Welcome to the Fourteenth installment of -


(Winner of 30 UKE Awards)

Please send all comments to pepe.k@eudoramail.com or looneyk@earthlink.net or pepek62@yahoo.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 youšll 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, "BATMAN" - the original motion picture score (WB Records Inc. 9 25977-2), Klaus Dolinger's film score to the 1981 film: DAS BOOT (Atlantic [SD19348]), William Stromberg's original motion picture soundtrack of "TRINITY AND BEYOND" (The Atomic Bomb Movie) http://www.vce.com/trinity.html and Franz Waxman's classic film score of THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (SSD 1098). There are also selections from Credence Clearwater Revival and The Ventures. For CCR, see: http://www.mts.net/~mloewen1/ccr/

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

Formatting by by Andy Fox.

This story is dedicated to my Beloved Wife.

For Ensign Charlotte Anne Kellogg, USN
Commander Dean Lundt Kellogg, USN

This part is dedicated with Pride and Gratitude to:


and the Men and Women of


In Loving Memory of CECILY KELLOGG...

Born October, 2001 - Died November 27, 2002

And now - Part 14 of -

"Fair Winds and Following Seas"


Chapter LXII

Hamton stood at the ship's wheel as the Toonsters looked over Dr. Lord's PT Boat. Though fairly steady in the water, the pristine relic of World War Two shifted slightly upon the dark slate grey surface of Lake Champlain. The vessel's glossy "Navy gray" color reminded him further that they were in Reality and not at home in the Tooniverse. The bright sunshine made the boat's surfaces seem hot and slick to the touch and brought out the smell of it's oil-painted plywood hull. The old style mechanical controls looked antiquated, the compass was rather large and bulky in it's binnacle and there wasn't a single computer read-out anywhere. But Hamton was thrilled at the prospect of piloting the big speedboat. He'd read the daring accounts of Reality's war-torn squadrons of the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean in their struggle against the Imperial Japanese Fleet. He spun the wheel in his hands and felt the wind and the sun on his bare shoulders.

"Pardon me, Professor, but may I get my clothes before we shove off?"

The tall skunk at his side smiled down at him, "A very sound idea, Hamton. You may want them before the day is out. Mister Bunny?"

"SIR! YES SIR?!" barked Buster snapping to attention in an exaggerated fashion.

"Please inform the crew that they may retrieve and stow their gear aboard ship if they like," said Doctor Lord, squinting his big silvery eyes.

"SIR! YES SIR!!" Buster barked again with a big salute. "NOW HEAR THIS!! ALL HANDS MAY-!!"

"Mister Bunny?" Lord interrupted calmly but firmly, "..We are not in Army Boot Camp. We are in the United States Navy," he admonished him. "Officers shall conduct themselves as gentlemen, if you please."

Buster bowed like a maitre'D. "Oh yes, certainly suh and might I-"

"Now-now, Mister Bunny. No comedians, please," Lord said gently.

Buster cocked his head and assented. "Eh, okay Doc." He turned and called to the others, " All hands may stow their gear on board."

As most of the Toonsters raced into the boathouse, Buster leaped hurriedly onto the dock to follow.

"Was that better, Doc?"

"Very good, Mister Bunny," Lord said smiling again, "But set a good example and don't rush. It has a bad effect on the crew. Just take your time."

"Aye-aye Sir," called back the blue bunny as he followed his friends.

Soon enough, the Toonsters scampered back aboard the STINGRAY where Lord stood waiting with Arnold. Most were still in their bathing suits, but Wakko and Hamton had hurriedly changed back to their usual clothes - or almost. The undone straps of Hamton's overalls hung down his back. Fifi stepped up between Plucky and the pig to help snap his straps on for him. As the couple smiled at each other, Plucky grumbled to himself and then snickered at the sight of Hamton's burly chest.

"Time to get a sports bra, chum!" chuckled the duck.

Hamton blushed while Fifi turned up her nose at the flippant fowl.

"So?? He'z got pectoral muscles," said Arnold, "vich iz more den I can say for you, you scrawny duckling person!"

The mallard found himself being glared at by Fifi and Arnold and shrugged it off, until he saw Shirley scowling at him as well.

"Pl-ucky!" she gnarled, raising her hands.

"Wait Shirley," Hamton said calmly interceding, "you can't zap him in Reality."

"Yeah! You can't zap me in Reality!" the Pluckster agreed.

"Would you like to zap him here - or wait till you get home?" quipped Babs.

"Zap him now! Zap him now!!" Fowlmouth insisted, hopping up and down.

"You keep out of this! She doesn't have to zap me now!", interrupted Plucky. "Wait till ya get home," he advised Shirley.

"Alwight," the Loon grinned imitating Elmer Fudd. "Like, I'll zap you at home. Huhuhuhuhuhuhuh!"

"And I'll remind ya!" nodded Wakko in agreement.

"...Oops!" said Plucky, realizing he'd done himself in.

If he'd been able to, the duck would have done a slow burn.

"Let's shove off," called Dr. Lord. "Start the engines and cast off."

In the aft compartment, Calamity and Arnold were inspecting the large engines. The gray and green heavy machinery and its primitive controls dominated the cramped quarters. Lord stuck his head down the hatch.

"Ready gentlemen?"

"Certainly," the coyote affirmed in his quavering new voice. "There's just one question I have yet to answer." He made a face and asked: "What is that strange aroma?!"

"Ja," agreed Arnold sniffing. "Eet smellz like mien gym locker."

"It smells like all naval vessels do," the Doctor smiled, patting the bulkhead affectionately. "A combination of fuel, oil, gray paint and sweat. You get used to it...and you never forget it. Let's get going."

Calamity threw a series of levers and turned a switch and the number one engine grumbled and coughed before going silent. Puzzled, the coyote and the pit bull checked the mechanical settings and tried again, with even less of a result.

"Eetz busted or somptink!"

"I don't understand! I used A, used B, used C-"

"Did you open the fuel shut-off valve?" asked Lord pointing to a small metal wheel amongst the many pipes of the machinery.

"Oh...I got it," Calamity said embarrassed, as he opened the valve.

"But vy vood you vant to shut off der flow ov petrol?" asked Arnold.

"Suppose the throttle was stuck - or there was a fire?" Calamity asked.

".... Ja, goodt point," agreed the sheepish dog.

This time, one by one, the engines rumbled to life with a wet howl and then a sustained purr as the three twelve cylinder, 1,500 horsepower Packards made the ship come to life with their thrumming heartbeat. The Doctor smiled and ducked out the hatchway as Arnold revved the engine, blowing streams of water from the burbling and smoking exhaust holes under the stern.

Lord took his place at the wheel house next to Hamton and reached under the control panel to don a highly decorated white Naval officer's cap and his round, dark purple sunglasses. Hamton squinted from the glare of the shining gold naval emblems on Lord's visor and wondered what rank they meant. The Doctor looked at him, his sunglasses and visor obscuring his expression.

"Um, Captain? You look kinda like somebody I saw in a book once."

"And who was that, Hamton?"

"General MacArthur, sir."

The Doctor chuckled and said: "Why, thank you. Like the scrambled eggs?"

Hamton's mouth watered at the mention of food.

"Eggs!? Is it time for lunch yet??!"

"Nonono," chuckled the skunk. "That's what those in the Service call the brass insignias and gold braid they wear. Hmm, let's see what we have here for you."

His clawed hand brought out a stack of pure white sailors' caps and he put the first one on Hamton with a smile before tossing the rest to Buster to hand out.

(Das Boot #5 "Appell")

"Cast off!" called Lord.

On deck, the Toonsters put on their sailor hats as they listened to the quiet rhythm of the engines and moved to take their stations. From the dock, Mr. Shannon took the mooring ropes off the pilings and threw them aboard where Furball and Fowlmouth coiled them neatly. An expectant brass military fanfare played from the Doctor's mind as the crew of the STINGRAY looked out into the wide dark waters of the lake and to the clear skies above.

"Port ahead slow, starboard back slow," the captain said.

Hamton pulled the bell lever on the ship's brass telegraph to signal the engine room. The ship began to slowly turn out to the right, away from the dock.

"Helm answering port ahead slow, starboard back slow, Sir," reported Hamton.

"Very well," the Doctor acknowledged. "Starboard fifteen degrees. Ahead slow on both."

Hamton turned the ship's wheel a little to the right and rang up "Ahead Slow".

In the engine room, Calamity threw the engines into forward as he watched his return telegraph click and clang.

"Answering starboard fifteen, ahead slow," repeated Hamton.

"Very well...Mister Pig - take us out."

"Aye-aye Sir."

