Welcome to the Thirteenth installment of -


(Winner of 19 UKE Awards)

Please send all comments to pepe.k@eudoramail.com or looneyk@earthlink.net 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 is 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 film soundtracks. 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) , BATMAN (WB 9 25977-2), Klaus Dolinger’s film score to the 1981 film: DAS BOOT (Atlantic [SD19348]) and Franz Waxman’s classic film score of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (SSD 1098). No, I don’t make a living selling music for 20th Century Fox or MCA but this music is incredibly beautiful, IMHO and well worth it.

I’d like to thank HKUriah, Thorne, Andy Fox, Dennis Smith, Sean Campbell, Franz Waxman and Danny Elfman.

Special thanks to Andy Fox.

This story is dedicated to my Beloved Wife.

In Memory of the late great CHUCK JONES (1912 - 2002)

And of my dear friend Rob Longstreith aka Rod Volner (1947 - 2002)

And now - Part 13 of -

– "A Time To Laugh"


Chapter LVIII

"Wow! Like -Totally amazing!"

Shirley and the Toonsters looked out upon a world that few of them had ever seen. They stood on the balcony of Dr. Lord’s mountain retreat and saw what was for many of them, their first view of Reality.

The pinkish-grey stone edifice stood above a wide verdant meadow surrounded by pine forests and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Brown, tan and dappled horses and ponies grazed peacefully on the hardscrabble pasture. Orange Indian Paintbrush and purple and yellow Cow Vetch were just some of the small wildflowers that dotted the landscape. Snowy white Birch trees stood out amidst the dark forest and the air was scented with the tall White pine trees and Sugar Maples that covered the mountainsides. The air was sweet and crisply chilly and the only thing to be heard were the songs of birds and the gentle wind through the thick forest. Thousands of feet of mountain surrounded the valley on all sides and above them in the azure blue skies rose fantastically tall clouds, standing like the gates to Valhalla.

"Encroyable‘! Zees place eez beauteeful!" gasped Fifi in awe.

"Merci Petité," said Doctor Lord bowing to his guests, "Welcome to my House. Come freely. Go safely. And leave something of the happiness you bring."

Though most of the Toonsters were enthralled by the scene—Plucky had to wonder. "Say, how come ya got a house here--*and* in Acme Acres?"

"I have homes in many places, Mister Duck—not just one," Lord answered dryly.

"Why would you wanna live here?! It’s so un-toony!" whined Gogo Dodo as he clutched his head. "There’s no wackiness here!"

"What’s the matter Gogo?" asked Mary Melody, helping the wobbling bird to stand up.

"Lack of toonyess," said Buster.

"I’m feeling wackyness-deprived! I can’t even pull my dippy-stick out to check!!" exclaimed Gogo with exaggerated horror as he tugged uselessly at his tail feathers. "I feel like an orphaned sock stuck behind the dryer of Life!"

"Don’t make a meal of it, Gogo. You’ll get used to it," said Lord reassuringly. "Everyone, just relax and take a deep breath."

Everyone took a huge breath and let it out with a contented sigh.

"Hey, dis place smells real neat!" Fowlmouth observed with a smile.

"It’s a totally natural organic world!" Shirley said with delight.

"Why don’t you all come out onto the terrace and I’ll explain a few things," said the tall skunk. "There are a few facts you’ll need to know to get along in this universe—important things."

Most of the Toonsters managed to walk out through the French doors, but Buster and Babs immediately tripped over their big bunny feet and fell on top of each other in a heap.

"Ach du leiber!" cried Arnold as he fell over them. "I feel so heavy!"

"Me too!" said Wakko picking himself up from the pile of fallen toons.

"Me three," said Furball.

"Let’s do that fall again! It was fun!...," smiled the Warner kid in the sudden silence.

Furball froze in his tracks and stared. Everyone else stared at him as well, from the shock of hearing the scratchy voice that had come from his lips.

"I...I can talk!" he said breathlessly. "I CAN TALK!! Listen to me, I can talk!! Everyone! I can talk!!"

With a sudden realization, the blue cat ran to Calamity Coyote.

"Calamity!! We can talk! We can talk here!!!"

"Naturally we can speak," said Calamity quite calmly. "We are no longer in our Tooniverse, but here in—hey—is that my voice? Is that myyy voice??" he asked in an oddly high-pitched whining tone.

"Yes!" exclaimed Furball joyously. "It must be your real voice!"

The Toonsters gathered around them and rejoiced as Calamity and especially Furball talked and talked to their friends.

"Oh wow, this is so great!" babbled Furball. "At last to finally be able to talk with you all whenever I want to! This is so amazing! You’re all such wonderful friends and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for this chance! I have so much to say! I just can’t possibly find the words to describe it all!-"

"Well, then—shut up!" said Plucky wearily as he held his ears.

They all got up and trudged outside onto a wide, screened porch that stretched across the side of the building. It looked out from the third story of Lord’s granite castle-like mansion and out onto the meadow below. Adirondack chairs and lounges awaited the toons as they stumbled their way over and flopped onto them. It was cooler outside, but they soon felt the warm kiss of sunshine on their faces. But they were far from comfortable.

"Why do I feel so heavy?" wondered Hamton.

"Maybe it was yer usual twenty-five pound breakfast?" smirked Plucky.

"This is really strange!" said Buster in confusion. "I just feel...wrong! Like I can’t hold my head up."

Plucky pointed at Buster mockingly to Shirley and said "Swelled head."

"It’s hard to walk," Babs complained. "I feel like I’m wearing clown shoes!"

"So what else is new?" the Pluckster remarked. "What do you expect when ya got big clodhoppers like that?"

"How would you like the world’s cutest toes to be introduced to your feathered fanny?" Babs threatened, swinging up her big bunny feet.

"Whoa, slow down now," cautioned Lord, his eerie silver eyes focusing on them all. "Now why do you suppose all this is happening to us?"

Calamity raised a paw.

"An increase in gravity?...Oh my...is this how I really sound?!"

"Pre-cisely, Calamity," nodded their professor. "And, just how much of an increase would you say there is?"

By way of an answer, the coyote removed his sneaker and watched carefully as he dropped it to the floor.

He made a few calculations and said "Approximately one point four of our own gravity....oh dear...I don’t think I like this voice very much."

He picked up his shoe, only to find the rest of the group holding their noses.

"Eeeeeewwww!" cried everyone but the Doctor.

"Zut alors! Keep your shoes on, s’il vous plais! Sacre pew!" exclaimed Fifi.

Calamity stuffed his sneaker back on and glared back at the skunkette.

"Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?" the coyote retorted. "Mmmm, I want another voice!" he whined.

"Ahem! That’ll be enough of that," said Lord crossing his arms. "As you can see—or rather—smell—scents travel more easily here because of the denser air."

"Yeah," coughed Fowlmouth. "Dis air’s thicker den duh smog over Los Angeles!"

Hamton leaned over close to Fifi and smiled.

"But it does have a few advantages," he whispered, sniffing her tangy skunk scent.

Fifi blushed, smiled back and squeezed his hand.

"This is probably the first time you’ve all experienced humidity before," Lord told them. "There’s hardly any at all in our Tooniverse."

Hamton suddenly awoke from the romantic haze of Fifi’s scent and sat bolt upright in shock.

"W-wait a minute! With the gravity higher—does this mean that we all weigh one point four times what we do at home?!"

"Yes... that’s correct," Dr. Lord admitted. "We’ve all gained from thirty to seventy pounds, I’d say."

As Hamton looked unhappily at his rounded middle, Plucky couldn’t resist. "Well, there goes yer diet, chum!" he chuckled. "See? Travel does broaden us all!"

Hamton got up with a sly smile and in two steps he had flopped bodily on top of Plucky and the lounge he lay on.

"Pig-pile! Pig-pile on Plucky!" he shouted with glee.

Buster and Babs miscalculated their hops and promptly fell and lay laughing on top of Hamton.

"_Oh_ No! I tripped! Like, Oopsie! Clumsy me!" Shirley lied as she purposefully sat on Plucky’s head.

"Geronimo!" yelled Wakko as he bounded on top of Hamton.

"Wheee!" giggled Fifi as she leapt atop everyone.

The pig-pile of toons and toonettes laughed, wiggled and squirmed happily like a game of Twister gone out of control. Arms, legs and tails entwined and various sounds of pleasant surprises and giggles filled the air until there was a sudden CRACK! and the lounge underneath them all collapsed. With a sudden yelp, the Toonsters found themselves in a tangled heap, while all the others laughed and snickered at them. Groaning, they got up and were surprised by the results of their tussle.

"Yeooow! You sat on my ear! ...And it still hurts!" Babs complained at Buster.

"Well, move yer big feet!" he retorted, straightening his shirt and fur.

"Eeeew! Look what’s happened to my hair!" Shirley whined. "My doo is totally messed up!"

"Somebody stepped on m’tail," muttered Wakko.

"Say! What’ did ya jump on me for?!" Plucky demanded of the Warner kid.

"Wull, everybody else was doin’ it," Wakko shrugged.

"Yeah, well look what you all did to me!" Plucky complained, showing them his completely disheveled feathers. "Besides squashing me—Hey! ...my feathers aren’t going back together!" he said in surprise.

"Neither is my hair!" cried Shirley.

"What’s going on?" Buster wondered.

"They won’t go back to normal," stated Lord. "We’re not in our Tooniverse, remember? Once something happens here, it’ll stay that way until someone changes or fixes it."

"Ya mean I’ll have to preen my own feathers?!?" gasped Plucky.

"And my ear won’t stop hurting?!" asked Babs.

"Your ear will stop hurting if it’s not seriously damaged, but it will take a little while," Lord told her. "But, yes—your hair, feathers and fur will have to be fixed manually. And that’s merely the tip of the iceberg, my friends. I strongly suggest that you refrain from any acts of violence while you’re here—because the outcome will not be as you are used to."

Lord stood and walked thoughtfully to the edge of the balcony. He looked out over the landscape as though he were seeing beyond the horizon.

"This is an unforgiving world where change happens at a high price," he said. "All life here... is born, ages... and dies here. And now you are all part of it. Time passes differently here. If you were to live your lives here—you would grow old and finally perish as the humans do. ...And you can be hurt here. Just like humans."

