pilot's seat. He slipped his hooves into the rudder pedals and moved the tail and rudder back and forth. Holding onto the stick, he squinted and peered through the sights on the twin Spandau machine guns.

"Be careful not to fire the machine guns." Lord warned him dispassionately.

Buster was examining the guns' muzzles closely when his eyes went wide.

"You mean these things are loaded?!" he gulped as he pulled his head down inside the neck of his red shirt.

Babs did a panicked "giant mouth" wild take and hopped down. Plucky, of course, ducked. Lord tossed it off.

"What good would they be if they weren't?"

"Ya mean ya could have really shot us down before?" asked Bugs.

"..If it had been my intention to." the tall skunk shrugged as he walked towards another aircraft.

Bugs looked uneasily at Honey, but followed as they crossed to another red airplane. It was a thin biplane with Canadian markings, somewhat more modern than the triplane. The two large open cockpits showed it to be a training plane. Lord patted it's fuselage affectionately.

"This one is my favorite. It's -"

"A de Havilland DH82C Tiger Moth!" said Hamton, who abruptly popped up beside him to examine the aircraft.

"Quite right' said the Doctor with a smile," And this is an original."

"A p-p-p-uh good airplane to train on" Porky said with satisfaction.

"She's a good ship, but the next ones are definitely not for beginners."

Lord walked to a connecting door and led them into another hangar where a large, all-metal monoplane stood nearly filling the room. Mostly painted a khaki tan and green camouflage, it was a World War II fighter plane with colonial Chinese insignias. Lord walked over to the large, brilliant red spinner on it's nose and drew a tarpaulin off, revealing the painted eyes and mouthful of jagged teeth of a tiger shark.

"Wow! A P-40 Warhawk!" crowed Hamton popping up again.

"Uh...it's a P-40 E actually,"Lord said gently correcting him, "..a Kittyhawk."

"G-ge-g-Gosh! That looks sorta like the plane D-Daffy once flew!" stammered Porky.

Lord didn't seem to be listening to the other's exuberance. Instead, he was staring at a small picture painted on the airplane's side near the cockpit. Mae walked over and saw it was a picture of Red Hot in a cheesecake pose as a Hell's Angel.

"Say, how come you have all these airplanes from Reality?" asked Honey Bunny.

Lord looked up blankly and Mae answered for him.

"Doc has alot of business dealings with the humans and..uh, has property there as well."

"Uh..Yes ", said the skunk finding himself again, "As a matter of fact, that's where I'll be taking the class on Monday."

"Into Reality? What for?" asked Bugs.

Lord drew himself up and concentrated on being coherent.

"If they're going to be ..working in the Reality of the past.. it's best that they get used to dealing with the differences between universes."

"Th-th-that's certainly true - th-th-the temperature, the w-we-weather. Not to m-me-m-uh talk about the gravity." agreed Porky.

"Will you be needing any help, Doc?" asked Petunia.

"No, my dear. The fewer people going - the better. I can handle it."

"Well alright, den", said Bugs, "Just don't lose anybody."

"I'd never allow that to happen - I give you my word."

Bugs smiled, satisfied and called to the Toonsters present.

"Yous guys better pay attention and do like the Doc tells ya!"

Hamton managed to say, "Yes, sir" before Buster and Plucky and Babs looked up from their mad, whirlwind scramble to be the first one in the airplane's closed cockpit. Luckily, they couldn't open it and stared at Bugs like deer caught in the headlights.

"Yeahyeahyeah, we will." they said before continuing the struggle.

Babs climbed out on the wing of the plane and struck a sultry cheesecake pose, complete with a skimpy bikini and perfect makeup.

"Check out yer 'Target for Tonight', flyboys!" she cooed seductively.

"Babs! What would your mother say?" remarked Honey Bunny.

The pink punster immediately did a spin-change into her own mother and stood tapping her foot in an orange dress.

"Why, Babs Bunny! You know better than that!" she chided in her mom's voice," You shouldn't be wearing green eyeshadow! You know 'Ingenue Blue' is your color! It goes with your eyes, hun!"

"I had ta ask" Honey humphed.

"Is this an original airplane too, Doctor?" asked Hamton.

"Yes...", said Lord vaguely, "Complete with a war record."

"Wow!" said the impressed pig. "Oh Babs? I'd be careful if I were you - those are fifty caliber machine guns you're standing on."

"YIPE!" yiped Buster and Babs and Plucky as they dove under the plane to cower between the landing gear.