The Toonsters waved goodbye to Mr. Shannon and looked out ahead as the PT boat slipped out upon the waters towards the expanse of gently cresting waves. The waves lapped at the hull as the ship purred through them.

Buster, Babs, Shirley, Fifi and Plucky stood on the bow and marveled at this new experience with wide eyes. The deep cold water seemed to extend to the horizon and down into the depths of the Earth. The breeze was brisk and cool as they watched the waves breaking below them against the sharp prow of the boat.

"Arrrr! Jump lively me hearties! ..Arrrrr-" began Babs.

"Babs, rope it in... look at this place! It's incredible!" pointed out her fiancee.

"Like.. I never dreamed that Reality could possibly be so totally beautiful. It's tubular to the max and not rilly ghrody like I thought," sighed Shirley.

"Eet eez not az colorful az ze Tooniverse...but zere eez a certain.. pastel.. je ne sais quois about eet all," Fifi mused wistfully as she squinted in the bright sunlight.

"Well..ulp..one thing's still the same," Plucky gulped as he held his beak shut and staggered to the edge of the deck to hang his head over the side.

"Awww, poor darlin!" Shirley cried as she followed him.

"Many people travel the sea by boat," quipped Babs, "but Plucky travels it by rail."

They all watched the waves and the clouds slowly drifting above them as the STINGRAY crept out towards the center of the lake. The sun was high and hot and the water was deep and cold.


Chapter LXIII

The Doctor gazed out from under his visor and smiled in his mysterious way.

(Das Boot #6 "U 96")

"Let's get to our rendezvous. Take us north up the lake, Mister Pig. Full speed ahead!"

An exciting new theme began to charge through everyone's minds, a pounding macho thrill ride of drums and trumpets that raced like the wind! Hamton turned the wheel and pulled the ship's telegraph to "Full Ahead". With a growing rumble, the 4,500 horsepower engines came online, surging the STINGRAY forward like a locomotive! As the three propellers churned the water to froth, the boat rose on the swell of the waves under her bow and sped out towards the center of the lake. The quick acceleration surprised most everyone and they hung on wherever they could. As the boat rose, bounced and steadied itself, the Toonsters went to their action stations, all except Plucky and Shirley. The Loon braced her webbed feet against the deck and kept the duck from falling overboard while he retched over the side.

"Take it easy Darlin'. You'll be okay," said Shirley, rubbing his back.

"..Some...ulp!..sea-going waterfowl I am!. bleah...," he moaned.

"Oh I dunno," she said trying to cheer him. "Looks like ya fouled the water pretty good tuh me."

Plucky smiled weakly up at her and they looked at the messy wake the ship was now leaving.

"Eeeeeewwww!" they both said, cringing.

Hamton stood grinning from ear to ear as he drove the ship faster, the music and the feeling of strong acceleration making his heart quicken. The STINGRAY sped along atop the waves like a charging rhinoceros at full gallop! The ship's engines made its hull vibrate with power as they howled and sang, a mighty bow wave kicking up and rolling forward and a white choppy wake of churning froth behind! The landscape slid backward as the boat raced past it to the center of the channel. Hamton turned the wheel and the ship began to slice through the southbound waves, each one throwing a splash of cold spray into the air. The cool wind and cold spray spritzed the faces of the Toonsters, the new sensation thrilling them. The cresting waves and dark waters raced under them and the clouds drifted lazily above in the azure sky. Behind them, the creamy roiling wake dipped, rose to a peak and left a boiling trail as the three propellers burned their way through the lake.

Arnold and Calamity stuck their heads out of the rear hatchway to witness the speed and majesty of the boat upon the waves. Wakko stood with his arms outstretched, blissfully playing "airplane" as the wind rushed past.

"Yippee!" yelled Fowlmouth exuberantly from his machine gun turret. "Who says chickens can't fly?"

"Steady as she goes, helm," said Lord reaching for the hand mike of the ship's radio.

His hand closed on empty air and he looked down the forward hatchway in surprise at the odd scene in the cabin below.

"There's an all night party in room 7609!" sang Babs loudly into the microphone as she danced and bopped around with her eyes closed like an intense rock singer. "La la la late bar na na na na na na all niiiiight!!-"

"You can dance together all night if you've got the time, Ms. Bunny," Lord said dryly, his arms crossed impatiently as he stared at her, "but I doubt the FCC would approve."

The pink bunny was caught in the middle of a note with her mouth hanging open and her eyes staring at her cross captain. She grinned as sheepishly as a rabbit can look sheepish.

"Ah heheheheheh...I gather they're not Duran Duran fans?" she commented offhand.

"Not on the talking bandwidth, no. Speaking of bands - how about getting me the Coast Guard band, if you please?"

Babs tuned the radio dial and handed the microphone to the skunk.

"Do they take requests?" Babs quipped.

"No, usually just your license and registration. Thanks," replied the Doctor stepping back up on deck.

"Never heard of that song," said Babs. "Wait a minute! How did he know the right lyrics?!" she wondered.

On deck, Lord spoke over the roar of the engines.

"Lake Champlain Coast Guard, this is the captain of PT 537. We're south of Mount Defiance en route north - over?"

The radio crackled and then spoke in a friendly, if somewhat bored voice: "This is Champlain CGL51, how may I help you, over?"

"I'd like a local river traffic report please and the date of the last Champ sighting, over?" the tall skunk asked.

"....Uh... alright," the voice said in an unbelieving tone. "Currently, our radar shows only a few small craft and the Champlain Ferry...now as to these silly monster reports, I -"

Suddenly another voice replaced the first one.

"..Excuse me...It's been a while. Uh, as you know, we're not supposed to recognize any of these so-called monster stories, but uh.. the last one was about six months ago, over."

"Oh, I agree with you. There is no such thing as the Champlain Monster, over."

"PT 537, what is your destination, over?"

"We'll be at the shooting range up around the bend, over?"

"Very well, just don't wake the neighbors. Over and out."

As Lord hung up the microphone, Shirley helped Plucky to his gun turret. The green duck looked greener than usual and the Doctor prescribed a few remedies.

"Shirley? Get him some toon water if you please? Helmsman? Let's see if we can steady the boat a little. Slow to half speed and stand by for conversion."

"Aye -aye, Sir..." said Hamton and Shirley uncertainly, wondering what "conversion" meant.

As the ship slowed down, the Captain called for his Officer of the Deck.

"Mister Bunny, prepare the crew for high speed maneuvering."

"High speed? ..Uh... Everybody hang on!!" yelled Buster to the others.

"Very good, Mister Bunny," Lord smiled as he stepped up to the helm. "I'll take the wheel, Mister Pig. Now hold on."

Hamton and Buster watched as the Doctor flipped open a control panel just above the ship's wheel and snapped a switch.

"Conversion," he called, pulling a large lever downward.

From the sides of the bow, two large wing-like vanes lowered into the water like a submarine's diving planes! Other vanes extended themselves under the hull unseen. In the engine room, Calamity and Arnold jumped back as the engine housings tilted electrically downward, driving the whirling propellers deeper into the sea! A windshield arose from the pilot house before Hamton's astonished eyes and the Doctor rang for "Flank Speed"! The engines howled again and the boat surged forward - even faster than before! As the Toonsters hung on in amazement, the PT boat seemed to rise again on the swell - and kept rising! The hull rose slowly out of the water - leaving the surface of the lake - to skim across the it like a ice-skater! The speed increased till they were racing along like the wind!

(Das Boot # 10 "Heimkehr [Returning Home])

"It's converted into a hydrofoil!" marveled Hamton.

"Correct," Lord responded simply, a new, even faster theme bouncing from his mind and into everyone else's.

It's hydrofoils knifing through the lake, the PT 537 roared across the surface of the water, the hull lifted nearly four feet above it! The ride was now smooth and swift, the sensation like flight. With the action of the rough water gone, Plucky drank in the refreshing wind and the cool water Shirley gave him and felt better. Hamton held his sailor's cap on and grinned as he looked out over the bow to see the waves streaking by underneath them. Furball held on to the ship's prow with his claws enjoying the speed and the many different smells of Reality.

Buster looked to the shore at the green mountains rising on both sides of them. A towering bluff rose steeply from the lake on their left and at its peak stood an ancient stone fortification with an American flag flying over its buildings. Black cannons bristled on its battlements.

Lord called Buster and spoke to him. The rabbit did an about-face and called out in martial fashion.

"Attention on deck!" ordered the exec, causing everyone to stand straight and tall. "All hands, attention! Prepare to render arms to port!"

The Toonsters stood boldly at their stations in silence as Buster continued.

"Eyes - left!...Annnnd - salute!"