"But vee are toonz," Arnold objected. "Vee can never get hurt."

Fifi saw the faraway look in her Grandfather’s mercury-like eyes and could see that he meant more than he was saying.

"In this universe—you can be hurt... And depending on the severity - you could die here."

Lord paused as the toons gasped at the realization before continuing.

"The pain .. doesn’t go away. There’s no magical restoration...Life here is a struggle from the cradle to the grave. And the only magic here - is what you make for yourselves."

The Toonsters grew quiet and moved in silence to reseat themselves. Lord’s distant gaze faded, and feeling the others’ sinking mood, he turned to face them with a sigh. His gentle smile returned.

"But enough of such sad talk. You are here to enjoy yourselves and learn how to cope with life here. And rest assured...I shan’t allow any of you to be hurt. That is my promise."

The Toonsters were still quiet and a little scared and glanced nervously at each other until Hamton broke the spell of worry.

"Professor Porky once told me about how he had to get used to working in this universe when he and Daffy worked here back in 1940," Hamton commented cautiously. "He told me how he got hurt when he fell once."

"Yes, I remember," Lord nodded. "He tripped running up some stairs and didn’t notice he was hurt until later. He was in constant pain till we brought him home to the Tooniverse that night. Then he healed instantly."

Mary picked up on this immediately and asked, "So if anyone has an accident—they can just be taken home and they’ll be fine again?"

"Yes, it’s that simple. But it may take time to get them back home, and... there are some things we’ll be facing that could be seriously dangerous. Any cartoon violence could have fatal results."

"So if someone gets hit with a bonking mallet—they won’t pop back into shape?" asked Buster.

"No...the resultant skull fractures would cause death or at least permanent brain damage," Lord answered.

"What about getting blasted with a gun?" asked Plucky nervously, "Ya won’t just get covered with soot?"

Lord shook his head sadly and said, "Furthermore, your ability to do toony things is seriously impaired here."

"What? Ya mean I can’t do spin-changes or wild takes?!" gasped Babs.

"No walking backwards through the air or pulling my head off?!" exclaimed Gogo in total panic.

"No—none of that can happen here," the Doctor told them. "And Shirley? I believe even our powers may be reduced."

Shirley extended her hand to try, but found that she couldn’t zap anything. Absolutely nothing happened. She tried harder, straining her hands, without results. The flabbergasted Loon looked at her useless hands and then attempted to hover, chatting her mantra.

"Oooo whatalooniam!!"

She sat in her lotus position and closed her eyes. But her serene smile turned into a puzzled gape when she saw that she wasn’t floating. In fact, she had not moved an inch.

"What a total Drag!" she exclaimed.

"Well, this is no fun," the duck remarked walking back to the door, "How about we call this off and go home?"

"Now, now, we have a mission to accomplish here. I’ll explain it more this afternoon, but right now, I think there’s something we need to take care of. It concerns the water here—you may wash in it—you might even be able to swim in it—but you should not drink it," he said walking back towards the door. "You should regard this as an alien world. A world that may look similar to our own, but is chemically and physically different. So you will be needing —"

"These," said a deep voice from the French doors.

Everyone turned in surprise as a middle-aged human walked out onto the terrace, carrying a quantity of water bottles. He was slightly stout, had brown hair, spoke with a new England accent and wore glasses over a pair of mischievous eyes.

"Hello George," said Lord with a slight chuckle. "Everyone, this is my friend George Shannon. He takes care of this place for me."

George waved and set the plastic water bottles on a table.

"Ah was wonderin’ when yah’d get round to mentionin’ me," he said facetiously aside. "Nice to meet yuh, kids. These are filled with toon wahter. You’ll be needin’ it."

The Toonsters puzzled at this new development, but greeted the newcomer.

"Say, haven’t ya got anything better than plain water?" asked Plucky impulsively.

"Yeah! I could go fer a Coo-Coo Cola right now!" agreed Fowlmouth.

"Sure—at lunch time," nodded George. "That’ll be on bawd Stingray, right?"

"Yes. Is she all set?" asked the Doctor.

"All squared away, Doc."

"And the ponies?"

"Saddled and waitin’."

"Good man."

"Ah know, ah know," said George with a smirk. "By the way kids—the bawthrooms are just down the hall on your raight."

"Thank you George," said the Doctor as the man left.

As the group began to walk to follow him, Buster found himself full of misgivings and raised his hand.

"Uh...Professor?..Um, I don’t want cha to think I’m gonna back out er anything, but uh...well, what with all this danger and all...can I ask ya?.."

Lord crossed back to Buster and sat next to him.

"You want to know if this is all worth it?" he asked gently.

Buster gulped and nodded as everyone else looked curiously at him and then at their professor with concern.

"Don’t worry Buster. It’s a very valid question."

The blue bunny nervously took his fiancee’s pink paw.

"I...I just don’t wanna see anybody get hurt, that’s all," he said humbly.

The tall skunk blinked and put his hands on Buster and Babs’ shoulders as the group of Toonsters gathered around them closely. He paused a moment and looked at them all.

"Yes we are heading into danger," he admitted. "We are heading back in time to the bloodiest war in the history of the United States of America and yes—we will become soldiers in it... Why are we doing it—and not the humans?...Because they cannot risk it. If they are injured and return here - they cannot recover as we do. If any of us is hurt there or here—we will be restored when we return to the Tooniverse."

"But is it all worth the risk?" asked Babs earnestly.

Lord’s silver fur was ruffled in the wind and he smiled upon his students.

"Suppose you could bring back the real stone tablets with the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses—as fresh as the day they were made? Suppose you could bring back the Library of Alexandria before it was burned? Suppose you could bring back the Holy Grail or Amelia Earhart’s airplane, and solve these age-old mysteries?" he asked with excitement. "Suppose you could bring back the gold and treasure of the Aztecs or King Solomon’s diamond mines? Wouldn’t you do it?!"

"I’m for that!" grinned Plucky.

"Javol!" said Arnold.

"Then how about bringing back two huge, irreplaceable national treasures? Two amazing inventions that were truly ahead of their time and fought against each other in a battle that held the fate of the nation and revolutionized the ships of the whole world?" Lord asked with fervor.

Buster and the Toonsters looked thoughtfully at one another, smiled and nodded.

"Excellent, my friends!" Lord smiled. "But first—you’ll need a few lessons."

Chapter LIX

After a few mishaps walking downstairs, the Toonsters found themselves on the ground floor at the door to the outside world.

"Watch your step," the Doctor cautioned. "This isn’t Acme Acres."

Through the open door, everyone saw the trees and pasture and the marble dusted road that lead to them. Everything seemed dull-colored compared to what they were used to, but despite the lack of pure, bright colors, they found it all peculiarly beautiful.

"Again—one giant step for Toons—one giant leap for me!" said Babs as she poised herself to step out onto the ground.

"No, I’m gonna be first!" insisted Plucky

"Rope it in guys," said Buster as he pushed past the other two who stopped their struggling and stared at him. Buster walked calmly out onto the grass and turned to face them with a smug grin.

"As your leader, I’ll be the one to take the proper first steps here!"

He turned and managed to take one step—and froze! His foot squished into something that was messy, green—and smelled very bad.

"Whoops, looks like you found one, Buster," said Mr. Shannon.

Buster stared in disbelief.

"OH Gross!! What is it?!!" he exclaimed in revulsion as he began to sweat.

"It’s the Blob! It’ll absorb you! Run fer yer lives!" screamed Plucky.

"No it’s not," said Calamity, sounding nasal as he held his nose.

"Nope," said George in his calm New England drawl. "Just a meadow muffin. Smells like a fresh one too."

"Uh, yes," agreed the Doctor trying not to laugh. "After all—we do have horses living here."

Slowly Buster’s sweating face turned into a grimace of disgust and he stuck his tongue out as he and the other Toonsters squealed "Eeeeeeeewwww!" in unison.

They all began to laugh while Buster blushed and tried wiping his foot on the grass. He found himself slipping and sliding in the icky green goo, his feet and arms flailing! He managed to keep from falling—just barely. Plucky laughed so hard that there were tears in his eyes.

"Come on over here Buster, let’s wash that off," the Doctor called.

He stood by the side of the house at the spigot for the water hose.

The hot cross bunny stumped over angrily as the others tried in vain to stop laughing. His foot made an awful squooshy sound at every step, making them laugh all the more.

"Barf me out!" Shirley said pointing. "Bag yer foot, Buster!"

"Here," said Lord turning the water on, "wash it off".

The water ran over Buster’s big foot and he was surprised at how cold it was. Soon it was clean, but he found that his foot was soaked through to his skin. He stared in puzzlement at his dripping paw.

"It’s really cold!" he said in confusion. "and it’s not drying!"

"Just shake it a bit," Lord told him. "It’ll dry in a while."

"But it feels funny—like it’ll stay wet forever. It went right through my fur!"

"Have patience. Now, let’s all go to the corral and meet some friends."

Buster looked up to find Babs’ paw on his shoulder.

"You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah," he smiled weakly, "just remind me to let Plucky go first next time."

The Toonsters, Lord and Mr. Shannon walked out towards an old wooden rail fence at the edge of the pasture. The ground was uneven and the grass beyond the road felt odd underneath their feet. A thousand new sensations both pleased and puzzled them.

"It’s all different!" Babs observed.

"Nothing is uniform!" said Calamity. "..You know, I really don’t like my voice...Who do I sound like?" he asked everyone.

"I dunno, Calamity," Buster shrugged.

"You sorta sound like...uh... I dunno either," Hamton admitted.

"Ah know who you sound like," said Mr. Shannon.

"Who??" the coyote implored.

"You sound just like Colonel Klink," the man told him in a matter of fact way.

As Calamity stood dumbfounded, everyone snickered and broke up laughing.

The coyote pouted and kicked at the dirt.

"Hogaaaaaan!" quipped Babs imitating Werner Klemperer.

Lord spoke with a strange smile, "Now, now—nothing is perfect. In this world you must be on your guard cause you never know what can happen to you."

The Toonsters walked across the dusty road and felt the strange earth under their sensitive feet and the cool air penetrating their clothes. Furball was delighted by the feeling of freedom it gave him and bounced along joyfully like a kitten. Fowlmouth found his sneakers covered with the sandy loam of the road.