"Don't you have any planes that aren't armed to the teeth?!" Plucky exclaimed.

The Doctor opened his mouth to speak, but instead he pointed to the door to the next hangar. Plucky impulsively opened it. He was surprised to find a second door behind it and a third behind that. After repeatedly opening several identical doors in frustration, he found the last one with a sign on it saying "Monotonous, Isn't It?" After glaring at everyone for laughing at him, the duck tugged and pulled at the final door's handle only to find it locked. Lord walked over, closed his eyes and the door slid aside. It was dark inside and he turned to speak to them.

"I've never shown anyone this one before.." he said in an oddly casual way, "Please don't touch... "

He walked inside and the others followed into the darkness. The lights came on within, revealing a large, strange black craft. Two gigantic jet engines were incorporated into a long, delta-winged airfoil that was completely streamlined. The bizarre black jet had no markings and stood silently, like an alien spaceship.

Hamton stood gaping in awe as the others stood dumbfounded around it.

"..Is it ..real?" he whispered.

Lord simply nodded and sat down on a bench alongside.

"What is that thing??" asked Buster.

Hamton stepped up breathlessly to examine the craft as if it were a holy relic.

"It's an SR-71 Blackbird..the fastest airplane in the world." he said softly.

Everyone reacted in amazement, staring at the remarkable machine.

"What are you doing with this, Doc?" asked Petunia.

"Uh... Occasionally, I have to get somewhere in a hurry." Lord answered tiredly.

"Well, I guess you could get anywhere quickly in a plane that can travel more than 18,000 miles per hour" Hamton observed.

"Doc does business all around the world and attends a great deal of the meetings personally" Mae told them.

The Toonsters walked all around the rare aircraft. Plucky pointed at the canopy windows on the cockpit.

"Why do the windows shine like gold?" he asked.

"Because that's what they're coated with", Hamton pointed out.

Plucky's eyes spun with greed as Hamton continued.

"They're treated with a heat-resistant thin layer of gold so that they won't burn up from the friction with the air from flying so fast. The airplane is made of titanium. It's powered by jet engines that convert at high speed into ramjets that..."

Hamton continued to rattle off technical data about the airplane for a few minutes, during which Plucky could only imagine how much it was worth and how rich Lord must really be. The Doctor and the Pigs were most impressed by Hamton's technical knowledge.

"He's your student, isn't he?" Lord asked Porky and Petunia with approval.

"Ind-de-uh-de-uh, he sure is!" smiled Porky.

Petunia smiled as well, but for a different reason. She whispered to Porky and winked at him. Hearts were forming in her eyes again.

"W-we-uh-we uh we better be g-g-going now, Doc", Porky stammered nervously as his wife took him by the arm, "G-g-good luck with the t-t-tr-trip!

"Thanks for showing us around, Doc" Petunia said in a winsome voice. Her blushing cheeks were practically glowing and she suddenly embraced Lord and kissed him. His silver eyes went wide with surprise as she hugged him tightly.

"Uh..thank you!" he exclaimed in surprise as she squeezed him.

Everyone followed the Pigs as they returned to the house - everyone that is, except Hamton, who stood gazing in awe of the Doctor's plane till Plucky picked him up and carried him under his arm back into the main room.

At the front door, Porky took his old professor aside.

"Doc, w-w-we-uh - are you feeling okay?"

The skunk smiled and said "My friend - I feel like a million bucks!"

"Is that a lie?" asked Porky with raised eyebrows.

"One of my best" Lord said with a deadpan look. He then smiled and sighed, "I'm just ..very tired, Porky. Don't worry about me."

"All right, but whenever you feel like talking, gee- just let us know?"

"Yoooo-hoo!" called Petunia from their car.

"She wants you" Lord observed.

"She -sh-sh-sure does" Porky remarked as he hurried out.

Lord smiled in his secretive way and turned to the others.

"Arnold, would you please drive everyone else home? You'll need a big car. Hmm...take the Duesenberg."

"Jahwol, mien Herr! Oo, I get to drive der big von!" Arnold exclaimed with glee.

"Tanks, Doc", smiled Bugs, shaking his hand, "Dis flight school ting should be alot of fun!"

While Arnold drove all the bunnies back home in a beautiful antique touring car, Hamton and Plucky waited for Shirley to return from her conference with Fifi. Lord was clearly growing tired and somber, so Mae sat with him, while the duck and the pig continued to examine Lord's collection of airplanes in the hangars. Hamton felt movement in his front pocket and heard a muffled voice from inside it.