Everyone turned and raised their right hands to their brows in a military salute as the PT boat passed the fort on the mountain. As Old Glory flew splendidly above them at the boat's masthead, Fifi looked with pride on the red, white and blue flag of her adopted country that floated over the ramparts on the mountaintop as well. Lord held his salute a moment longer than the others, his brassy visor glinting in the sun.

He saw Hamton's questioning look and announced "That is Fort Ticonderoga, which Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys captured when the Revolutionary War was less a month old...Of course, the British, under General Burgoyne, captured it back two years later and burned it" the Doctor commented.

"Wow! Real history!" cried Hamton.

"I'm sure glad we don't have wars in the Tooniverse," said Buster.

"Fortunately, when no one and nothing can be permanently killed.. or destroyed - there's little point to warring...." Lord said in an odd way.

Lord's eyes lowered and changed, becoming morose as he lost his smile, his powerful music fading away to nothing. Fifi saw him become somber and guessed at his thoughts.

"It's only when.....outside influences occur.. that damage may result."

Hamton and the others grew uncomfortable with the skunk's sudden mood change and began to shift and glance away. The Doctor noticed and tried to get back on track.

"Actually, here in Reality, war has its fortunes - good and bad. It's caused society to advance and grow.. to mature into more peaceful ways. While being catastrophic for those who must endure it - it enlightens our future, bringing new technology...while burying old outdated ideology..."

Shirley was about to question this when Mary Melody stuck her head up through the hatchway from her radar station.

"Captain? There's a large slow-moving vessel ahead, cutting across our path" she said, her ponytail blowing in the breeze.

"Mmm like, I see it too!" the Loon said, looking through her lookout's binoculars. "It's like, this mondo big, flat boat! "An' there's cars on it!"

"That must be the Champlain Ferry. Where away?" asked the Doctor picking up his own binoculars.

"Um...like...uh...over there? Yonder? Thataway??" stammered Shirley at a loss as to what to say.

"Two points off the starboard bow, Captain," said Mary, pointing.

Shirley and Fifi looked at her in surprise.

"Nautical lingo isn't just a guy-thing, y'know," Mary told them with a smirk.


Chapter LXIV

In the distance, a flat barge with automobiles on its deck and a white pilot house on one side was slowly crossing the river.

"All hands square away to decelerate," called Lord as he steered the STINGRAY to port and away from the ferryboat.

The boat slowed and wobbled a bit as its hull reentered the water, bringing back Plucky's seasickness.

"Whoooa! Do we have to slow down?" he begged. "We could shoot right past 'em as a hydrofoil!"

"That's just it," the Doctor told him. "That ferryboat operates on a cable guide."

"Who cares what channel they're watching?!" Plucky complained as he grew woozy. "Even if it's the Game Show Network I'll get seasick again!"

"I wonder if they have the Food Network here?" Hamton drooled.

"Oh, that has my favorite show!" Wakko chimed in. "Iron Chef! I remember when they made squid ink ice cream!"

Plucky's eyes crossed and he ran for the stern, holding his beak shut till he could release the contents of his stomach.

Everyone watched him for a moment, then made a face as they closed their eyes and turned back to look at the ferryboat as it grew closer.

"I meant that the ferry is guided on a steel cable across the lake," Lord told them. "If we run over that at high speed - it's 'Goodbye Charlie'!"

"Who ist Charlie?" asked Arnold.

Most everyone laughed at Arnold's innocent question, but the Doctor looked down and blinked sadly a moment before gazing forlornly at the sky over his shoulder as though haunted by something. He froze there as though listening for something...then turned back to stare at their course ahead in silence.

"What's up Doc?" Buster asked and then commented, "Heh, I've always wanted to say that."

Lord ignored the levity and said ominously: "We've got company."

"Like where, Doc? Who?" Shirley asked, realizing he had sensed some unseen thing.

"Not to worry, my young apprentice. You shall see," the towering skunk replied. "Take the wheel please, Hamton."

"Aye, Sir," the helms-pig answered as Lord sat tiredly on a deck chair.

"Give that ferry a wide berth. We don't want to attract too much attention."

Hamton shrugged and steered east, bringing the STINGRAY around behind the slow-moving ferryboat. He noticed the line in the water in front of it, as the cable came up from the bottom of the lake to be reeled into one of the double ends of the barge. A few autos were lined up on the deck with their owners standing at the railings. As the STINGRAY turned parallel to the ferry's course, the people on board began to notice the toons watching them.

"Hey, look there!" exclaimed Babs.

"It's a group of fellas," said Wakko, "and they're wavin'. Wave back."

The two boats exchanged greetings from a distance as they passed each other.

"Dat's funny...," commented Fowlmouth, "Some of 'em look like dey never saw a toon before!"

"They probably haven't," said Mary.

"Heh, not all of them - Look!" cried Babs pointing.

Indeed, there was one man with glasses on the ferry who seemed terribly excited; jumping up and down and hollering to gain their attention. It was hard to hear, but he seemed to be calling out the Toonsters names, waving frantically with both arms and following their position as the PT boat crossed the ferryboat's wake and moved away upstream.

"Looks like we got a fan!" Babs said hollering back. "Hi-eeeee!"

The man followed to remain within earshot, racing around to the other side and nearly falling over the ship's railing. He paused and shouted at the top of his lungs, his voice faintly reaching them across the distance.

"We - love - you - Tiny Toons!!......"

As the ferryboat receded into the distance, everyone waved their white sailor caps back to the fellow who continued to jump for joy and wave wildly until the STINGRAY turned around a bend in the lake and they could see him no more. Everyone felt deeply touched.

"...Gosh...that was really nice," sighed Hamton, turning back to his helmanship.

"Oui..." agreed Fifi wistfully. "We probablee gave heem zee thrill ov a lifetime!"

"It's nice to know we still have fans, even though the show is only in reruns," smiled Buster.

"We'd better get to our destination," said Lord standing again.

"Where are we bound for exactly, captain?" asked Furball.

"Up around the bend," Lord said, his mood brightening again.

"Say Doc? Since you know their songs - how about playing some Duran Duran music for us, huh huh huh?" asked Babs with pleading eyes.

"Well..." the Doctor commented, "I usually play something else when I'm up here by myself. I'm afraid I'm a little behind the times as far as modern music goes."

"Ya mean like the excessively macho stuff you've been rocking our brains with?" the bunny observed with her usual innocent sarcasm.

"Mmm..not exactly. It's more of a personal choice."

"Okay! So play it for us."

Although Fifi was half-expecting some ancient Celtic drum-beating, what she and the others heard couldn't have surprised them more. An electric guitar riff screamed a couple of times, then a country rock bass and drums joined in as the sound of Creedance Clearwater Revival rang in their minds!

(Creedance Clearwater Revival, "Up Around the Bend")

Buster grinned and shouted lustily "All Hands ROCK OUT!!"

As their Captain tapped his clawed feet to the music and smiled, his crew all began to rock n' roll joyfully as John Fogerty's raw rock voice sang out.

"There's a place up ahead and I'm goin'! Just as fast as my feet can fly! Come away, come away if you're goin', leave the sinkin' ship behind!"

The powerful voices of the rest of the band joined in to sing the chorus as the PT boat skimmed over the lake!

"Come on the risin' wind! We're goin' up around the bend!"

As the sound of the sixties country rock band set everyone to dancing, Lord gestured to permit Hamton to dance with Fifi while he took the wheel. The deck was a perfect dance floor and the couples smiled and rocked freestyle everywhere!

"Ooh! Bring a song and a smile for the banjo! Better get while the gettin's good! Hitch a ride to the end of the highway - where the neons turn to wood!"

As Calamity and Arnold bobbed their heads in unison to the music, Plucky regained his composure behind them at the stern; the music and fun giving him strength enough to try dancing as well. Shirley wiped his face and gave him a quick kiss as they swayed together and sang.

"Come on the risin' wind! We're goin' up around the bend! Oooh!"

Arm in arm with the slightly-less-sickly-green mallard, Shirley sang: "You can ponder perpetual motion! Fix your mind on a crystal day!"

Plucky picked up the tune and sang to her with a genuine smile: "Always time for a good conversation, there's an ear for what you say."

Mary bucked and wiggled as she danced beside Fowlmouth, while Buster and Babs stood atop the pilot house and did "The Wave" together as the wind and the spray rushed through their ears.

The whole ship's company sang the chorus together merrily: "Come on the risin' wind, we're goin' up around the bend! Yeaaaaah!"