"Hey, my feet are getting doity from dis dadgum street—and it ain’t comin’ off!" the rooster crabbed.

"Like, mine too," said Shirley looking at the sandy bottoms of her webbed feet. "It feels kinda skanky, but this place is like, way awesome!"

"Ya want I should, uh...," Fowlmouth leered at Shirley.

"No she doesn’t!!" interrupted Plucky angrily as he interposed himself between FM and the Loon. "Shirl’s with me! Isn’t that right, Shirl?"

Everyone turned to see Shirley’s reaction and she found herself being stared at. She could either make a choice now and hurt one of them, or put it off. Hoping to test Plucky further, she did the latter.

"Wull..like... this is totally the wrong time to talk about this, guys," she stammered, avoiding the boy’s eyes. "We’re still in class, remember?"

The clever loon did however take Plucky’s arm as they arrived at the rail fence where several ponies stood waiting. This did not go un-noticed by Fowlmouth who looked sullenly at the couple.

The equines whickered and pranced up to surround Dr. Lord as he stepped up among them. The small ponies were still larger than most of the Toonsters and they felt a bit intimidated by the tall, heavy animals. Lord patted the ponies as they nuzzled and neighed for his attention. A greyish-dappled pony with a black muzzle raised her head up and nuzzled his face as if she were kissing him.

The skunk laughed and said "Let’s see who they pick."

"Huh?" asked Plucky. "I thought we were going to get to pick our own horses!?"

"Since they’re the ones being ridden—they’ll choose who they want as a rider."

The Toonsters stood expectantly as the ponies looked them over, then one by one, the steeds approached them. They came immediately to Plucky, Shirley, Fowlmouth and Gogo.

"Ah-ha! See? They chose me first! Must be my animal magnetism!"

Plucky gloated.

"No, they say they selected you because you’re the smallest and lightest of the group," Lord said, correcting him.

"Grrrrr!" growled the duck as some of the others turned to the Doctor.

"You can use telepathy with them, Doc?" asked Mary.

["As easily as I can with you—although their thoughts are a little different than ours,"] said Lord’s voice echoing in everyone’s minds.

Babs broke into song: "So you can walk with the animals! Talk with the animals—grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals! And they can taaaaaaaalk tooooo.......ah heh heh heh."

The effervescent bunny’s singing trailed off as she saw Lord’s withering stare. Plucky and the others snickered.

Mr. Shannon noticed Fifi’s riding coat and Hamton’s cowboy boots.

"Looks ta me like you two are the only ones properly dressed."

"Fifi and I rode alot together this past summer," Hamton told him proudly.

The rest of the ponies each picked a rider until only Hamton, Arnold and Mary had no mounts.

"Looks like we’ll be needing some horses for the three of you," said Lord.

Hamton frowned as evidently he was too heavy for the ponies to carry.

"Wait a minute! I thought these were horses!" Plucky objected.

"These are ponies," Lord told him. "Stay here by the fence, please. This will just take a moment."

(Music For a Darkened Theatre, #21 Black Beauty, "Memories")

As Doctor Lord began walking away from the fence, he began playing a sweet and gentle theme in his mind. As they watched him stepping carefully among the long grass on the patchy pasture, the ponies all pricked up their ears and watched as he strode out towards the middle of the wide meadow. A sentimental country violin played a beautiful, happy strain that followed his booted strides out to the very center of the field where he stopped and spread his arms wide. The Toonsters watched breathlessly as the ponies all neighed as one.

Lord’s silver hair flowed in waves with the breeze that blew down from the surrounding mountains. The tall skunk smiled silently as he stood like a statue and made his summons, whispering in the wind. As the music swelled expectantly, there was a muffled rumbling that grew louder and louder, till it sounded like thunder rolling between the mountains. The Toonsters felt the ground trembling beneath their feet as something approached and they grew fearful.

From out of the forest thundered a herd of horses! They were splendid animals with shiny brown and tawny coats upon their strongly-muscled frames. Their hoof beats pounded the ground into dust as they raced towards Lord.

"STAMPEDE!" shouted Gogo!

Lord showed no fear as the huge animals charged straight for him.

He smiled and laughed at the magnificent sight.

At the last possible moment, the horses passed around him, forming a circle as they galloped around him like a carousel, raising the dust like a small hurricane as the music swelled. A huge stallion, blacker than midnight dashed through the center of the group to stop and paw the ground at Lord’s feet as all the pretty horses slowed to a stop.

Finally a stunningly beautiful white horse came out of the forest at a gallop and joined the monstrous dark steed already at Lord’s side. The two magnificent creatures nuzzled the Doctor’s sides and he embraced them. The pure white mare raised her head and Lord kissed her forehead.

"Bucephalus! My Bucephalus!" he said in greeting. "Come Hagen! Come my children, come!"

The Toonsters watched as the tremendous beasts followed Lord towards them. The white mare stopped a moment as Lord swung up onto her and rode her bareback. Leading the herd, the tall skunk brought the horses to the fence as the music faded away.

"*These* -," he pointed out to Plucky, "are horses."

Cautiously, the group approached the giant creatures, who stood even taller than Lord himself and looked down their long noses at the tiny toons.

"I wanna ride a horse—not a pony!" Plucky huffed like a child.

"Me too!" said Babs and Buster.

"I ..really don’t think that you’re equipped to handle them," the Doctor

warned. "You wouldn’t be able to get your legs around them. You’d never reach the stirrups."

"What’s a stirrups?" asked Fowlmouth.

In the silence that followed, everyone turned to stare at the little rooster.

"Vous ave nevair heard ov a stirrup??" asked Fifi in disbelief.

"Excuuuuuse me! Ah’m a deprived city chicken, okay?!"

"More like yer depraved," remarked Plucky sourly.

"Hey! I’m depraved on account I’m deprived!" countered FM with a clever grin.

As the other Toonsters laughed, Plucky insisted on riding the horse. Lord still sat upon his white horse, his head nearly nine feet in the air, as Mr. Shannon saddled the other horses.

"I wouldn’t advise you to try riding the horses," said the Doctor. "They are nearly six feet tall at the shoulder and that’s quite a ways for you to fall."

"Fall schmall! I’ve fallen off buildings!" said Plucky dismissively.

"They also weigh in excess of 1,200 pounds. They are very gentle, but if one of them stepped on you even by accident..."

"Er, on second thought, those ponies look fine fer me," backpedaled Buster. "I’ll ride one of them."

"That’s nothing! I’ve had sixteen ton weights dropped on me!" the Pluckster bragged.

"Heh, Ah reckon ah’ll ride me a big hoss too!" Babs boasted, imitating Yosemite Sam’s voice and sticking a stalk of long grass in her teeth.

Making a face, she suddenly spat the grass out.

"Ptooey! This stuff doesn’t taste like grass! It’s awful!"

"Zat’s because eetz real grass, Babs," Fifi reminded her.

Lord swung his leg over and dismounted and Plucky and Babs rushed up to look at his huge white horse. George gave a English saddle to him and the Doctor put the tack onto the snowy white mare.

"This is the one fer me!" said the pink bunny, trying to reach up to touch the horse.

"This is Bucephalus," Lord told her, patting the horse’s neck. "She’ll only allow me to ride her, I’m afraid."

The silky white mare reached down to snuffle at Babs’ paw and looked at her with big brown eyes. When Babs tried to take hold of her leg, the big animal snorted and stepped back. The tremendous black stallion nearby stamped his hoof, shaking the ground and frightening the little rabbit.

"Awww c’mon!" Babs begged.

"Careful! Hagen doesn’t like his mate to be bothered," Lord warned.

"Here, why not try riding Harunobu? He’s more docile," he said lifting Babs onto a chestnut quarter horse.

Babs tried to sit correctly, but her legs were too short to fit over the horse’s back and she wound up doing a split on the saddle. The painful stance made her grimace.

"....ooch!" the pink bunny whimpered as her eyes crossed.

"I really don’t think that’s a good position fer ya Babsie," Buster snickered.

"Try eet side-saddle," suggested Fifi.

With a groan and a sigh of relief, Babs swung her legs to one side

and took the reigns. Lord reached down, picked up Plucky and placed him on the back of the black stallion. The duck wrapped his legs around the pommel of the Western saddle and grasped the reins, looking like a toddler on an elephant.

"Uh...you do know how to ride—don’t you?" Lord asked.

"Sure! I’m a rootin’, tootin’, shootin rider of the plains! Giddyap, Hagen!" called Plucky to his mount as he tugged on the reins and thumped the horse’s sides with his webbed heels.

The ears of the great black stallion turned backward and he turned to look over his shoulder and stare coldly at the grinning duck on his back.

"Oh-oh...." said George in a small voice.

The next moment, Hagen was dashing wildly around the field as Plucky

hung on for dear life! The crowd of Toonsters cheered and laughed as Plucky went through bone-jarring bounces on his rear and yelled at the top of his lungs!


The Doctor shook his head, put his face in his palm and sighed as the horse did his best to buck the duck off his back.

["Hagen, please stop and return to the fence."] he thought to the horse.

["Hirrrwwwirrhhurrr! Small green interloper must be taught a lesson!"]

["I think he’s learned quite enough. Please bring him to me."]

["Very well, Master. For you, murrrrr."]

Lord thanked Hagen as he calmed himself and trotted back, bouncing Plucky’s bottom hard on the saddle purposefully. The Pluckster had a death grip around the pommel of his saddle and like Babs, stared with crossed eyes. He rode to a stop with his beak hanging open in shock and stayed frozen as the Doctor picked him up carefully and put him on the ground. Most of the Toonsters snickered or giggled at his escapade. A worried Shirley waved a hand before the duck’s vacant eyes.

"Plucky?" she asked with concern. "Are you like, okay??"

Plucky stood frozen in shock while everyone watched, then finally in a high, cracked voice he said, "...I dooon’t know-oooooo..."

"Dat’s too dadgum bad, Pluckster!" guffawed Fowlmouth, slapping Plucky on the back. "Well Shoil, I guess ya won’t be needin’-"

"Negatory, I will too!" the Loon said, stopping him. She continued to fawn over Plucky. "Ooh babycakes, what’s wrong? You look totally blitzed, er sum junk!"

Buster and Babs looked at each other with a giggle and said, "Babycakes?"