"Is Mister Big Skunk gone now, Mister Pig? I didn't vant he should haf another conniption."

"Who said that?" asked Plucky.

"Me! Dat's who!" remarked Boris the Spider, emerging from Hamton's pocket.

Plucky screamed and shot up in the air to cling onto the radio antenna of Lord's P-40 Kittyhawk. He brandished an adjustable spanner.

"There's a spider on you!!", he yelled in panic, "Look out! I've got a monkey wrench and I know how ta use it!!"

Boris yawned sarcastically and looked to Hamton.

"How do you live in dis crazy bedbug farm, Mister Pig? Ve should go into de tranquilizer business - ve'd make millions!"


Chapter XLIX

Fifi sat relaxed and calm in her Cadillac with Shirley. The meditation had worked, but she still had concerns.

"What weel 'appen een our future?" she asked the Loon.

"Well!", exclaimed Shirley with a grin, "Like, I foresaw that you'd want me to foresee with my foresight into the foreseeable future! So, I brought along my new Acme Portable Crystal Ball!"

She pulled out a small crystal ball with a built-in tripod. Fifi was confused by the extending antennas and raised a skeptical eyebrow.

"Zees eez made by Acme? Why zee antennas? Won't eet blow up?"

"It better work - this is the first time I've tried it. Now, like totally concentrate with me."

The girls stared into the ball, watching the grey images as they jumped and fuzzed with static. Shirley twisted a knob and it came into focus.

"Black and white peectures on a crystal ball?" Fifi queried.

"Whatdaya want? It's a portable", Shirley said thumping it's side, "It gets UHF too. Now remember - we'll only see glimpses of the future, so don't ask me what they mean. Now think hard with me."

The psychic raised her hands and cast her spell.

"Oh spirits of my crystal ball,

Of the Toonsters one and all,

Show our futures great and small,

Reveal how our fortunes fall!"

The ball blurred and the image became clear.

"Like, I see Buster wearing some kinda uniform", said Shirley, "He's like, running with fire all around him! Wait - now I see Mary Melody..she's talking with some tall bearded guy with a hat...Now I see Babs! ..Like, this doesn't make sense - I see her putting up a white flag!"

"Babs? Surrendering??", exclaimed Fifi, "Zat could nevair happen!"

"Wait! I like, see Calamity working on a boiler ...he's building up the pressure! It's gonna blow any second!"

"Knowing zee nerdy coyote's luck - eet probably will."

"But wait, there's more! I see..Arnold.. he's firing huge cannons! There's Wakko - he's like, pulling Fowlmouth out of a roomful of smoke! There's Gogo - he's laying a whatchmacallit - ".

"Eetz a trail ov gunpowder - a, how you say? - powder train!"

"Yeah, what you said... I see - me! ...There's armed men in the water shooting at us! .. Wait a minute! I see Plucky...he's surrounded by dead men.. but he's fighting bravely on!"

"Ow eez zat possible?" Fifi asked, thinking of the duck's usual cowardice.

"I dunno...now I see Furball..he's standing inside some kind of box at the wheel of a ship - Gasp! There's a big explosion in his face!"

"Mon dieu!" gasped the skunkette. "But what about Hamtone et moi??"

Shirley held the crystal ball up and the vision was jumbled a second. She shook it and it became clear and together they stared at the scene inside.

"I see us all aboard a ship - bailing out the water! It's in a terrible storm! Wait!...I see Hamton...he's floating down from the sky -"

"But what eez 'appening to heem? What about moi?" pleaded Fifi.

"I - I see Doctor Lord...he's standing at the ship's wheel..his eyes are shining white! He's trembling, straining with every ounce of his strength - he's falling!"

"What 'appens?? What 'appens to moi??!" Fifi implored.

Shirley drew a deep breath and looked hard at the image.

"There!.. I see you! ..Yer horrified! I see you leap off into the sea!!"

"Zen what?? What happens??!" Fifi begged.

Suddenly the crystal ball's screen showed nothing but static, a trace of smoke came out as it ran haywire and finally, as the girls backed away in panic, it exploded, covering them both with soot!

"Lucky I got it with my Acme Debit card" remarked Shirley as she produced a shiny new credit card. "It nullifies any purchase made that spontaneously combusts."

She and Fifi had just dusted themselves off, when the Acme Debit Card also exploded in the Loon's hand and they were completely blackened again.