Down in the ship's galley, Gogo Dodo danced with his sailor's cap turned inside out and upside down. He drummed on the ship's cooking pans with a spoon and a ladle, ringing them like gongs and then leaped into the sticky mixture of toony gravy he'd been making! Grayish goo splattered the bulkheads as he danced in the icky mess! Gogo wiped some of the gooey gunk off his beak and tasted it.

"Needs salt!" he beamed as he dumped a whole box of salt over himself and into the concoction.

On deck, Hamton danced happily as he and Fifi grinned at each other and bopped to the beat. Furball clung to the top of the mast as the ship swayed with the waves and Wakko played the round rim of the machine gun turret like a drum kit with his white gloved hands.

"Oooh! Catch a ride to the end of the highway and we'll meet by the big red tree! There's a place up ahead and I'm goin', come along, come along with me!" sang CCR and the Toonsters. "Come on the risin' wind! We're goin' up around the bend! Yeaaaaaaahhh!"

The Doctor smiled and slowly turned the wheel back and forth making lazy S-curves with the boat as the song drew to a close. The young toons laughed, clapped and talked excitedly.

"Play us another one, Doc!" yipped Babs.

Lord slowed the boat to a cruising speed and said, "Perhaps this afternoon. Right now, we should anchor and have lunch. I have a feeling you'll be needing a break."

"Boy that was fun!" laughed Buster. "And here I was thinking you were an old-fashioned, ivy-covered, history professor!"

"Ha, you don't know how right you are!" chuckled the ancient being.

The Toonsters laughed at Lord's self deprecating humor, but Fifi and Shirley looked at each other and laughed the longest as Lord's joke made sense to them. But as Fifi's mind returned to her own situation, the laughter died in her throat, leaving her to stare sadly at her grandfather - and then turn away.


Chapter LXV

The scenery had changed to a wider part of the lake and the STINGRAY headed towards the eastern shore. It was quiet here, the water seemed deep and calm, the shoreline covered with odd pine and birch trees that hung out over the still waters. There were green lily pads and purple water hyacinths crowding the shallows, their flowers alive with bees. A large grassy clearing opened onshore and there were several withered tree stumps poking their heads out of the water on a small island nearby. Red-winged blackbirds perched on the reeds and a lone great blue heron stood on one leg in the water awaiting a fish. The large water bird seemed to stare at the boat as it slowly drew closer, then with long patient strides, the heron moved discreetly away.

The Doctor maneuvered the PT boat toward the clearing at a dead crawl, finally stopping close by and shutting down the engines. The remaining wake and waves lapped at the shoreline with a hiss and everything grew still. The smell of the swampy area was humid and muddy as the sun blazed hot overhead.

"Anchors away!" cried Buster.

Furball and Shirley dropped the heavy weights into the water and began to notice something.

"Like, I totally need a glass of water!"

"Yeah, my throat is so dry..and I'm starved!"

Like almost everyone else, Hamton found himself tired and famished.

"Gee, I'm so hungry!"

"What else is new?" commented Plucky.

"But look, Plucky! Everyone shouldn't be feeling this way all at the same time, should they?"

"But you are," Lord told them as he stepped to the hatchway, "Because we're in Reality, you've been under stronger gravity, thereby using up more energy than your bodies are used to. Also, time is slightly faster here. It's already past noon and most of you haven't even had any water yet. You must all eat and rest for a while or you could become dehydrated and sick as Gogo and Plucky did this morning."

"Speaking of Gogo - where is he?" wondered Babs. "I haven't seen him since we cast off."

The ringling sound of a metal triangle suddenly jangled in their ears, followed by the Dodo's high voice.

"Come and get it! Chow time! Luncheon is soived! Vittles! Grub! And all kinda stuff like that there!" came the wacky bird's call from the galley.

Everyone climbed down the steep stairs to the center of the boat, bumping into each other in the cramped quarters. They hurriedly changed clothes in the compartments before racing to the galley. The gray bulkheads resounded with chatter as the hungry toons clambered in to sit at the wooden benches at the galley table. Babs was jammed shoulder to shoulder with Mary and Wakko in the little compartment.

"Hello Room Service? Send up a bigger room," she quipped in a Groucho Marx voice.

"Hey! Yer face didn't change when ya did that imitation," Wakko noticed.

"Oh B.O.! I forgot I can't do that here," the bunny complained.

"Huh?" asked Plucky. "What's that mean?"

"What's what mean?" Buster queried.

"What's B.O. mean?" wondered Calamity.

"Oh, that? Well..that's what the kids in my family say instead of swearing. See, my parents don't swear and they didn't want us to either." Babs told them.

"Ha! No kiddin'!" laughed Fowlmouth.

"It's true! We didn't know any swear words so we said that instead! Like: 'Oh Peanuts!' We thought it was a bad word..." the pink bunny confessed.

The rest of the Toonsters dissolved into peals of laughter as Babs grew embarrassed.

"Honest! We thought 'B.O.' was a dirty word!" she admitted.

"Eez eet some Amereecan theeng?" asked Fifi. "What does eet mean?"

"Heh," commented Plucky with a sniff. "Take a whiff and you'll find out."

Fifi's eyes opened wide with anger and she began to growl and stand up.

"Wait Fifi - Plucky means that it stands for... uh... Body Odor," Hamton said stopping her.

"Ja, dat's vat it means," Arnold agreed.

"Heheh - you'd know, pal!" snickered Fowlmouth.

Arnold placed a huge paw on top of FM's head and spoke threateningly into his face as the little rooster began to panic.

"Laugh it up, Chicken Little - and I'll _Pump_You_Up!"

"Waitaminute!" Mary said firmly. "The Doc said no violence..Now you leave him alone, Arnold."

"You can hit him later," Calamity suggested.

"And I'll remind ya!" Wakko added.

Hamton grinned angrily and grabbed Plucky's beak threateningly.

"So I'm sure Plucky wasn't _being_ insulting_ to you, Fifi - was he??"

"Nonono! I meant Arnold!" the Pluckster agreed painfully.

"Vat did you say?!" rumbled the pit bull.

"I meant - uhhh... cuz the boat smells like that down here!" backpedaled the duck.

"Well, like that could be this old boat - or whatever Gogo's made for lunch," Shirley agreed.

Gogo climbed atop the table and bowed, wearing a stained apron.

"Since I'm such an epicurean Philistine, I was able to make a delectable diet using meat, flour, water, salt and squishy junk!"

They all looked at the pot full of toony brown lumps in gray sauce. It bubbled and blooped in a most unappetizing manner and it's toony brightness looked out of place in this realistic setting.

"Looks like the La Brea Tar pits!" gagged Plucky.

"You can't cook - and you made this??" asked Hamton.

"Of coooourse!" chortled the Dodo. "First - I took some toony food junk and chopped it all up! Then I added some more goop and mixed it up until it was aaall squishy! Then I dumped in alot of gloppy stuff and stirred it all into a fine gunky mess!...Am I being too technical for you?"

"Er, well... I'll try anything once," said Hamton, dipping a tentative spoon into the gluey mess.

After shakily putting the spoonful of slop in his mouth, Hamton made some exploring noises.. then some "what-do-we-have-here-?" noises, closed his eyes and swallowed - and finally smiled.

"Hey!" said Babs in surprise. "He likes it! Hey Mikey!"

"Mmmmm! It's Creamed Chipped Beef! Dee-licious! May I have some more?" Hamton told them, grabbing a plate.

"And I did manage to make some toast! Score another one fer me!" said Gogo proudly as everyone helped themselves to a plateful.

"So what do you call it?" asked Buster, chewing.

"Creamed chipped beef on toast - what else?" said Calamity.

"Hmm, I recall it having a few other names," the Doctor observed with his customary odd smile. "There's also some cold Coo-Coo Cola in the fridge."

The skunk turned to leave, but Hamton asked: "Aren't you eating, Sir?"

Fifi's concerned eyes shifted to her grandfather nervously.

"That's too salty for me. I"ll have something in my cabin, thank you," Lord replied over his shoulder as he left.

Fifi looked after him and worried that the others might see him eating real food and start to wonder. She turned back to try her plate of food and was surprised.

"Mmm! C'est tres bon, but...eetz so salty!"

"High cholesterol shtuff, Gogo!" agreed Arnold. "I like it!"

As everyone ate, drank and chatted, Fifi thought of what Lord had told her that morning and of how her being an immortal could affect her relationship with Hamton. Like Red Hot and some of her grandfather's other wives - the fact of Fifi's immortality and power might doom her soul mate to destruction. Could the same thing happen to them? Fifi's life long quest had been to find her one true love - would she have to give up Hamton in order to save him from harm? What could she do?