Shirley gave them a sour look but was too concerned about Plucky, who just moaned and stared stupidly with a silly grin on his face.

"This reminds me of a B-17 ah saw once," said George.

"You mean an American bomber plane?" asked Hamton.

"Yep, there was one called: ‘The Ruptured Duck’."

Many of the Toonsters chuckled at this. Plucky soon regained his senses, but not before making the most of Shirley’s affections.

"Like, will you be okay, Plucky?" she implored.

"..Yes..yes, I think so," he gasped dramatically. "If I can just..lean against you..for a little while..."

The Pluckster hung around her waist with a wan smile, but when he touched her tail, Shirley noticed. But—she didn’t remove his hands from her tail feathers.

"Hmm, I see we’re feeling more like ourselves again, huh?" she said eyeing him slyly.

"Well..I’m feelin’...uh...better?" said Plucky grinning sheepishly as he pulled his hands away and stuck them behind his back. "See? I’m feelin’ better just cause you’re with me!"

"Like, I know exactly what you were feelin’."

"Remember, Shirl—ya can’t zap him here! Un-uh, no way, nope, nuh-uh!" Gogo reminded her.

The Loon glowered a bit at the duck who grinned and said, "You can zap me later."

"I’ll remind ya," agreed Wakko.

Shirley half smiled, half-smirked at Plucky and turned back to the matter of learning to ride. He helped her to climb onto the backs of one of the ponies, then gingerly mounted his own.

"Always mount from the left side," said George, as the Toonsters got onto their ponies, "and keep your feet in the stirrups."

"Oh, so those are stirrups!" said Fowlmouth climbing up. "I thought it wuz a nice way a’ sayin’ the horse’s butt!"

Wakko sat backwards on his pony, smiled and pointed. "Nope, this is the horses’s butt."

The pony swished her tail up in Wakko’s face.

"Actually, it’s called their rump, my boy," Lord told him. "Remember, if you keep some of your weight on the stirrups—you’ll save some wear and tear on your own rump."

"Now he tells me!" remarked Plucky. "Well at least I get a horse that doesn’t belong in a rubber room. What’s my pony’s name?"

Lord began pointing to each person’s mount. "Well, George will ride Hagen-"

"But a alot bedder zen Plucky did," chuckled Arnold.

"Fifi will be riding Pine Breeze, Hamton will be riding White Birch, Arnold will ride Beeches, Mary will ride Popples -"

"Ya mean those ultra cutsie rainbow toons?" asked Buster.

"Of course not, Buster! They’re obviously named after different species of trees," Calamity said, correcting him.

"Actually, these are the names they give themselves," the Doctor told them. "Equine-kind in this universe often follow their ancient society, creating naturalistic names. Somewhat like the societies of Native Americans, they follow their ancient ways.. of course, not all of them follow this."

"So what’s my pony’s name," Plucky asked, "’Prances with Skunks’?"

"Uh, yours is named Beetlebomb," Lord said with a tiny smile.

There was a pregnant pause before the other Toonsters began to hide their faces and snicker. Plucky found that he couldn’t do a "Slow Burn" wild take and sat there grumbling instead.

"Hey Doc? How about a Pegasus or a Unicorn fer me, huh, huh, huh?" asked Gogo, pointing to himself.

"Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this," the Doctor told him sadly, "But I’m afraid that they are extinct in this universe."

"I heard that there aren’t any at all," said Hamton.

"Gee, what a boring world this must be ta live in," the Dodo moped.

"It’s not all bad," Mr. Shannon said reassuringly. "There are legends of Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster still runnin’ around."

"Monsters?" asked Plucky.

"Mmm-hmm," said Mr. Shannon, pointing. "As a mahtter of fact there’s one living right out there."

"A M-m-m-Monster?!!" gasped Hamton. "W-w-w-Where?!?"

"Right out there in the lake," the man told them. "Ah’ve seen it."

"A lake monster?!" gasped Mary.

"Yes, they call it ‘Champ,’" the Doctor reported, "The Lake Champlain Monster. But everyone knows that monsters don’t exist."

"A sea monster?!" Wakko exclaimed. "Cool! I wanna see it!"

"Great big black sea serpent-type thing," said George, patting Hagen’s black mane. "Ah was out fishin’ ‘bout four o’clock last summer over behind the lil island on the eastern side. Everything was quiet and the wahter was as calm as a millpond. Ah was about tuh head on back cause the fish weren’t bitin’, so ah stahrted paddlin’ out to deeper wahter..Suddenly there were some bubbles off to one side of the canoe and ah froze. More bubbles came up and thet’s when ah smelled it...A strange smell ah didn’t like. It was like old gahrbage and paint and diesel oil and soap all mixed together."

"It was the Monster?" asked Furball, as the Toonsters closed in to listen to the story, their ponies moving under them slightly.

"Yep," the man said. "A huge black thing, like an island—only this thing had a long neck and a face with creepy yellah eyes."

"Now George, you know better than to frighten everyone," Lord admonished him. "We have to go out there today. Besides..we all know that there’s no such thing as real monsters."

"Maybe it was a disgruntled adult wearing a silly rubber mask and bent on scaring everyone away so he can keep the treasure of the lake for himself!" said Babs excitedly.

After everyone stared at her, the bunny shrugged and said "Or not."

Reining in his white horse, Lord calmly moved to the front of the line of ponies, indicating for them to follow.

"Let’s stick to the business of reality, shall we?" he said. "Let’s ride. Follow me."

(Music For A Darkened Theare, #17, Black Beauty,"Baby Beauty")

With Mr. Shannon bringing up the rear, the Toonsters began to ride single file out into the pasture. The ponies plodded along, one behind the other, bouncing the toons on their hard saddles. Lord began to play another instrumental theme, the romping country strings cheering the riders.

"Now I see what he meant about standing in the stirrups," commented Buster as his tail began to feel sore.

"That’s what happens when ya never wear pants, Buster," Babs remarked. "Try tucking yer tail underneath."

Buster did so and smiled, "It’s better than pushin’ on yer cushion!"

Calamity was intent on the handling of the reins.

"By employing the scientific method..(I’m glad I don’t have this voice normally)... I shall learn to ride efficiently!"

In trying to sit stiffly upright, the coyote suddenly found himself leaning precariously off to one side of his pony.

"Move it, you slow, nerdy veekling person!" said Arnold as his horse nearly bumped into Calamity’s pony. "You’re backing up der line!"

Wakko smiled at the sunlit scene as he rode. The scent of the leather saddle, the swing of Shirley’s pony’s hips in front of him, his pony’s bobbing head and streaming mane and the slow clippety-clop of the horses’ hooves on the green clover beneath all combined to cheer him up. The arguments with his siblings of the last couple of days had depressed him and he welcomed the diversion. From across the wide green meadow, he watched a delicate white butterfly flutter by.

"Hey, Look! A butterfly!" he and Furball both said unexpectedly.

The two wide-eyed toons looked at each other and laughed in unison.

The line of riders began to walk up a trail into the forest. The high grass came up to the bellies of the ponies who waded through the ocean of greens.

"Aahhh! What a totally beautiful place!" smiled Shirley as she breathed in the fresh mountain air. "A rilly organic world—how very cosmic!"

Just then a brown grasshopper hopped onto her saddle.

"Hullo, cute lil bug!" she said peering closely at it and picking it up. "Hmm, I wonder if real grasshoppers crew tabacco here just like at home?"

The insect leaped away, leaving an icky brown stain in her white-feathered palm.

"Eeeeewwww! Barf me out! Get away from me, ya gross thing!" the Loon yelped in disgust as she wildly shook her hand.

"Looks like they do, Shirl," said Plucky over his shoulder as he tried not to chuckle.

Shirley was desperately shaking her hand in panic.

"Gross me out the door! It won’t come off! It doesn’t go away! Somebody make this grasshopper gunk go away! Ewwwww!"

"Wipe it on yer shirt," said Plucky.

"Yeah, I’m sure! No way! Then it won’t come off my blouse either!"

"Try wiping it on yer sleeve," said Wakko, behind them. "That’s what I do."

He noisily blew his red nose into his baggy sleeve, leaving an icky mess.

"Eeeeeeewwwww!" said everyone.

Mr. Shannon rode up alongside Shirley and handed her his handkerchief.

"Things don’t clean themselves heah. Ya gotta do it for yahself."

"Like, thanks Mister Shannon," she said wiping off the offensive matter.

"Mah pleasure, Miss. Say young man—ye might loosen up on those reins," George said to Plucky.

"After yer looney horse tried ta buck me off, I’m taking no chances!" Plucky answered as he watched his pony’s every move.

George’s mount, Hagen seemed to glare at the duck.

"Well, ol Beetlebomb might not like you pullin’ his head every whichaway."

"Ya gotta show these animals who’s boss," Plucky told him haughtily, tugging the reins tightly.

But Beetlebomb didn’t like it and shook his head violently causing the reins to fall over his nose and out of Plucky’s reach. He reached down and around to try and catch them, but it did no good.

"Arrrrgh! Gimme those back!" the Pluckster growled as he leaned over and down, hanging on the pony’s neck.

Beetlebomb swung his muzzle and Plucky went with it, hanging from the bridle right in front of the annoyed pony’s nose!

"Huh-huh,...nice horsie! Nice horsie!" he grinned sheepishly.

The pony shook him off and nearly stepped on the fallen Pluckster.

Now Plucky found himself scrambling to follow. He repeatedly tried to climb back onto Beetlebomb’s back with no success.

"Aw c’mon.. uh, whatsyername! Lemme back on!"

As the riders continued up the trail, Gogo found himself feeling woozy from the swaying and bouncing. Mary noticed.

"Gogo, you look greener than usual. You okay?"

"I feel awwwful," he moaned drunkenly.

"Now I know something’s wrong," said Mary. "No crazy comeback from the

first citizen of Wackyland?...Maybe you should have some water."

"Now that’ss the best ideaaa I’ve heard aaall day!" Gogo said, his speech getting slurred.

He reached for his water bottle as Mary rode up closer to help him. The ice water was refreshingly cold and the Dodo gulped it down and blinked.

"Thanks, Mary.. I needed that," he smiled gratefully.