"Zat's Acme for you" Fifi commented, "Everytheeng guaranteed to explode - at 25% eenterest."

They cleaned off the soot again and sat thinking. Fifi opened her mouth to speak, but Shirley halted her.

"Like, don't ask me what all these mondo bizarro images mean. They're just little moments that'll happen - and I have no clue when, either."

"Whatevair 'appens - eet looks like we are all headed eento danger", Fifi said solemnly, "What ah need to know eez - what do ah do now?"

Shirley rose and began pacing.

"Wull, the first thing you totally need ta do is talk to him and learn ta understand each other all over again."

"Oui... and we've got to stop hurteeng each ozzer."

"Like, the obviously simple thing to do would be to join yer minds. Then you'd understand each other completely, I'm sure!"

"Ah'm not so sure zat ah'm ready for zat. What would eet be like?" Fifi asked uncertainly.

"I dunno...I tried it with Plucky once, so we could communicate better. It didn't rilly work cause I'd never tried it before and didn't really know how to, so it was only like, temporary. I felt broody fer a week afterwards. He was like, ecstatic and wouldn't leave me alone cuz I...well, let's just say we both came away knowing that we ..did sorta like each other. He actually tried eating tofu and I found myself looking at Playduck magazine!"

The skunkette giggled, then asked," What would eet do to moi?"

"Wull, you'd be able to share knowledge and memory er some junk. Maybe even his powers! Doesn't sound too bad, does it?"

"Eet doesn't sound very - how you say? - private, either" frowned Fifi.

"Well, like, this is somthin' you need to talk about with him" Shirley shrugged."Be-sides, would it really be such a major drag to have a totally amazing guy like him around? Maybe someday, you'll develop powers like him!" "Moi?? Like zat?", mused Fifi, "Well...maybe eet could be fun."

"There now! See? That's more like the Feef I know!" grinned Shirley.

Fifi's smile turned to a pout, her lower lip quivering.

"But what do ah do about mah Hamtone?? What do ah tell heem??"

The Loon stared at her a moment, then took off her grinning beak and fashioned it into a frown and replaced it on her face.

"Feef, you can't tell him anything. He wouldn't understand without proof."

"But ah cannot bear to lie to heem!", the skunkette cried, "We promised each ozzer not to keep secretz anymore!"

"And you an' I both promised to keep Doc's secrets, too!"

Fifi turned away sadly till Shirley gently turned her around again.

"Look, like maybe it won't hafta be fer too long - Doc really likes Hamton! Maybe he'll decide to tell him himself er some junk. Stranger things have happened, ya know?"

Fifi slumped again onto the bed and her confidant sat and put an arm around her shoulders. Shirley looked at her with a sideways smirk.

"If anyone should be disappointed, it's me, ya know. Now you'll be the one ta share all that power and knowledge and abilities. You'll be the one who never gets old 'n saggy. Not ta mention ..wull.. being rich..."

Fifi's tears became happy ones and the two friends hugged each other.

"Don't worry, ah don't forget mah bestest friendz" Fifi smiled.

"Cool - as long as ya don't mind hangin' out with us mere mortals."

Suddenly there were knocks at the door and three voices calling.

"Hey! The door's locked! Let us in!" yelled Plucky.

"Fifi? May we come in out of the rain?" asked Hamton.

"Who lives here? Vat's goingk on? Oy, I'm drenched! I'll catch pneumonia." called Boris the Spider.

"Oh no! Not yet!" cried Fifi.

"You can't let them stay out there" said Shirley crossing to answer it.

"But what do ah say??"

Shirley shrugged in panic just as the door opened. Plucky pushed his way in past Hamton and sputtered at the girls.

"What's the idea of letting us stand out there in the rain?!"

"What's the idea of like, breaking in without being invited?" Shirley asked him.

"Oh, we didn't break in - I used my key" said Hamton, wiping the water off his ears.

The two waterfowl froze in surprise and stared at him.

"Your key??" they exclaimed in surprise.

"Oui, his key. Ah gave eet to heem" Fifi stated simply.

Plucky looked suspiciously at the pig who stood blinking innocently at him. His eyes narrowed into a sly smirk. Meanwhile, Boris was peeking out of Hamton's front pocket, knocking the water out of his hearing aid. Shirley raised an eyebrow at Fifi.

"Oh ho!", humphed Plucky, "And just why, praytell did she give you the key to her apartment, so to speak?"