Chapter LXVI

As everyone finished lunch, most of them grew sleepy and began to sack out and snooze. Most found a place to nap below deck on the galley's tables and benches and on the human-sized bunk beds. Babs managed to drag Buster up on deck so they could sun themselves, but her fiancee fell asleep as soon as his head hit the towel he'd spread under them. The girl bunny shook her head dreamily at him with a smile and snuggled up next to him. Within seconds, they were both snoring loudly.

Fifi was only slightly tired from the day's exertions. Though Hamton was drowsy, they also found their way topside.

"C'mon Hammy, let'z go up on ze bow."

"Okay Fifi," he yawned, "...but why couldn't we stay downstairs with the others?"

"Because ah wanted to be alone weeth tu..." she said, spreading out her towel on the hot gray deck, "Ah...miss being weeth tu."

"But... we're together all the time now, honey," he said confused.

They sat together on the foredeck, looking out over the warmth of the lake. The sky was perfectly blue and Hamton felt the sun on his skin.

"Not...all ze time, zo..." Fifi half-whispered as she cuddled against his shoulder. "Not like zis summer waz..."

Hamton smiled and looked into her eyes as his arm wrapped around her. Her fluffy tail touched his bare shoulders.

"You mean when I stayed with you?"

"So many theengz changed..." the skunkette said softly, "and tu being zere helped moi most ov all."

"I couldn't stand to see you being so sick and upset all by yourself," he told her.

The purple French girl laughed lightly: "Ah'll never forget zee look on your face when you told your father zat tu were going to spend ze night weeth moi. Tu were zo brave."

"No," he chuckled self-consciously, "I was really scared! ...I knew what people would say about us..." he said earnestly, "but I didn't care - I had to take care of you no matter what."

"Ah deed not make eet any easier by being such a deeficult patient, no?" Fifi admitted regretfully. "Being seeck and arguing weeth tu. Remembair how ah got angry and skonked tu on ze second day?"

"Yeah," Hamton suddenly grinned. "I loved it!"

He kissed her sweetly and Fifi swooned against his chest, her eyes closed blissfully as she snuggled him.

"Le Sigh... ah miss tu holding moi at night," she whispered tenderly into the denim covering his chest. "Ah've never... been zo comfortable... and slept zo well... az when tu were holding moi..."

Hamton's arm held her close and he placed a kiss on her ear.

"Same here."

"Pairhapz now zat ah can build mah house ze way ah want to... we could build eet... for two?" she asked tentatively and blushed.

Hamton blushed too and thought a moment.

"Well... maybe. Maybe after we've been engaged a while... do you think your Grandfather would approve?"

Fifi's blood ran cold. Did Hamton know? Had he guessed? No, how could he? Still.. She sat up nervously, coming out of Hamton's embrace.

"Ah... do not know. Grandpere eez razzer old-fashioned... but ah know zat he likes vous veree much..."

A bit disconcerted at her response, Hamton tried to make the best of it: "Well, both of our families need to approve. And I know that they will... but maybe living together should wait until we're married."

Fifi looked away, worrying over their future.

"Ah theenk eet might be a good idea...oh, ah dunno..." she said, keeping her confused misery to herself. "Oh Hamtone, just hold moi."

Again, she buried her face in his chest and sighed, hiding it from him. The compassionate pig held her, even though his eyelids were drooping.

"Fifi...what's wrong? You've been upset lately. What is it?"

What could she say? The skunkette's mind was flooded with fear. Anything she might say would be a lie! How could she do this to him??

"Eetz... ma familie..." she stammered uncertainly.

"Oh? What's wrong with them? I thought it was Doctor Lord you were concerned about?"

Fifi tried not to pause before answering, but couldn't help but feel caught. Hamton was noticing things.

"Eetz... mon Grandpere Putois`..." she said uneasily. "Ee'z aving trouble... adapteeng to mama's loss."

"Oh..." gasped Hamton, waking a little at this. "I'm so sorry. I know it hit him very hard. Is he okay?"

Fifi decided that partial truth was better than a lie. "Ee'z been tres` moody lately... and ov course, Moufette eez ov no help - zo ah worry about heem."

"What'll we do? We're in school now, so we can't go back to France-"

"Ah... just need to talk to heem more..."

"Let me know when you're going to phone him, I'd like to say hello."

"Ah will..." she said, relieved that he believed her.

"Maybe we could call him when we get home?" he asked sleepily, as he leaned and squirmed to try and scratch his back.

"Here - permittez moi."

Fifi smiled as she crawled behind him to scratch his back. She knew it would take his mind off of practically anything and she'd run out of ideas. Extending her claws, the skunkette began to rake them gently downward across his broad shoulders. Hamton shivered and moaned with pleasure, as she relaxed him with her soft paws and sharp claws. His eyes closed happily as she gently pushed him over onto his stomach and massaged his lower back, her hands making small circles, the friction warming his itchy pigskin.

"Ooo! Down at - Yeaah! That's the spot! MMM! You always know just where my itch is- OH Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!" Hamton cried.

"'Ere, let moi take zos off," Fifi offered as she undid the straps of his overalls and bared his pink back.

"Mmmmmm..." the prostrate pig sighed as his purple paramour lightly clawed thin red stripes across his soft muscles and shoulder blades.

She giggled as his twisty tail wiggled in the air atop the seat of his pants. Her fingers sneaked devilishly down to tickle his tail and make him nearly double up with laughter. As soon as he relaxed again, she climbed astride him and leaned down to massage his shoulders, adding her weight to the pushing and kneading of his piggy torso. She felt his body sigh and soften underneath her and slowed and eased her ministrations until she heard his little piggish snores. Fifi lay forward on him and smooched the top of his head before carefully climbing off to sit at his side.

Using Hamton like a pillow, she tried to lie down to take a snooze as well. His closeness and scent made her feel better as she snuggled against him, but the things on her mind kept her eyes from closing. Now she was having to make up stories to tell him... partially true stories, but they were lies nonetheless in her eyes. She turned over and looked upon his features at ultra-close range. His wide pink cheeks still held a faint leftover smile. His soft floppy ear opened slowly like a flower petal in the wind. He was so innocent of the brewing trouble to come. How could she bear to keep the truth from him?

["What's the matter? Can't you sleep?"]

Fifi started suddenly, sitting up and turning as her Grandfather's voice echoed in her mind. The face of Kirrik appeared, coming out of the forward pilot house hatchway, to observe her with the sleeping Hamton. He wore a pure white naval uniform that matched the officer's cap on his head. Instantly she ran over to him, concerned that the others might see the human face of her Grandfather, and incensed at being discovered.

"Vat are vous doing, walkeeng around like zat?! Someone might see vous!" she whispered intently.

"They're all asleep. I checked," the man told her quietly as he pointed to his head. "Plucky and Shirley were awake until a little while ago, but they're all tired out now too."

"Were vous spying on us?" she demanded.

Kirrik crossed his arms and raised his head high and said in the same firm manner as he always had as her Grandpere Putois`: "Petite - respect your elders!"

It seemed odd coming from this human face, but it was definitely her Grandpere` through and through. When Kirrik's odd smile changed that firmness sideways into a gentle remark, Fifi felt as she always had before her grandparent - at ease.

"Now you know why I always say that," he said putting a hand on her shoulder. "As I said, I allow you your private moments as you allow mine to me."

"Ah'm sorry, Grandpere`. Eetz just zat ah ave so many worries now," she confided to him. "Why are vous ...being human now?" she asked confused.

Kirrik shrugged and sat down with her next to the ship's wheel. He pushed up his round purple sunglasses.

"I need to relax too. It takes energy to retain my toon form all the time, you know."

Fifi sat on the deck chair and mumbled: "Ah dunno much about your powerz."

Kirrik cocked his head and said: "You'll find out. You'll gain them yourself someday."

"'Ow do vous know? 'Ow can vous be sure zat ah'm like vous?"

"My tests proved it long ago. You're not tired, either."

"Vat does zat ave to do weeth eet?" she asked, confused.

"All the normal toons are asleep and we're not - what does that tell you?"

"Zat we're not tired," Fifi answered flatly. "So what?"

"No, it means that we adapt readily to our surroundings. Our internal energies are far greater than that of normal beings. We can sustain ourselves without support."

"Weethout support?"

"Yes, like breathing and eating," he said offhand.

"We can live weethout breatheeng?!?" Fifi gasped.

"Yes," said Kirrik growing somber. "I've wound up in a few unfortunate circumstances where I found out - the hard way."

"...Mon dieu..." his granddaughter whispered in alarm.

"We do not age past adulthood, don't suffer from disease and our injuries heal in moments."

"We nevair get seeck?"

Kirrik leaned back and crossed his arms, contemplatively.