Bringing up the rear was Fowlmouth, who quietly sipped at his water and pouted as he watched Shirley helping Plucky back onto his pony.

Chapter LX

Hamton rode along just behind Dr. Lord’s magnificent white steed. Now he was glad to have ridden so much during the summer with Fifi on her farm in France. Twice a day they had ridden together and grown closer than ever, although primarily it was to speak privately, away from Fifi’s sister Moufette. It wasn’t that he actually disliked Moufette, but her parochial attitude towards him had made him uncomfortable. The fact that Fifi kept company with someone who wasn’t a skunk and also happened to be an American was a point of constant contention between the La Fume sisters and the loud, bitter arguments between the two had troubled him until Fifi had taken her parting shots at Moufette. Although her grandfather Putois had taken to him right away, he still felt alienated from Fifi’s family. The only reason he felt okay about it was that Fifi did as well. He looked back and smiled at her atop her pony.

Fifi’s mind was on her grandfather. He’d been behaving strangely that morning and was obviously under stress, she thought. He’d told her that his mood swings were due to having been so many people, but she was beginning to suspect that there was more troubling him. Cautiously, she thought to him in French.

["Grandfather? May I speak to you?"]

["Yes, little one—but ...not here. We must speak alone,"] Lord replied in her mind.

["But—can the others hear our thoughts?"] Fifi asked, her eyes wandering around nervously.

["Like, guys? I don’t speak French, y’ know?"] thought Shirley. ["The others don’t hear ya, but I do. What’s going on?"]

["Fifi and I need to talk in private, Shirley,"] thought the Doctor in English to them both. ["I’ll have her pony take her down by the lake and I’ll meet her there. Fifi? Pretend as if your pony is a runaway."]

["But what about zee ozzers? We can’t just run off-"]

["Don’t worry, they’ll be alright. I’ll take care of it. Shirley? Make sure they continue at a walk. Don’t let them come after us!"]

Shirley sounded reluctant. ["Wull...I’ll try, but this isn’t -"]

["This is necessary!"] thought Lord adamantly. ["And it’s a secret."]

Shirley shrugged her shoulders and nodded hesitantly.

["All right then. Fifi? Pine Breeze will gallop ahead to the lake and I’ll be there a minute later, okay?"]

["But Hamtone weell worry -"]

["I’ll take care of things—just act surprised!"]

In another moment, Fifi’s chestnut mare began to move faster, darting out of the line of riders and running at full speed down the trail!

"Ah—Ah can’t stop ‘er! Le Whoa! Le Whoa!" the skunkette called back from atop the galloping pony.

"Fifi! Hold on! I’ll save you!" yelled Hamton with alarm as he began urging his horse ahead to catch the runaway.

Lord was already pulling away on his snowy white horse.

"Don’t worry—I’ll get her, Hamton! Stay here with the group!," he called as he leaned forward in the saddle and raced after the disappearing pony, "I think I know where she’s going!"

"Wait! I’ll go with you!" called the anxious pig, but Lord’s white steed was already in the forest and out of sight.

"Like, I think you better let Doc scope her out, Hamton," Shirley told him. "Remember? He knows this place, an we’ve never been here before."

"How do ya get the horse to run anyway, Hamton?" asked Babs.

"And how do ya stay on ‘em when they do?" asked Plucky.

"My bottom hurts and I dunno how to fix it!" Wakko told them.

Hamton looked unhappily at the trail where Fifi and Lord had disappeared and sighed. He turned back to the rest of the Toonsters and began to help answer their questions as they continued following the trail.

Fifi ducked as her pony ran under the pine trees, the branches scraping the top of her riding helmet. It was like galloping on her pony Starlight back in France, but the impacts of riding were much harder. She stood in the stirrups and hung on, her long tail trailing out behind her, the purple and white plume of fur flowing in the wind as Pine Breeze galloped and weaved through the forest.

"Whoa! Slow down, girl!" she cried as the pony turned down another dirt road.

The pony’s speed finally began to slacken as they came within sight of the end of the road which ended in azure blue open sky and the shores of a tremendous lake. The pony slowed to a trot, then to a walk again and finally stopped at the water’s edge where she lowered her head to drink.

Fifi looked out upon Lake Champlain in wonder. The water was a pretty blue-gray color and the sky had a few soft white clouds up very high. The mountains on the other side of the lake were plain to see and looked as if they were very close. The sun was warm on her face and the air was still. As her pony drank, Fifi slipped down from it’s side and walked along the bank. Her hard ride had made her feel slightly sweaty underneath her riding clothes and she took off her tight black riding helmet and shook out her long lavender hair.

At once she noticed the tranquil serenity of the place. Hardly a sound reached her but the gentle lapping of the water and the rustle of the birch tree leaves. The young skunkette walked quietly over the roots and pine needles under the tall dark pine trees. The ground was soft and made a hollow sound as though she were walking across the outside of a cave.

There was a clearing along the shore with a large boathouse and a wooden dock that extended fifty feet out into the lake. Green lily pads and their star-shaped white flowers were surrounded by cat-tail rushes and spiky green leaves. A painted turtle sunned itself on a rock and bullfrogs croaked among the reeds.

The place had a silent magic to it that Fifi had only felt a few times before...when she’d been with her grandfather or her parents. What would she say to him now, she wondered?

Fifi noticed how her purple fur contrasted with the rich red of her riding frock, but looked different than it ever had before. It must be the difference in the light here, she thought. She looked back towards the trail and saw Pine Breeze calmly nibbling at the grass by a hitching rail.

Then she noticed something peculiar. There was a singular pine tree at one end of the grass clearing...a odd tree she had somehow seen before... but where?

Suddenly there were hoof beats approaching and Dr. Lord appeared, riding up on his magnificent white horse. Astride the white snow-hill of a mare, Lord sat over eight feet tall. His immense black and silver-striped tail draped over the horse’s hindquarters like a luxuriant royal robe and he gazed down at his granddaughter before slipping easily to the ground from his saddle. The two skunks stood in the bright sunlight in silence a moment before Fifi found her voice.

"Grandperé...ah....ah do not know what to say...," she said breathlessly.

Lord pursed his lips with a serious look and crouched down on one knee to look into her eyes. He paused and spoke like a sage.

"When one does not know what to say...then it is time to be silent."

Fifi looked into his serious face a moment in complete puzzlement before seeing the mischievous smile that crept into his face. They both broke up laughing in the next moment. The release of tension made them laugh long and loud till there were tears of joy in Fifi’s eyes.

"Ah’d never ave thought tu could say sometheeng so silly!" she giggled.

Lord sharp teeth flashed as he stopped chuckling a moment and said, "Well, I can’t be a mysterious, omniscient old fogey all the time, now can I?"

They laughed again and hugged each other, vastly relieved to be close to one another again. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from Fifi’s heart. She looked at him with a happy sigh and took his hands in hers.

"Ah’m so sorry ah hurt you."

"You couldn’t have known, Petité," he told her reassuringly. "It’s alright."

Fifi shook her head. "But ah caused tu to become ze Berserker and tu..."

"That was in the Past," he said delicately. "I fear you were the one who was hurt the most ...Can you forgive me?"

"Oh Pavel...," she said apologetically as she hugged him close. "But.. ah still need to know why. Why keep eet all a secret? From moi..why?"

Lord looked uncertainly over his shoulder at the trail where the rest of the group would soon arrive.

"I won’t have enough time to tell you everything," he said hurriedly, "...We wanted to protect you from the knowledge, your parents and I... It’s dangerous to know it all...especially when you’re young...I’ll have to tell you later."

"But zere are theengz ah need to know!" Fifi insisted and then faltered in her questions. "Our.. how you say? Joining? What weel eet do to moi?"

"A whole new world has just begun to open for you," Lord said, his kind, silver eyes glowing warmly. "We will share our knowledge and experience...Our feelings will balance. You’ll know all that I know, if you wish. We will complete each other and share our lives..as Lothar did with me... And my Beloved Red...and your Grandmere‘ and your Papa and Maman...parts of them are still part of me, Petité."

Fifi clung to his hands desperately.

"Mama and Papa?! Weel ah be able to speak to zem again?!?"

Lord shook his head sadly, "No, they are gone—but you’ll be able to share their memories. I still retain their feelings."

The young skunkette turned away tearfuly.

"What else weel appen?...Weel ah ave mental powerz lahk tu?"

"Perhaps someday," Lord chuckled. "It took two thousand and nine hundred years before mine made their appearance...although--," he said thinking again, "—you have been endowed with the Purple Light all of your life."

"Tu mentioned zat before," she said pensively. "What eez eet?"

Lord’s eerie mirror-like eyes smiled upon her like stars.

"Something most special," he almost whispered. "The aura of Love itself...I’ve studied and examined and researched and scrutinized it for centuries and still—that’s the best I can tell you...unless you want to hear me explain the mathematics of it—which would take about three days. ...The power of Love, that’s what it is. I don’t know how else to describe it."

Fifi looked at him skeptically and asked, "And how ave ah been... endowed weeth thees—"Purple Light"? Ah’ve nevair seen eet before."

"Perhaps you’ve seen it in your dreams...I’ve used it to contact you every night since you were born. Every night just at the moment you’re falling asleep I’ve sent it to you, to see if you’re all right, to read your emotions - to check up on you, so to speak."

"Every night??" she asked, taken aback.

"Yes," he admitted gently. "Every night since you were a baby... I’ve checked to see how you were feeling, to comfort you when you felt sad ..and all the nights you’ve been happy or tired...and all the times you’ve felt lonely."

Fifi was a bit embarrassed at the thought and asked, "And...tu know... everytheeng ah’ve done?"

Her grandfather laughed and said, "No, my dear—I only can see how you feel and read your emotions. To me," he said gently, "—it’s like I’m tucking you into bed at night...making sure you’re happy and safe with a good night kiss on your forehead...Just like I did for your mother."

"And zis will help?"

"It might. I’m not certain," he said taking her hand and leading her to the dock.

"And eet helpz tu?"

They walked together out onto the dock, their footsteps sounding odd on the wooden planks. The water rippled and gleamed in the hot sun.

"Through it, we’re able to share our happiness, making us both feel—" "Show moi!" Fifi asked impulsively. "Eef eet can help tu now—show moi!"

"If you wish," he said smiling, "but only for a moment. Your friends will be here soon."