"Oh, it was in case she ever locked herself out again", Hamton said, "You can never be too careful with home security, you know. You should always have an extra key hidden somewhere in case of emergencies."

"A likely story", the disbelieving duck proclaimed, " I've always thought- "

"And just vat eez zat supposed to mean??" Fifi growled indignantly.

"Plucky, I think you've said enough." Shirley told him firmly.

"But Shirl-" the Pluckster said pointing an accusatory finger at Hamton.

"Darlin?!" the Loon said stopping him sternly.

Plucky froze and pulled his finger away from pointing at his buddy. He then clamped his own beak closed and zippered it shut. The others stood in an uncomfortable silence looking at each other till Boris finally said,

"Why do I alvays come in at de wrong moment?"

Shirley grinned and leaned in to wave her fingers at him.

"Like, helloooo cute lil' bug!" she cooed.

Boris smirked and climbed up on Hamton's shoulder.

"I'm not a cute lil' bug, Missy - I'm a grumpy 'ol schpider, but I'm pleased for to meet you anyvay."

"Shirley, this is Mister Boris Chachka, my new friend" Hamton smiled.

"Hello.." Shirley answered.

Rather than perpetuate an uncomfortable situation, she took Plucky's arm and steered him towards the door.

"Like, nice ta meet cha, er some junk, but we hafta be going now."

"Yeah", Plucky added with a smirk, "Let's leave the lovebirds alone."

"Ah'll call vous latair, Shirlee!" Fifi called after them as the door closed.

"Vell, dat vas...very brief" Boris remarked.

"Fifi? Why didn't you come inside with the rest of us?" Hamton asked.

Once again, Fifi felt caught and went to sit on her bed.

"Ah..ah deedn't feel good aftair zee flight." she said.

"Vell, dat makes two of us." commented Boris.

"You're not feeling well?", Hamton asked, sitting beside her, "I guess between the castor oil and the wild dogfight, things got a bit unsettled, huh?"

"..Oui..um, ah'm afraid ah'll have to - how you say? Pass out dinnair."

"You mean 'pass *on* dinner?", he said gently correcting her, " But Mom and I are making our special matzo ball soup."

"Ah, a good bowl ov chicken soup vill fix you right up, Missy Fifi" Boris suggested.

Fifi shook her head regretfully.

"Je suis malade...Ah.. -ah just don't feel up to eet. Maybe ah'll feel bettair tomorrow. .. Pluckee's comments deed not help, either."

Hamton's usual pink cheeks blushed red.

"Was he implying what I think he was?"

"Of course he vas! Dat duck's got a doity mind..." Boris proclaimed.

Both Hamton and Fifi now blushed and shyly looked away. Boris realized he was in the midst of a private matter and blushed too.

"I..uh..tink I'll just turn off my hearing aid for a while...you keeds go ahead and...uh...talk amongst yourselves."

The spider pulled his earpiece out and climbed up the wall onto the ceiling. The couple sat together and looked at each other shyly. The sun began to set in the already gloomy sky.

"Well... we really didn't get to study" he said hopefully.

"Tomorrow ..would be bettair, cherie" she said feeling guilty.

He took her hand.

"Will you be okay?"

"Oui, merci mon conniechon".

He leaned over and kissed her and suddenly found her embracing him tightly, her cheek against his chest.

"Ah'm.. sorry about missing dinnair weeth tu."

"That's okay, bebe", he smiled hugging her, "C'mon Mister Chachka."

Boris continued to look around at Fifi's scarlet curtained boudoir.

"Mister Chachka! Let's go!" called Hamton loudly, waving at him.

"Vat is it?" asked the aged spider.

Hamton almost shouted into his ear, "It's time to go!"

"It's gonna snow? Oy, vat crrazy weather you got around here."

He began to put his hearing aid back on.

"I SAID WE CAN GO!!" Hamton yelled to him.

The top of Boris' head came off as the hearing aid blasted him.

"Oo! Don't shout! I hoid ya I hoid ya!" Boris reacted, straightening his skull.

He dropped back into Hamton's pocket and looked out again.

"Nice place ya got here, Missy. We'll see you later, I suppose."

Hamton pulled out a folding umbrella and waved from the doorway.

"Can I call you later?" he asked, opening the door.

"Ah'll call tu. Bon soire" she said with a sad little wave.

"I hope you feel better" he said sweetly as he left.