"We have just one affliction. A sickness of the heart - loneliness..."

"Oui. Ah know zat one well enough," Fifi agreed.

"Beware of it, my dear," he told her, "there are no eternal companions but ourselves and our emotions... Longing for a mate and the fear of discovery breeds anger. Anger and fear are the parents of hate... and hatred begets death and destruction."

"Tu mean ze Berserker?" she asked uneasily, recalling her fearful encounter with the evil beast.

"Yes. If you live your life as I did mine.. feeding on centuries of hate and anger - you'll develop your own deadly opposite - your own Berserker. That's why I'm here to help you prevent it."

"Moi? ...Like zat?" she gasped.

"It could happen. When hatred and violence become the norm - it can become almost a type of faith - and can gain a life of it's own."

"But 'ow do tu fight eet?"

Kirrik's took off his glasses, squinting at his anxious granddaughter.

"By joining minds with others and sharing their happiness. It bolsters our well being... but when we lose someone..."

"Oh..." said Fifi sitting back in realization, "zat's why we were all seeck when Grand mama died.."

"When she passed away, your parents and I lost part of our union. You felt it too, although you were joined only to our feelings. So we had to rely more heavily upon each other to help recover from her loss."

"Ah alwayz wondaired why we all got so seeck at ze same time."

"Yes, we lost a part of ourselves and felt the terrible emptiness that was left behind. When your father grew ill, we knew the same thing would happen again."

"Eet waz so hard to lose heem. Ah lay awake every night, listening. And ah prayed for a miracle to come. Tu worked so hard to save Papa... but notheeng worked." Fifi cried.

"I should have worked harder to save him for you. You were just a little girl! I know what it's like to lose your parents. I should have found something!" Kirrik said bitterly.

"Tu deedn't sleep, tu deedn't eat! Tu kept heem een your laboratory night and day for months! What more could tu ave done for heem?"

Kirrik hung his head and Fifi held his shoulder.

"...We grew sicker than before when he died. Your Maman and I had only each other to lean on. It was a strain on us... and you. I knew you needed more friends - a new life away from all that misery. That's why I wanted you to come to America and have new comrades."

Her lips parted slowly as she stared at him in discovery.

"So zat'z why tu sent moi away to Acme Loonivairsity."

"Yes, and you've been lucky to find such caring friends."

Fifi stood and thought a bit, walking around his chair.

"So when Mama died, ah felt zee emptiness again and was seeck?" Kirrik nodded, so she asked: "Zen why waz ah seeck when tu were running your race? -And when tu became ze Berserker? Zat waz ze worst ov all!"

"You felt the emptiness of being without her feelings to help you... then when I gave over to the Berserker, you had no one at all," Kirrik told her. "...Now that I have no other mind to share, but only your emotions - that's how I feel most of the time."

A sigh of guilt escaped the skunkette as she sat down again.

"Ah want to help, but..."

Their conversation dwindled till he noticed her frown.

"You are still troubled?" he asked.

Fifi leaned her elbows on her knees and nodded.

"Ah'm deeply een love weeth Hamton and ah cannot bear to lie to heem. We swore not to keep secretz from each other and zat'z just what ah'm being forced to do!"

Kirrik regarded her steadily, his short blonde hair ruffled slightly by the wind off the lake.

"I've explained the dangers to you -"

"Oui, but zis eez zee twenty-fairst century - not zee Middle Ages! And we live een zee Tooniverse where everyone eez deefrant! We are used to strange creat-...".

Her Grandfather reacted, looking away a moment and replacing his sunglasses as Fifi halted herself before calling him a creature and hurting his feelings again, but she had to continue.

"Toonz are used to eet! Zey would not hate tu or be afraid eef tu let ze truth be known."

Kirrik stood up and turned away to look at the water solemnly.

"...Red once thought as you do..." he whispered regretfully.

The skunkette stood and took his hand gently.

"Please... let moi tell Hamtone. Reveal yourself to zee otherz - zey weel embrace tu az friendz, no?"

The man turned fatefully to her.

"The risk is too great. I would be endangering them..You would be endangering him... as surely as I endangered Red."

"But - but eet waz not your fault!" she insisted. "She committed suicide!"

"Without my attachments to Reality - she would never have gotten ahold of real paint remover from Reality. She would still be alive now."

Fifi hung her head and thought a moment.

"But tu weren't zere when eet happened... tu can't know zat for certain..."

Kirrik's eyes shut bitterly in silence.

"...I held her as she died," he said, his voice like iron on velvet, "What more is there to know?"

"...But tu don't actually know what 'appened before you saw her, do you?"

"No I don't, but that's not the point - the fact that the poison was from Reality means that she got it because I had easy access to Reality."

"So? Ah don't ave any ties to Reality... except tu," Fifi concluded. "Hammy weel nevair be een danger, ah'll see to zat!"

Kirrik stopped and looked at her a long moment. His sunglasses glinted in the sun for a moment before he removed them to reveal his affecting blue-grey eyes. He then looked away into the water.

"...Do you intend to leave me then?" he asked sadly.

"Leave you?! What do you mean?!" Fifi implored, shocked.

"That would be the best way to sever any ties to reality, if that's what you wish to do. I could erase everyone's memories of me... including yours. It would take some doing but -"

"Non! Ah don't want to forget tu!" the skunkette protested, growing tearful. "Tu are part ov mah life - tu alwayz ave been! ..Ah just deedn't know how eemportant tu were to moi..."

Upset, Fifi threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. Her Grandfather returned the embrace and squeezed her shoulder affectionately.

"I love you too, Petite`," he whispered as his eyes closed.

Her wide white cheeks smiled up at him a moment, before she blinked and remembered the human she holding was still the same being. It was an odd feeling. Kirrik noticed this and in the drawing of a breath, changed his form to that of the tall, silvery-eyed, black and white skunk once again and smiled at her. His white uniform vanished to become his old fashioned black and scarlet frock coat once again.

"That better?" Lord asked cocking his head to look into her eyes.

Fifi chuckled and said, "When weel ah evair get used to tu?"

The handsome skunk smirked and replied: "Oh, maybe in a thousand years or so."


Chapter LXVII

The Doctor looked towards the hatch in an odd way and whispered, "I think the others are starting to wake up."

Fifi looked around cautiously and whispered, "Maybe ah should go back to be weeth Hamtone."

Lord shrugged and asked, "There's nothing wrong with talking to me, is there?"

The skunkette felt guilty and confided, "Well, 'ee haz been noticing moi noticing tu, you know. ..Een zee beginning 'ee waz jealous."

Her Grandfather chuckled and leaned forward to whisper in her ear, but was interrupted by the sounds of someone coming up the stairs from below deck. Fifi slipped around behind Lord to the other side of the pilot house, ducking down to sneak back to where Hamton lay snoring. Arnold appeared from the hatchway, followed by Gogo and Wakko.

"I bet you can't," Arnold told the Warner kid.

"Naw, he'll never make it!" said the Dodo dismissively.

"Oh yes I will!" Wakko grinned as they walked to the side of the boat.

"Yes he will!" Gogo agreed with his usual zany chortle.

"Oh no he von't!" the Pit Bull huffed.

"Nein! Never in a million years!" the wacky green bird agreed.

"Oh yes I will!" asserted Wakko cracking his knuckles.

"Of coourse he will!" beamed Gogo.

Arnold tried to grab the Dodo by the head, but only succeeded in having Gogo's sailor cap come off in his hand.

"Arrrrgh!" he growled. "Who'z side are you on?"

"The opposite side! What else?" the loony-bird told him.

"Stand back," said Wakko. "Only a trained professional should try a stunt like this!"

The Warner kid stepped to the edge of the boat, paused as he turned his hat around backwards, made a googy face , then --


Wakko's tremendous belch jarred everyone awake, causing Calamity and Furball to fall out of the bunk they were sharing into a heap on the floor, made the red-winged black birds fly away in panic and caused the great blue heron to take wing.

"Excuse me," grinned the blushing Warner boy in the ensuing silence.

Then from across the vast stretches of the lake came the perfect echo of that huge burp. It's crudity echoed again and again, completely astounding Arnold and the others. Arnold opened his eyes so wide that his sunglasses slipped and hung on his muzzle.

"See? I toldya I could do it," Wakko grinned. "Excuse me."

Lord was rather amazed and laughed: "Well, my boy..that was... astonishingly rude!"

"Thanks Doc, I knew you'd be proud a' me!" Wakko simpered.

From out of the distance came strange noises that sounded like someone else trying to burp just as loudly, and then a young voice yelled, "WOOO-HOOOOO!"