Fifi looked about and asked, "What do ah do?"

Lord stepped back a pace and stood with his hands clasped.

"Just center yourself and watch me," he said as he relaxed and prepared himself.

Fifi closed her eyes to concentrate, then had a thought.

"Do ah ave to chant ‘OoowhataloonIam’ or some jonk like zat?"

"Uh, no," Lord chuckled. "Just watch me."

(Edward Scissorhands,#7, "Ice Dance")

Fifi watched him as he calmed himself and closed his eyes. The silence around them seemed to grow. Then Lord’s gentle music box-like waltz played, seemingly filling the air with wondrous beauty. Lord slowly raised a hand and as he did, a thin purple aura appeared around him, like the corona around the Sun. It shimmered and grew thicker around his body. As he slowly opened his eyes, the rich purple began to glow and glimmer with multitudes of tiny electrical sparkles. He opened his hand and the purple flowed like a tendril of vapor to Fifi’s paw and touched it gently. As she stood breathlessly in wonder, the rich color fluxed and enveloped her. Its touch was like a bubble of soft, warm air had been wrapped around her, but what Fifi felt was tender joy, as if her mother and father were holding her again. She felt her family’s love.

Lord’s voice echoed in her mind as they looked upon each other.

["This is something special—for just you and me, Petité,"] he smiled as he showed her his open hand.

["What eez eet, cher Grandpere‘?"]

His five fingers were spread and he pointed to them, the Purple Light encircling him.

["Among many—we are alone..."]

He bent his fourth finger down to his palm, leaving the others up. Then he extended his open hand towards hers...

["But we who are alone—are One."]

Art by Thorne

Fifi slowly reached and took his hand. A flood of warmth and energy poured through them both, filling them with blissful joy. The Purple Light covered both of them, like a lightening-filled storm cloud. Fifi gasped as pleasure shot through her body and her head was filled with miraculous visions of her parents and grandparents looking upon her in adoration. The feeling spread throughout her body, growing stronger and stronger. It was as if time and space did not exist, only the feeling of true love. Through the whirling cloud of Purple Light, Fifi saw Lord smiling down at her in enchantment and she reached for his other hand. He met her halfway, then she stepped forward to embrace him, the feeling overwhelming her. Their eyes closely peacefully as one being. The skunks held each other close as the music drew to a close and opened their eyes to find themselves in an sweet embrace as the Purple Light vanished. Fifi was overcome with feelings.

"Oh...zat waz heavenly! Zo wondairful! Couldn’t we -?"she begged.

Lord sighed deeply and said "They’ll be here any moment now."

Fifi took a deep breath, trying to clear her head of the sweet haze of the afterglow, but still clung to him.

"Weel ah—weel tu know everytheeng ah do when we are joined?"

"We’ll grant each other our privacy, my dear," he told her. "If you wish to have private times, you have but to tell me. I’ll not interfere—just as you will respect when I ask for the same, I hope? After all—I was joined to both your parents for many years and we were the happiest of families."

At this, Fifi was reminded of her primary problem and she let go of him and turned out to look at the lake, nervous at his answer.

"Grandpere‘... zis eez eemportant to moi...May ah please tell Hamtone?"

When he failed to answer immediately, she turned to face him again.

"Ee eez..terribly eemportant to moi...," Fifi cried.

Lord looked at his feet a moment, then his mercury-like silver eyes looked into hers. He spoke gently.

"..I know...I saw it in your eyes the very first time you introduced him to me in France....I saw it in his eyes when he held you...as your Mother’s coffin was laid into the earth..."

The old being looked away sadly, his large eyes closing.

"I shall not tell you what to do in your life, Petité, but the knowledge of our nature is a dangerous thing...It can hurt-"

The young skunkette grabbed his arm and implored him.

"But tu said we are Immortals! Tu said we cannot be hurt—Ever!"

Lord cast his fateful gaze upon her again and spoke with profound sincerity.

"Yes. ...We cannot be destroyed," he said. "But others can. And those we love most dearly...always seem to pay the price."

Fifi watched him stare out into the lake as he remembered...

"In the year one thousand and nine...my wife Xantippe made a... a slip of the tongue. I had been experimenting with changing into the forms of animals in those dark days.....and so we were tied to two stakes --facing each other...And the peasants piled cords of wood and brush at our feet.... And I listened to my wife cry and plead and beg me to save her ...but I hadn’t the power to do so—not then..not yet. ..And they set the wood ablaze!...They hadn’t ever done it before and there was green wood among the rest....So it took awhile to build up the heat...The smoke...the smell..the pain ...And she screamed and cried...all the time begging me... while our flesh burned..I felt the pain, but mine went on and on—while she was charred and her pain ..ended...."

Fifi was crestfallen as he turned to look at her again—his huge silver eyes brimming with tears.

Lord cleared the lump in his throat and said matter of factly, "And you know what the last conscious thing she said to me was?"

Fifi half-sobbed and shook her head.

Lord blinked and the tears ran slowly down his face.

"She looked me in the eye and said: "It’s your fault."

Suddenly there was the sound of slow hoof beats approaching and both skunks looked toward the road.

Fifi spoke hurriedly. "You mean zat something awful could happen to Hammy because ov moi?!? "

"People always hate and fear what they don’t understand. Those jealous of your power will attack the ones you love in order to get at you!" Lord said quickly, "Every time I’ve been on the verge of achievement—someone has struck at my dearest ones, leaving nothing but devastation!"

He crouched and took her paws in his hands to forewarn her.

"And even when things don’t go wrong—You’ll watch your beloved age and shrivel away...and your children and your children’s children..and all the mortals you know!"

Near tears, Fifi pleaded with him, "But we are toons! Toons cannot die!!"

As the rest of the Toonsters rode into view with Hamton leading them, Lord turned away to the lake so only Fifi could hear him.

"We both know that’s not always true," he said quietly.

Fifi looked at Hamton’s smiling face as he waved to her and dismounted - and remembered her mother’s smile...and her father’s laugh...and her Grandmother’s wizened face... and Lord’s painted portraits of his beautiful wife, Red Hot—and of how they were all dead. As her handsome piggy came joyfully to greet her and as all the other Toonsters laughed and joked as they took in the wondrous news sights—Fifi stood silently watching—realizing the sadness that the future would hold.

["I’m very, very sorry, little one. I’ve hurt your feelings again,"] Lord thought to her sadly in French.

The skunkette continued watching her friends arrive, but thought back to him without turning. ["No....I’m not angry with you... It’s the truth...and I’ll have to face it. ...It’s what you’ve had to face alone, isn’t it?"] she thought passively.

Lord stepped up close behind her and watched the Toonsters dismounting and running towards them.

["You and I will face it together from now on..You’ll never be alone."]

Fifi slowly turned to look at him and thought, ["...Hammy said the very same thing to me..."]

Just then Hamton ran up to her; happy but a little winded.

He hugged Fifi impulsively and asked, "So what happened? Are you okay?"

It was hard for her to see his happy face and smile, but Fifi managed with difficulty and hid her expression from him by hugging him tightly.

With her chin on his shoulder, she closed her eyes said, "Ah’m fine... mah pony wanted to dreenk from ze lake."

Now she knew she was lying to him and it made her feel worse.

Hamton sensed something and pulled back to look into her eyes.

"Are you sure you’re alright?" he asked again.

Again she had to lie and nodded with a false smile.

Lord felt it too and added, "Horses aren’t like cars—when they need something, they go after it without asking permission sometimes."

"Oh I know," Hamton answered brightly, "I learned a lot about riding with Fifi this past summer...Oh, uh, by the way Doctor...I saw you over there at ..uh—"

Fifi’s eyes opened wide but she kept herself from gasping audibly. Both she and Lord were taken aback the possibility of what Hamton was hesitant to say.

"Saw me where?" asked Lord as though there were nothing wrong.

"At, uh....Fifi’s mother’s funeral," Hamton said gently, trying to spare Fifi’s feelings.

Fifi breathed a little sigh and wondered what Lord would say. The tall skunk looked into Hamton’s eyes deeply for a long moment, the pain of the memory very evident. His eyes shifted to his feet and spoke gravely.

"I was there," he admitted slowly. "Hers was a most terrible loss... My most heartfelt condolences to you and your family, Petité."

"Merci beaucoup, Professeur," Fifi said quietly.

Hamton put his arm softly around her shoulders in the uncomfortable silence.

"I...I never knew toons could die before this," he told them sensitively, "I’d never heard of anyone who did...it was such an awful shock."

Fifi shut her eyes and wished she were somewhere else.

"And Fifi was so ill... I was so worried about her, I didn’t know what to do."

Lord felt the torment too and turned aside slightly.

"Yes...Death is a great sorrow. The loss of a loved one is a very hard thing to recover from..."

Hamton heard the pain in Lord’s voice and realized his faux pas.

"Oh!..I’m sorry, I forgot!...You lost your wife.. I’m so very sorry."

"Thank you," the Doctor said ending it, "but we must press on now."

With a meaningful glance at his granddaughter, Lord strode away to the other Toonsters as they began to explore the lake shore and the boathouse.

Fifi stood still - her eyes shut tight, trying not to cry or show it.

Hamton looked innocently after Lord.

"Gee, I hope I didn’t upset him by mentioning it..."

Fifi lowered her head as his unknowing concern just drove Lord’s point home even more. Hamton put his hands on her shoulders in compassion.

"Are you really alright? What’s wrong, Bebe‘?"

She put her paw atop his without turning to face him.

"Ah’m fine...ah’m just adjusting to zis...new world," she told him.

Turning to him, she looked into his wide eyes - wanting to say so much...

"Hammy? ...Please don’t leave moi alone today...Stay weeth moi?"

He took her into his arms with a gentle smile and whispered "Always."

Tight in his embrace, Fifi squeezed him and cried a single tear that he’d never see.

Chapter LXI

At the lake’s shore, everyone gazed out in wonder at the wide expanse of water. Furball took deep breaths of the pine-scented air.

"Gee this is a beautiful place! You can smell everything!"

"Boyohboy," said Buster feeling sweaty, "I smell too. What a ride!"

"Yeah, "agreed Babs, "We all stink! Normally I hate baths, but I’d love to jump in that water right now!"