"Yuck," Fifi heard Boris say, "Again with de rain! Why doesn't it stop?"

Alone with her melancholy thoughts, Fifi wondered the same thing.


Chapter L

Doctor Lord sat at one end of a long dining table and ate in silence. Mae Bear sat at the other and worried. Since Arnold had gone and taken Hamton and Boris home, the tall skunk had not said but a few words. He'd sat somberly at the opposite end of the black oak room, brooding. They were sitting so far apart that he'd given her her own trays of food and the only sound she'd heard was the clinking of his golden silverware. The candles were burning low in the candelabras when he finally broke the silence.

"Would you care for a brandy?" he offered solemnly.

"I sure would", she affirmed, " And how about an explanation too?"

Lord's eyes glinted like liquid mercury, but his face was like stone. He rose and walked to a cabinet, his tail dragging, sweeping the floor.

"It's an orange sort of liqueur...very sweet."

He produced two bottles, one old and dusty and the other one clean and new.

"Good", she said, "I like my drinks nice and wet."

Lord poured her brandy in a snifter from the newer bottle and returned to his end of the table before filling his own snifter to the top from the older vessel. Mae stared at him, trying to fathom what was wrong. The brandy was indeed very sweet, with a delightful, orange-flavored afterburn.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she tried.

Lord swallowed his brandy and looked forlornly at the window, where the rain continued to fall. He seemed completely detached from what was going on around him. His voice was deep and cheerless.

"There is a curious paradox that no one can explain..", he sighed, "Who understands the secret ..of the reaping of the grain?...Who understands why Spring is born out of Winter's laboring pain? ...Or why we must all ..die a bit...before we grow again?"

He drank deeply and closed his eyes introspectively. Mae was puzzled in the extreme and searched his face for clues.

"I do not know the answer...I merely know that it's true", he continued, "I hurt them for that reason... and myself a little bit too."

"Do you always speak in rhyme when you're upset?" she asked cleverly.

Lord tapped his glass with a claw.

"No...It's actually what I was thinking about." he observed.

"My Lord, I've known you for almost ten years", Mae said sitting back in her chair, "In the beginning, you used to scare me with all your abilities. Then for a while I thought all the aloofness just a put-on, designed to make business people nervous. Your mental conversations used ta make me think there was a ghost in the building! Your voice used ta make me shiver."

"That's hardly surprising" he said sadly.

"Then when I got to work with you closely.. I found that I liked you..", the lady bear said softening. "But you still confuse the heck outta me. You live like a recluse.. and until the other day, I knew nothing about your family..I was told you didn't even have one."

She rose and walked over to stand behind him. Her brown paws rested on his shoulders and she spoke softly into his ears.

"Pavel, you're still a major mystery to me but I don't care. It hurts me to see someone I care about in pain... Won't you tell me what's wrong?"

Lord's chin sagged to his chest, but he would not speak. Mae wrapped her arms around him.

"For the past six months you've been positively gloomy, so I assume this has something to do with your daughter's death?" Mae asked gently.

There was a long silence before he said, "..Partially."

Mae kissed his cheek and smiled, "That's better, now we're getting somewhere."

Lord shook his head, "I'd really rather not talk about it... do you mind?"

She was somewhat taken aback for a moment and said, "Hun, I can't really help you if I don't know what the problem is."

"Call it an identity crisis...I just...am not myself right now."

"Well then, who are you?" she asked with a little smile.

The tall skunk sighed like a dying steam engine and confessed.

"An old man..a very tired old man who's seen too much of Life."

The plump ursine put her hands on her wide hips and pretended to be offended.

"Well! You better not be!" she said haughtily. "I don't go for tired old geezers - I have better taste than that!" she quipped jokingly.

A little smile found it's way to Lord's face and he turned to her.

"It's something I have to solve myself", he told her shaking his head, "I can't make any decisions about the future until it's solved."

"Well..is there any way I can help?" she said hopefully.

"...Could you try to cheer me up?" he asked genuinely.

Mae's face lit up with a delighted smirk.

"Why certainly! I can think of any number of ways, you naughty boy! Of course I hadn't planned to go quite so fast, but uh.. " she said playfully.

This broke the ice and Lord chuckled and blushed a bit.

"Mae, I -"

"You certainly may! I was hoping you'd ask."

Lord laughed in embarrassment and took her paws. He smiled genuinely and asked, "How would you like to go swimming?"

The former actress's eyebrows rose in amusement.