As the rest of the Toonsters yawned and stretched, a rowboat came into view as it approached the STINGRAY from the center of the lake. Two boys sat in it waving. The younger one was very excited.

"Hi!! I...know you! We watch you on TV alot," the small boy said with a big smile.

"Hello," said the older teenager, evidently embarrassed and uncomfortable, but pleased nonetheless.

The rowboat came alongside and the toonsters looked down over the side into the old metal rowboat. The boys had evidently been trolling for fish using an electric motor.

"Catch anything today?" asked Doctor Lord.

The two boys looked nervously at the large toon and were slow to answer.

"..Nope. They're all too small to keep anyway," the teenager told him.

"Hi!" said Buster smiling. "We're Buster and Babs Bunny."

"No relation," added Babs with her usual flare.

"Um, Buster and Babs?..." said the younger boy innocently, "Know what?...You should have relations."

The bunnies' wide-eyed faces blushed crimson, then Babs was doubled up with laughter as the older teenage boy gasped in shock at his younger brother's faux pas.

"Oh! - RICKY!! How could you say that?!? Geez!!" he exploded.

"Whaaat?" asked the puzzled child.

Everyone on deck was now laughing and snickering along with the Bunnies, who were falling over each other and rolling with glee.

"Uh...he didn't mean it that way!...Sorry!...oh man!" the terribly embarrassed teenager apologized, putting his face in his palm.

"That's okay! We know what he meant - I think," Babs reassured him.

"Um.. what are you doing? Why are you here?" asked Ricky.

"We're training for a mission," answered Hamton, coming over with Fifi.

"Cool! For a new vid-eo game?" asked Ricky, standing up in the boat.

"Rick-y! Sit down!" his brother insisted.

"No, it's sort of a class trip," smiled Babs.

"Can I come?!" begged the little boy.

"Rick! _Sit_down_," ordered his brother.

Ricky finally sat down, but wiggled the boat and nearly knocked over their tackle box.

"Sorry," said Wakko, "but it's gonna be a dangerous mission."

"Are you gonna..try to catch the lake monster?" asked Ricky.

"Der Champlain Monster?" said Arnold. "I thought eet vas not real?"

"..It's real. I saw it," the teenager told him pointing out into the lake. "Right over there. A big black thing like a plesiosaur."

"That's a kind of a dinosaur," Ricky added, whispering.

"Non, we are not lookeeng for a monstair," Fifi told them.

"I can burp like you, Wakko!" interrupted Ricky, who proceeded to belch fifteen times in as many seconds.

"Rick-y - cut it out, yah monkey! Yer so rude!" complained the teenager.

"Yes I am!" Ricky said with a smart alecky grin.

The teenager sighed deeply and rolled his eyes at his little brother's antics. He began to drive the rowboat away.

"We gotta get going. Nice to meet ya. Bye!" he called.

"And shill-ah bop-bop-bop Bah!" continued the sassy Ricky.

"I like him! He's silly!" said Gogo.

As the rowboat made it's way off, the Toonsters waved goodbye and listened to the receding conversation.

"Ricky, cut it out."

"And shill-ah bop-bop-bop Bah!"

"Stop it or I'll hit you with an oar."

"And Wo-hoo's are cool!"

"Cut it out."

In the galley below, the others were stirring after being jolted awake by Wakko's monstrous eruption. The door to the officer's cabin opened and Plucky's head peeked out.

He opened the door and called back, "See ya in the water!" and streaked upstairs in his bathing suit.

Shirley yawned and followed him, but was surprised to find Fowlmouth sitting quietly on the ladder. His gaze fell as he saw her and the pretty loon nearly passed him before turning to speak, her feelings weighing heavily upon her heart. The silence lasted only a moment.

"FM?" she said delicately.

"..Yeah, Shoil?" he moped.

"Like... I'm rilly sorry I pushed ya in the water.." she apologized.

The rooster just shrugged and said nothing.

"An I'm totally sorry fer having hurt yer feelings..." she said softly.

"Naw, Shoil... it's my own fault fer tryin' ta catch ya on duh rebound dis summer," he told her, shaking his head. "An' seeing tings dat..weren't dere in duh foist place."

"It's not all yer fault..." the golden-haired bird said guiltily. "I like.. saw that Plucky and I were gonna be together in my crystal ball years ago, an' I tried to fight it... But it's like, just meant to be er sum junk."

"As long as yer really happy..." Fowlmouth said genuinely, as he finally looked up into her eyes.

Her white-feathered palm squeezed his shoulder and she leaned in close with an embarrassed smile.

"..I am....But like..don't tell anybody. Kay?"

Shirley's smile sweetened as she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and went up the ladder to follow Plucky. The rooster watched her go up the ladder without looking back. As soon as the loon was out of sight, Mary walked around the corner and poked a finger on his other shoulder.

"You all finished?" she asked.

Fowlmouth's beak slowly changed to a soft smile.

"All done."

"Good," she said as she leaned slowly in closer with a sultry look until she kissed him for a long tempting moment. Mary's delicious smile then watched him over her shoulder as she playfully ascended the ladder. FM sat dazedly staring after her, delighted at the prospects.

"..Dadgum it.. Yes, Virginia - dere is a Santy Claus!!" he exclaimed happily as he followed her.

Plucky's attempted swan dive turned into a straight plunge into the cold swamp water as he forgot about the heavier gravity. Luckily, the water was deep and he floundered his way back up to sputter at his comrades.

"Curse this dumb cold water! Darn stupid Reality!"

"Like, hey... what's that?" asked Shirley pointing.

Behind the soggy green mallard, a small pale form was half-floating, half-fluttering in the water.

"It's a fish" said Buster, as the others came over to look.

"Do fish usually swim on their sides?" asked Babs.

Lord studied the fish a moment and told them, "It's a white Perch. It's dying."

The Toonsters were disturbed at this.

"Like - What's wrong with it? Why's it dying??" Shirley implored.

"Well, the older boy said they'd had no luck at fishing.. this one must have been thrown back," Lord said.

"You mean they did it??" Babs asked unbelieving. "Those innocent-looking kids?!"

"I'm sure they didn't mean to kill it, Babs. Perch are very delicate and can die of shock."

The perch twitched and ceased its struggles, floating on it's side with the current. It's pretty white and green scales shone in the sun as its black and white eyes stared glassily at nothing.

Plucky stared at it closely and waved a hand under the water, causing the fish to begin to float away. It did not move.

"It's....dead," he said.

The other Toonsters knelt on the edge of the deck and looked on in disbelief. When nothing happened, they grew anxious.

"So... when's it gonna get a halo and start swimmin again?" asked Fowlmouth.

"..I don't think it will, FM," Mary said quietly, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"But it's just gotta come back - that's so wrong!" cried Babs. "It can't just die forever on account of such a senseless thing like this!!"

Lord stood tall and looked sadly upon them all.

"I'm sorry, but this is how things are here. Sometimes life is cheap. When an animal dies here, it dies forever..people too. And when they're gone...they never come back.. no matter how much we want them to."

"..Never?" asked Furball, his large woeful eyes growing misty.

"Hold on! We can save it!" shouted Gogo. "Get him to the ER! We'll do CPR - STAT!"

The Dodo looked around, expecting his animated ambulance to appear, but when it didn't, he looked lost as he realized it was impossible.

"Anagrams won't save him, I'm afraid.." Calamity pointed out mournfully, as the others looked on in silence.

"...Shouldn't we do something for him? ..Say something for him?" sniffled Hamton.

"I ..wouldn't know what to say, Hamton.." Buster apologized. "We don't have much death in the Tooniverse."

But Fifi knew what to say. She remembered the words spoken at her mother's funeral... and her father's... and her Grandmother's. She stepped to the edge of the boat and looked down solemnly at the floating dead form. Everyone watched in grave silence. Fifi folded her hands and spoke stoically, looking out across the dark waters of the lake, as the depths of irony of her own words haunted her.

"When zis corruptible shall put on incorruption.
And zis mortal shall put on... immortality.
Zen shall be brought to pass ze saying zat eez written,
Death.. eez swallowed up een victory.
O death..., where eez thy sting?
O grave...., where eez thy victory?"

With a fateful look of realization, she turned to her Grandfather, understanding at last the importance of his words to her.

The towering being saw it happening in her expression. His large, liquid silver eyes blinked slowly, the triangular white pupils becoming cat-like slits in the sun.

And Lord said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead... yet shall he live."

Hamton took Fifi's paw in his as Lord spoke. She knew his words were meant for her - for them both.