"Well, why don’t you all come in the boathouse and change," Lord suggested, "then try taking a dip in the lake—"

Before he could finish, there was a rush of color as almost everyone raced to the dock and into the boathouse, slamming the door loudly!

"The girls can change in the bathroom and the guys in the storeroom!" Mister Shannon called after them.

Hamton and Fifi crossed to the boathouse, but noticed Arnold just standing on the dock, looking into the water.

"Aren’t you going in?" Hamton asked.

The big pit bull crossed his brawny arms behind his back and said, "Nein."

Recognition flashed on Hamton’s face as he nodded at Arnold’s embarrassment.

"Oh, okay. We’ll be back in a minute."

Fifi walked quietly into the bathroom as the other girls were dressing in their bathing suits and tried to keep to herself as she opened her purse and took off her riding boots. Shirley noticed her mood and walked over while pulling up her bikini straps.

"What happened?" she asked discreetly.

"Plenty," Fifi said sadly as she took off her riding clothes.

"Like, you okay?"

Fifi shook her head before pulling her blouse off over her head, her

morose expression hidden by pink cashmere. Noises came from the bathroom stalls and Shirley turned away and put on the rest of her swim suit.

"We’ll talk later, kay?"

Behind them a long pink rabbit ear with a purple bow on it shot up above the stall’s door, looking around like a periscope. A second ear joined it and the door opened, revealing an inquisitive Babs in a thin string bikini with yellow dots all over it. She noted the serious manner of her friends and stepped up to the mirror to straighten herself. The amazing three stood shoulder to shoulder at the mirrors in silence. Babs’ eyes darted between Fifi and Shirley with growing concern. Shirley pretended not to notice and turned away to check how her tailfeathers were showing, while Fifi bent over to pull off her jeans. Babs knew something serious was going on if they were this quiet about it and was about to ask Fifi when the skunkette turned and walked into the stall to take off her underwear. Babs thought to ask Shirley, but at that moment, Mary came out of her stall and padded over to the mirrors on her bare feet. She stooped close to the mirror to put on some bright, cherry red lipstick and noticed Babs’ look. Mary’s hot pink bikini was striking.

"You out to get noticed, Mary?" the bunny asked.

"Mmm-maybe! Ya never know!" Mary said slyly.

As they giggled, Mary indicated towards Shirley and Fifi with her eyes to Babs with an inquiring look. Babs silently shrugged and shook her head. The two grabbed their bags and dashed out together. As the door closed behind them, Fifi came out from her stall dressed in her French-cut, red bikini.

"Like, they suspect something," Shirley told her as she turned around.

Fifi’s chin sunk to her chest as she sighed in exasperation.

"Zees eez getting harder. What should ah do?" she implored.

"What did Doc say?"

"Basically zat...being eenvolved weeth a mortal weel eventually hurt moi."

"You mean, he like—said you shouldn’t be with Hamton?!"

"’Ee said zat telling Hammy might put heem een danger—"

"Put him in danger?!"

"No, put Hammy een danger! ...And zat everyone else will age and..."

"But like—toons don’t die!...They just get older until they...uh..."

The two toonettes looked at each other, realizing the truth of the matter.

Just then, they heard Hamton knock on the door.

"Uh....um...please excuse me, ladies...uh, Fifi hurry up! The Doctor is gonna bring out his boat."

"We’ll be right out!" she called back as they heard him go.

Shirley couldn’t help but laugh, "You could like—here him blushing right through the door!"

Fifi smiled faintly and said, "’Ee’z so sweet...How can ah lie to him?"

Shirley shook her head and gave Fifi a hug.

"C’mon, we gotta go," she sighed as they followed Hamton.

At the dock, Plucky was in a pickle.

"Aw crab cakes! My shirt fell in the water!" he squawked as he knelt

and tried to grab his floating sleeveless shirt.

"So stretch out an’ grab it!" suggested Babs.

"We’re in Reality—he can’t do a toon stretch," Buster reminded them.

"Like Duh! Yer a duck, so jump in and get it," said Shirley.

"Uh, remember what Doc said about the water?" Mary told them.

Plucky swiped his wing into the dark water and recoiled, shivering.

"Brrrrrrrr! That’s cold! No way am I swimmin’ in that!"

"It’s not that bad," the Doctor remarked, "but you do have to really swim and keep your head above water."

"It’s floating away!" cried Plucky, "Arnold! You’ve got long arms—you can reach it! Please??"

The big dog backed away from the edge. "You dropped it—you get it—you vussy ducky!"

"Here Pluckster—I’ll help ya get it," said Fowlmouth coming forward. "I’ll hang on to yer bathin’ suit and you lean out and grab it."

"You?!" the duck quacked.

"Hurry up," cried the rooster pointing, "it’s starting ta sink!"

"Okay, hold onto me!" Plucky exclaimed as FM took hold of the back of the waist band of the duck’s swimming trunks.

With Fowlmouth digging his heels in to hold him back, Plucky leaned way out over the water, reaching for his water-logged clothes. He stretched and strained, but couldn’t reach it. The icy water lapped just below, making him sweat nervously. The way he was being held by his suit wasn’t helping matters either.

"Eep! Yer givin’ me a major wedgie!" he squeaked.

"You’ve almost got it, Plucky!" said Furball, encouraging him.

"Just a little... farther! Whatever ya do—Don’t drop me!" Plucky groaned as he strained his fingers and webbed toes to reach, his finger-tips just inches away from their target.

A sly grin appeared on Fowlmouth’s beak.

"Now why would ya ever think I’d do such a thing, Plucky?..Just cuz I got ya hangin’ over a lake fulla ice water?" he said deviously.

Plucky realized his predicament and tried to pull himself back onto the dock, his puny arms flailing backward, but he was leaning too far out and Fowlmouth was no longer helping.

"Pull me back! Pull me back!! Don’t you dare drop me in!! Oooo, when I get my hands on you! You—you—chicken!!"

Then - Shirley said the wrong thing.

"FM! You let him go or I’ll never speak to you again!" she snapped.

"Whatever you say, Shirl," the rooster shrugged and promptly let go of Plucky’s pants!

The duck managed a loud quack before he fell into the water with a splash. All those close enough also got wet from his fall into the lake — Fowlmouth mostly. Plucky found himself floundering in very cold water and was shocked as he found he wasn’t floating as usual! Instead - terrrible cold permeated his feathers and thoroughly chilled him. He couldn’t swim in his usual upright fashion either, but lay struggling to keep his head above water! His feet sank down and finally touched the rocky, muddy bottom.

"AAAHHHG!!! It’s FREEZING!!" he squawked and sputtered. "I can’t float!! You sanaranafrazzing squab! I’ll get you fer this!!"

"Swim, Plucky, Swim!" cried Shirley.

Those who weren’t wet laughed at his dilemma. Angrily, Plucky launched

himself back towards the dock, kicking and flailing with his arms in a rough approximation of the Australian crawl.

"You did that on purpose!" Shirley yelled at Fowlmouth.

As the rooster turned to reply, Plucky grabbed him by the tail and pulled him in. Again everyone got splashed and the Doctor stepped in.

Fowlmouth popped to the surface with a huge gasp, "It’s COLD!!!"

"Good," Lord commented wryly, "you both needed to cool off. Now that’ll be enough of that. I suggest you all try swimming a little. You may need the skills."

Shirley reached out for Plucky’s hand. "Like, you want a hand getting out?"

"Naw. It’s cold—but it really isn’t so bad. You comin’ in?"

Shirley’s answer came in the form of a perfect dive and in a moment she was doing the backstroke and waving at him. Plucky dove and swam after her with a smile and the rest of the group scampered to the shore to wade in.

As Fowlmouth sadly watched them swim away, a brown hand was laid on his feathery shoulder.

"Sup, FM? You okay?" asked Mary leaning down to him.

The unhappy rooster shook his head as he looked up in surprise to find

Mary smiling at him. He watched her sit on the dock next to him.

"Nope," he said hanging his head.

Mary lowered her head and spoke gently.

"You wanna talk about it?" she asked cocking her head to look into his eyes.

"What’s duh use?" he remarked, sounding resigned. "I’ve dadgum lost her."

"...You never really had her," Mary said solacing him.

FM said nothing, his beak sagging to his chest. Mary playfully tousled his red rooster’s comb with a cute little look and slid over the edge of the dock into the water beside him.

"Woo Baby—it is Cold!" she squealed, as the water beaded on her dark brown skin. Her fluorescent pink bikini seemed to glow in the water.

Despite himself, Fowlmouth smiled a bit as he watched Mary bouncing on her toes in the water. She made a surface dive, disappearing for a moment, then popped up very close to him.

"Cheer up Chickie," she said invitingly, "there’s lots of other fish in the sea!"

Mary winked, flicked some water from her fingers at him and teasingly began to swim away, coyly inviting him to pursue her.

FM’s smile widened and he gave chase, swimming after her.

Arnold stood on the dock with Lord, watching the others swim and play in the water. Babs and Buster had started a water fight, with Furball, Calamity and Wakko joining in while Gogo acted as referee. The Dodo had finally found something that was diverting enough to make him feel better and was imposing ridiculous rules on their game.

"Anyone taken unawares and splashed on the back of the head has to dive down and come up with a rock in his mouth! Yup-yup-yup!" he chuckled gleefully as he popped in and out of the water like a dolphin.

Wakko did just that and came up grinning with a mouthful of mud.

"Eeeeeeww! Gross!" screamed all the girls.

Wakko spit out the mud in a stream and proclaimed, "I am Neptune! King of the Sea!"

He held up a weed-covered tree branch as a trident.

"You are a very strange and disturbed little toon. You do know that - don’t you?" Calamity asked him.

"Yes I am!" said Wakko as he smiled and threw a handful of mud at the coyote.

"Arnold, aren’t you going in?" asked Doctor Lord.

The musclebound dog sweated behind his sunglasses and scoffed.

"Ach! I don’t vant to mess up mein perfect fur vith der mud...Are you going in?"

"Oh I will before the day is out" Lord said offhand. "Where is Shirley?"

Two trails of bubbles appeared weaving their way rapidly across the surface towards the end of the dock and Shirley appeared, closely followed by Plucky. Both were thoroughly wet and the Loon’s golden curls flopped into her eyes. The waterfowl both gasped for breath and climbed up the ladder to stand dripping on the dock.