"I didn't bring my bathing suit" she smirked.

Lord thought about this seriously and said, "Well... I'm sure I have something you could wear down by the pool-"

Mae waved him off, "Nonono! You're supposed to say something like, "Well, my Dear, you don't really need one!" she quipped imitating his voice.

Again, this got Lord to laugh and blush at her risque humor.

"Mae Bear, you-"

"Oh you will? Good! It takes me forever to get outta this dress!"

The Doctor laughed out loud as he stood up and led her to the pool.

"Stop that", he chuckled," Now you behave yourself."

Mae took his arm and giggled as they walked to the hallway.

"Oh, when I'm good, I'm very very good. But when I'm bad - I'm better!"

"Cut it out..."

Fifi had finished the last of her dinner and sat toying with it. She was lost in thought and found her mind still clouded with gloom. She'd called Shirley, only to find her out on a date with Plucky. She thought of calling Hamton early, but still felt too troubled and guilty for having not gone with him. She felt disjointed. Her mind wandered as she washed the dishes and caught herself staring out the window. Mae Bear's car was still there and the skunkette found herself feeling slightly jealous again. She stopped when it occurred to her that perhaps Lord felt the same way when he saw her with Hamton. Just how deeply her mental connection with him was, she was uncertain. Perhaps they had influenced each other all along. Perhaps her own personality had been orchestrated and formed as it was because of it.

But these were things that only he could tell her.

Fifi decided to take a long, hot bath to get the castor oil out of her fur and to calm herself. As she lay back in the lilac-scented water, her tail lazily waving water through her flowing fur, the penetrating warmth and the perfect silence made her smile and grow drowsy.

Lord sat in a hot jacuzzi attached to one end of his indoor swimming pool. The tiny bubbles flowing through his jet black fur felt marvelous and relaxing.

Art by Thorne

"Ahem" said Mae's voice from behind him.

He turned and saw her walk in and pose for him. She wore a purple one-piece bathing suit with a short skirt attached. Her round, zoftig figure made the suit somewhat tight, but she was quite attractive.

"What do you think?" she said doing an exaggerated turn like a model.

Lord smiled at her and said " You are very very cute!"

"Is that all I get??", humphed Mae," I expected a better reception than that!"

Lord did a spin change in the water, which flew everywhere and came up looking like the Wolf.

"ARRRRRRRROOOOOOO!" he howled, going through all his extreme takes; kicking himself in the head, whistling and clapping, banging his head on an anvil, popping his eyes everywhere and roaring like a bull. The she-bear giggled as he spun back to his sedate self.

"How's that?" he asked.

"Better, but I think you're outta practice" she remarked kiddingly. "Now, how about you?"

"What about me?" he retorted in puzzlement.

"Well, c'mon. Let's have a gander at you", she urged him, " I didn't squeeze into this tight thing for nothing, ya know!"

The big skunk blushed, but walked out to stand towering over her. The water glistened and dripped off his broad silver-furred chest as he stood there trying to be modest in his blue swimming trunks. Mae sidled up to take hold of his arm.

"Hmm! All this meat an' no potatoes!" she commented with a sly smirk.

The Doctor chuckled at her witticism and reached down to put an arm around her waist. She smiled as his other hand grasped her. She lost her smile when he picked her up and held her over his head nine feet in the air!

"What are you doing?! Put me down!" she squealed.

Lord looked directly up into her eyes above him, still smiling.

"Now will you behave?" he grinned.

"Okay! Okay! I'll be good! Just put me down!"

"Okay!" he said shifting her out over the pool.

"Nonono! Don't you dare throw me in! Now put me down, King Kong!!" she screamed and giggled as her plump legs kicked in the air.

Laughing, Lord lowered her to the tiled floor and stole a kiss from her. She surprised him with her own sensational kiss and nudged him. With a look of surprise, he fell backwards into the water!

"That'll teach ya to pick up girls!", was her saucy remark.

The water's surface became still and he hadn't come up yet. Mae leaned down close to look.

"Okay, come on out of there -"

Suddenly he did, having spin-changed into a Great White Shark that snapped at her! Mae screamed again in delight as she scampered around the edge of the pool while he followed, playing the theme from Jaws in his mind.

Fifi was abruptly awaked by her phone ringing and dashed out to answer it. Her wet lavender hair kept flopping into her eyes.


"Hi, Fifi! Are you feeling better?" asked Hamton's voice.

"Oh.. a leettle, ah theenk..." she yawned.