"You rang, Sensei?" Shirley asked, sweeping aside her matted hair. "Eew, I feel even heavier! And what do I do with wet hair?"

Lord glanced down at the two of them and handed them towels from a locker. As they rubbed themselves dry, he directed Shirley’s attention to the boathouse door.

"I want to test both our powers here by seeing if we can bring the boat out with telepathy."

"Wull, you said our powers would be reduced, the question is: Like— by how much?"

"Let’s find out. Try lifting the bolt on that door with your mind."

Shirley tried using her hands to use her powers as she usually did, but nothing happened.

"Use you eyes and visualize the bolt.." he told her. "Now lift it straight up."

Concentrating hard, Shirley closed her thoughts around the object and tried again. She strained and the bolt wiggled slightly, but would not rise.

After a couple of more unsuccessful tries she said, "Like I can’t get it!"

"No such word, my dear," the Doctor said, "Try it another way. Lift not the bolt."

"Say what?" Shirley asked, baffled.

"Instead—lift the negative space around the bolt. You’ve all taken drawing classes?"

"Yeah, we did in Cartooning 101," said Plucky, "what’s that gotta do with it?"

"Then you’ve learned to see and draw the negative space surrounding an object? The space outside it’s outlines?"

"Like yeah! I remember it from that book: "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" exclaimed Shirley.

"Then visualize the negative space around that bolt and raise it up. That will make the bolt rise."

The Loon stared and raised her eyes slightly. The bolt slowly rose and turned in the latch. It clicked and the doors came undone, parting slightly.

"Now the doors—move the space behind them forward against them."

Shirley took a deep breath.. and with a significant effort—the doors opened outward. Inside was the gray bow of a large boat. Plucky and Arnold congratulated a slightly fatigued Shirley.

"Now let’s see if this works," the Doctor whispered as he concentrated on the boat himself.

He stood frozen as the others watched. For a moment, nothing happened. Then the boat began to move slowly out of the long building. As more and more of it slipped silently out, the rest of the Toonsters came running to watch.

Slowly the boat moved out of the cavernous boathouse and it’s long gray hull slid silently into view. It was a World War Two PT boat, complete with torpedo tubes, depth charges, twin machine guns mounts and an American flag flying at its mast head. The large vessel glided to a stop alongside the pier as Lord released it and reached over to get the mooring ropes and loop them around the pilings. Everyone stood watching as they dried themselves with towels. The Doctor pulled a gangplank from the boat’s deck. Shooting a quick salute to the ship’s flag, he climbed on board and stood facing the Toonsters. He began speaking like a drill sergeant.

"This is the Stingray, formerly the USS PT 537 of Squadron 34! She saw action against the Kreigsmarine in 1944 in the English Channel. She is eighty feet long, twenty feet wide, has a five foot draft and weighs fifty-five tons."

He began walking around the deck, pointing things out.

"The Stingray is powered by three Packard 1,500 horsepower marine engines, carries 3,000 gallons of 100 octane aviation gasoline, and can go from eight to forty knots in eleven seconds! She has a top speed of forty eight knots or about fifty miles per hour."

"Like, what’s PT stand for?" whispered Shirley.

"’Patrol / Torpedo’ boat" Plucky told her.

"What’s the Kreigsmarine?" asked Babs.

"The German Navy," said Buster.

"Vat’s ‘draft’ mean?" asked Fifi.

"That means how deep the ship’s hull goes below the waterline," Hamton answered.

"Why do you all know these things?" the amazing three asked.

Plucky, Buster and Hamton looked at each other with cocky smiles.

"It’s a guy thing," Plucky said smugly and the three high-fived each other.

"If I might have your attention?!" the Doctor said with false impatience, "I’ll show you the ship’s weaponry."

"Oh boy! The good stuff!" smiled Wakko.

Lord pointed to the various large guns on deck.

"This boat is armed with a twenty millimeter Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun forward, a forty millimeter Bofors cannon aft, a thirty-seven millimeter Automatic forward and two twin fifty caliber machine guns in these gun turrets port and starboard."

The tall skunk moved to sit on one of the long torpedo tubes.

"These are twenty-one inch torpedo tubes—containing live, Mark thirteen torpedos."

Babs was startled, "You mean *Live*--as in Kaboom?! They could blow up?!"

"What’s the good of having them otherwise?" Lord remarked. "...Alright, normally they aren’t loaded, but you all will be employing real live explosives once we’re back in time. You’ll have to know how to handle live ammunition."

"No way am I gonna use a gun!" said Shirley adamantly.

"Ditto fer me, Doc" agreed Babs.

"Well, I can’t guarantee that your host humans won’t be using them, but they will be using large cannons. Remember—we’re just there to observe. They’ll be the ones doing everything—we can’t affect what they do."

"Well, I guess," hedged Babs. "As long as we’re not responsible.."

"Everything we’ll do will become legalized later today, you’ll see."

"Great! Let’s go!" cried Plucky, rushing up the gangway.

"Just a moment!" said the Doctor standing and stopping him. "You’ll need your crew assignments. Plucky Duck?"

"Sir!" the duck said snapping to a silly semblance of attention. "I’ll take my position as Captain, of course," he said pompously.

"Wrong! You will be the port machine gunner! Come aboard."

Plucky grumbled, but walked to the cylidrical gun tub where the double machine gun sat aimed skywards and grinned as he took ahold of it.

"Buster Bunny!" called Lord.

"Sir! Yes Sir!" Buster shouted like a recruit.

"You will be my Executive officer and man the Bofors cannon. Come aboard!"

With another "Sir! Yes Sir!," Buster turned and saluted the flag before joining the Doctor at the the boat’s chart house.

"Barb—" Lord started to say, but Buster tugged at his elbow, shaking his head.

Babs started to bristle, but the Doctor quickly corrected himself.

"Excuse me—Babs Bunny, front and center!"

"Sir! Yes Sir!" Babs barked, happy to be called by her correct name.

"With your gift for gab—you will be our radio operator."

"Aye-aye Cap’n! Arrr, Jim lad!" the pink comedienne quipped, assuming the limp and pirate’s voice of like Long John Silver as she came aboard.

"Mary Melody—with your expertise in broadcasting—you will be our radar operator."

"Aye-aye Sir!" said Mary cheerily as she crossed the gangplank.

"Arnold! Calamity! You’ll be our engineers and torpedo men."

"Yes sir! Javol, herr Kapitan," answered the two canids.

Calamity bounded on board and climbed down the rear hatchway to look at the engines, but Arnold stood on the dock, nervously shifting his weight back and forth.

"Wakko Warner—you’ll man the twenty millimeter gun forward."

"Yes Sir! Oh boy, explosions!" said Wakko racing gleefully onto the foredeck.

"Fifi La Fume? You’ll man the thirty-seven millimeter gun forward."

"Oui, mon Capitan," Fifi nodded.

Hamton watched Fifi walk on board still wondering what might be bothering her. He anxiously waited to learn of his post on the ship and was beginning to think he would be picked last again.

"Fowlmouth! You will be our starboard machine gunner."

"Oo Yeah—I mean, Yessir!" FM answered as he scampered into the gun turret opposite Plucky’s.

"Shirley McLoon? As our contentious objector—you will be our lookout."

"Fer sure!" the Loon said pleased as she joined Fifi on the bow of the boat.

With only Gogo, Furball and himself left, Hamton began to worry and began to raise his hand to volunteer. Then Lord asked a rather strange question.

"Okay—now who of the rest of you can’t cook?"

Gogo, Furball and Hamton looked at each other in puzzlement and Hamton put his hand back down.

"Me! I can’t even make ice!" Gogo reported with a loony look.

"Perfect—you’ll be in charge of the galley. I hereby dub thee—


"Whoopee!" cried Gogo dancing up the gangplank. "Chocolate-covered Brussels spouts for everyone!"

"Bleaah!" cried everyone one else.

"No talking in ranks!" Doc said being deliberately silly. "It’s an old naval tradition—that I just made up."

He smiled and then asked a serious question.

"Now who among you has ever driven a boat?"

Hamton’s hand flew up! "I have, Sir! My grandparents have me steer their cabin cruiser whenever I visit them in Florida!"

"Very well, Mister Pig," the Doctor said satisfied, "you shall be our Helmsman."

"Thank you sir!" Hamton said snapping a salute to the flag at the stern and running to stand at the ship’s wheel.

"Fuball, you will be our forward lookout: taking soundings. You’ll also be in charge of the depth charges."

"Aye-aye Sir!" said the happy feline, bouncing out to the bow.

Only Arnold was left on the dock, looking very uncomfortable with everyone looking at him.

"Arnold, you may come aboard now. We’re about to cast off." Lord said.

"Er, um... you don’t need me—you have plenty ov crew-peoples."

"Get up here, Mister Hundtzenegger! No lollygagging!" said Buster imitating Bugs imitating Charles Laughton doing Captian Bligh.

"...Do I haf to go on der boat?" Arnold asked Lord quietly.

"Yes, Arnold," Doc said gently, "you need to get your sea-legs. Besides... we need you."

(from "Das Boot," "Muss I Denn")

As Arnold considered, Lord smiled and began to play a happy little tune in everyone’s heads. Fifi recognized it as a bouncy militant version of the song she’d heard playing in Lord’s vaults from his music box. It didn’t seem to make him sad this time and Arnold’s face lit up.

"Ach! Eetz "Muss I Denn!" he said happily as a tear came to his eye.

"What’s the matter?" Lord asked.

"Mein mother alwayz playz zat song venever I have to leave undt come back to America" Arnold sniffled.

"It’s played whenever a ship leaves her home port in Germany, as the sailors wave to their sweethearts," the Doctor told him brightly. "So, will you join us on our cruise?"

The big dog stood to attention proudly and clicked his heels.

"Request permission to come aboard, herr Kapitan!"

"Permission granted" Lord said standing again. He turned and addressed the crew. "Attention on deck!"

Everyone stood straight and tall as Lord snapped his right hand to his brow in a Navy salute. The Toonsters returned the honor smartly.

"All hands report to your stations! Take in all lines!" he called to his crew. "Start the engines! Prepare for sea!"

Look for the next Chapters of -


coming to you soon.