"Did I wake you up? I'm sorry! I'll let you go."

"Nonono, eetz okay! How are tu and Boris getting along?"

Oh, we're fine. My parents and he are getting along fine. He talked for hours about the old country. Boris is gonna stay with them for a while. I was just showing him my books about airplanes."

An idea occurred to Fifi and she carried the phone back into the bathroom to dry off.

"Hammy, do tu ave any books on zee Red Baron?"

"Sure, I have some."

Fifi wrapped herself up in a towel and tried to comb out her hair. The phone made it rather difficult.

"Could tu breeng zem along when we study tomorrow?"

"Sure! Gee, do you plan to join the Acme Loo Flight School, maybe?"


Hamton explained the idea their professors had come up with. Although interested, Fifi was intent on looking into Lord's past identities.

"I hope you're better tomorrow", he told her, "Oh by the way, Doctor Lord wants the History class to assemble at his house on Monday morning. He'll be taking us to Reality for a field trip."

"Hmm, ah wondair where he'll take us" she wondered.

"I dunno, but it sure will be exciting!"

After saying goodnight, Fifi dried herself off and wondered about talking to Lord again, but decided it could wait till tomorrow.


Chapter LI

"This was fun!" smiled Mae, turning to Lord at his front door.

"Thanks for cheering me up..I really needed it" he said taking her paw. "I...wish you didn't have to go ..."

The she-bear hugged him.

"Oh, I'd love to stay, but I have to get back to New Yawk..I have this really tough boss - he'd never forgive me for being late." she joked.

The Doctor smiled self-conciously.

"I hear he's a real stinker" he commented facetiously.

You kidding? He's the biggest skunk I've ever known!" Mae laughed.

Her smile became genuine as she slowly kissed and held him.

"He's also someone who I happen to be crazy about", she whispered passionately, "So you better take good care of him, huh? See ya soon."

Lord watched as Mae's car disappeared. He glanced over at Fifi's darkened windows, then closed the door. He walked silently to his enormous kitchen and found his cat, Pyewaket waiting to be fed. From the pantry, he got a real 3-D can of cat food and served it to her. As the cat purred and ate, the skunk sat down with a real 3-D orange and began to peel it. His claws tore the peel off carefully. The tangy scent of citrus fruit filled the air. He sighed in the wonderful quiet of the room and tore open the soft fruit...

Lord began to feel pressure - his head ached and began to pound. He felt heat rising all over his body and began to sweat, a blinding pain striking him between the eyes. He blinked and began to gasp as the pain grew worse. His hands shook and the pieces of the orange fell to the floor. He tried to stand, clutching his forehead, but stepped on an orange section and fell to the floor. Pyewaket meowed and licked his face, but he could not feel it. His body shook and quivered wildly. His hand clawed for the edge of the table, but his weight toppled it over with a crash. The dishes smashed or rolled across the floor as he lay squinting and shaking amidst the mess. He felt his eyes changing, the Berserker coming upon him and relaxed to try and make it pass. It did not. He relaxed further and lost his toon form, quavering back into the shape of Kirrik. His human body lay grimacing as he tried to rise. His hair was dripping with sweat as he tried to suppress the evil within him. His blue-grey eyes turned red and faded - turned red and faded as he fought to remain himself! His hand tightened into a fist and smashed again and again against the floor!

Fifi lay in bed, tossing and turning, twisting her body inside the sheets. In her dreams, she saw herself on a bloody battlefield, slashing at hundreds of attacking soldiers! Their shining armor was spattered with blood as they charged in fury upon her. Livid with rage, she hacked at them, her sword and foot-long claws ripping their bodies asunder! They kept coming and coming and she kept on killing and killing them all! A murderous frenzy burned in her soul - an unthinking, merciless hatred of all that lives. She stood among the hundreds of broken bodies and roared ferociously, the blood streaming down her arms as she beckoned her enemies to their destruction! Suddenly,she sat up with a start - and found herself shivering in her bed.

Her face was flushed and sweaty, but she was all right. She stumbled to the kitchen for a glass of water and then climbed back safely into bed.

As she rolled over and fell back to sleep, Kirrik still lay struggling on his back on the kitchen floor. His eyes changed color constantly, as he fought to hold on to his self-control. His face twitched as his pupils went from normal to pink and back again. His black cat sat next to him, her ears back, her hackles up, her fur standing on end.

Look for the next Chapters of -


coming to you soon.