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

As the others bowed their heads in silence, Hamton and Fifi watched Lord's face as he regarded them. The skunkette saw the same icy expression she had seen the night he'd told her the truth in the maze, that same eerie, immortal stillness that seemed so alien to her. Hamton grew nervous and began to shiver as Lord seemed to be looking right through him. Everyone noticed and became puzzled as Lord slowly swiveled his staring eyes out across the lake.. then up into the sky. He stood frozen for a terrible moment - then spoke to them again.

"Everyone to your stations."


Chapter LXVIII

As the Toonsters looked at each other in confusion and walked silently to their places, their captain turned to Babs and Mary.

"Stand by to transmit, Ms. Bunny. Anything on the radar scope, Ms. Melody?"

Mary looked over her screen and said, "No surface contacts... waitaminute! ..There's three aircraft coming in.. two are subsonic.. one's coming in fast - off our stern quarter!"

Lord was already gazing in that direction and took the microphone from Babs.

"Dial up one fifty-seven and a half megacycles."

"And a half??" asked Babs in confusion. "Never heard of that!"

"Just follow my orders, please Ms, Bunny," Lord replied patiently.

"Aye-aye Sir," she answered.

Everyone nearby watched as Lord looked up into the sky and pressed the "Talk" button.

"This is the Doctor," he said clearly, "..Tango - Tango - Alpha!"

(Trinity & Beyond - #2 "Newsreel")

A new and exciting martial

theme played from the Doctor's mind, filling the Toonsters minds with electrifying intrigue as they joined him in gazing out across the mile-wide lake.

As a cascade of music fell, something shot towards the ship! The swift thing flew just thirty feet above the water with a whisper, kicking up twin tunnel-like contrails from it's engines and wingtips as it rocketed over the lake straight at them! In the time it took everyone to gasp, the craft roared up and beyond the boat, it's air-ripping thunder nearly deafening everyone! The eardrum-tearing shriek made the Toonsters cringe in terror, before they looked up again to see the gray F-14 Tomcat pulling up and away! The huge Navy fighter jet extended it's swing-wings as it slowed it's incredible speed and began circling the lake.

From out of the western sky came two other craft, beating the air to ribbons with their whirling rotor blades. The two Blackhawk helicopters vibrated ominously towards the STINGRAY, their screaming jet engines and mighty chopper-blades drowning out all other sounds with their walloping shock waves!

In his machine gun turret, Plucky felt the very air in front of him pounding like a jackhammer against his chest and he grew fearful. The monstrous machines flew closer and closer, their downdraft blowing up a maelstrom of waves and spray into his face and rocking the boat at it's moorings! Frightened, the duck was training his twin machine guns on the leading copter when Lord's mind shouted over the terrific din.

["Hold your fire!!"]

The two big copters stopped and hovered twenty feet above the water, their rotors creating giant windblown circles beneath them. Within the bubble-like front windows, helmeted figures waved and saluted from the cockpits, looking like giant insects rather than human pilots. The leading Blackhawk was a dark blue, while the second chopper was entirely black.

Lord waved to the pilots of the blue copter and the music turned from menacing to a proud bugle call as the pilot turned the impressive craft, rotating it till it's side was in view. Emblazoned on it's side was the red, white and blue bars and white star of the U.S.Navy.

Turning with a grin to his comrades, the Doctor said, "It's always nice to see that star!..These are the folks we came to see. Prepare to be boarded!"

Buster and the others shrugged and pulled out ladders to hang over the sides of the boat. The wind from the helicopters threatened to blow their hats off and the noise was deafening. Lord took note of the passengers in the black copter and his expression changed.

With a roaring blast, the two Blackhawks suddenly lifted up and flew over the STINGRAY to land on the grassy clearing ashore. The cold blast of the downdraft made everyone hang onto their hats and blew dust and spray in their eyes and noses. As they recovered, the Toonsters were surprised to hear a voice calling, but it came from behind them - from out of the water!

"Ship Ahoy! Request permission to come aboard, Sir!" a man's voice hailed from the stern.

Lord looked over the fantail and found a frogman in a black wetsuit gazing up at him through a swimming mask.

"Captain Chris Murray, U.S. Navy, reporting Sir," saluted the frogman.

"Permission granted," the Doctor smiled. "Let me give you a hand up, Captain."

Lord reached down for the man's hand and with one hand, lifted the wet figure onto the deck! The Toonsters watched in astonishment.

Captain Murray stood rather surprised at this. Even in his flat flippered feet, he was six feet tall in his wetsuit and scuba gear and weighed in at over 200 pounds. He carried an assortment of equipment on his chest and belt packs, including a huge wicked-looking dive knife and what appeared to be some sort of special machine pistol. He peeled off his mask, revealing a handsome rugged, chiseled face, a mustache and sandy, graying hair.

"Wow! That's some grip you've got Sir!" he chuckled good-naturedly.

"Welcome aboard the STINGRAY, Captain," Lord said calmly.

"Thank you Sir, excuse me one moment -" the big man said as he turned to pull out a small device from his dive belt. He held it up, pressing a button on it's side and shouted, " SEAL Team! 'Shun!!"

To their starboard side, a similarly dressed frogman popped up out the water, then another and another! They surfaced all in a circle around the entire perimeter of the PT boat as the surprised Toonsters all watched in amazement as they were quickly surrounded by underwater invaders! The humans removed their masks, and as their Captain turned again to Doctor Lord, all twelve of them saluted the tall skunk as one man. The Doctor stared tensely and returned the salute, slowly reviewing each man in turn.

The helicopters' rotors slowed as their passengers disembarked onto the green grass. The crews from both quickly deployed inflatable zodiac boats and began the short trip from shore to the STINGRAY. The first zodiac held a pilot and two civilians and the second had three naval officers. As they drew closer, Hamton and Fifi both recognized one of them as being the black-uniformed Admiral Chamberlin, whom they had met before at Lord's mansion - Lord's spy contact. After a nervous sidelong glance at each other, they threw a worried look at the Doctor. Lord's gaze lowered and he gave them a secretive wink as he ended the music he'd been playing with a brassy flourish.

The Navy SEALs clambered on board, their wet suits dripping onto the deck and their rubber swim fins squeaking underfoot, to remove their scuba tanks and gear. Even Arnold felt small by comparison to this group of large humans, who took up substantial room on board and made the Toonsters feel a bit intimidated. With a squelch, each of them pulled off the rubbery hood of their wet suit, revealing most of them to be rugged young men in their twenties. It seemed as though the Toonsters were surrounded by handsome, clean-cut giants.

Fowlmouth and Furball helped the officers climb the short ladders to stand on the deck. There was an older Admiral and his adjutant; a female commander, in pure white summer dress uniforms, and the secretive Admiral Chamberlin in dress black. The two civilians were both men in their early fifties, dressed in khaki shorts and matching teal colored shirts with an N.O.A.A. symbol on them. One man had a white mustache and dark eyes, while the other was bearded, like a college professor. All of them seemed very pleased to see Doctor Lord, except Admiral Chamberlin, who seemed to hang back from the others. As they came aboard, the officers all turned to salute the colors and the Doctor. Lord immediately led them around to the bow where they could not be overheard. The older Admiral stepped up to greet him.

"Welcome aboard the STINGRAY, Ladies and Gentlemen," said Lord, shaking hands with the humans.

"Thank you, Sir. Good to see you in action again," the gray-haired Admiral Hood replied with a slight Southern accent. "This is my adjutant, Commander Scholley. You already know Admiral Chamberlin."

"Yes indeed," the Doctor said quickly. "Now there is to be no more saluting or references to my rank in front of my team. My military service is to remain unknown to them, is that clear?"

The Admiral was a little taken aback, suddenly being given orders.

"Sorry sir, but as the service's only Grand Admiral, your rank is rather well known amongst us.. almost legendary. However, we'll tell the men."

But Admiral Chamberlin was already back with the SEALs, quietly doing just that. The frogmen listened and then went about their business of shedding their scuba tanks and flippers. Hamton and Fifi watched the gruff looking Admiral and exchanged a look as he walked past them without even giving them a sign of recognition. As Hamton continued to stare at the man, Fifi turned her back to look out at the water and spoke softly so only Hamton could hear her.

"Pavel must not want zee ozzers to know he eez one ov zem."

Hamton's wide eyes grew even wider as he remembered the secret of Lord's being in the military. Adopting a nonchalant expression, he whispered to Fifi out of the side of his mouth.

"You're right! He said it was classified."

Just then the Doctor approached the group with the officers and civilians behind him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard the STINGRAY. Toonsters, this is Admiral Hood, Commander Bobbie Scholley and Rear Admiral Chamberlin of the United States Navy. Our rather wet friends," he said gesturing to the frogmen, "are the US Navy's Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two. They are the Navy SEALs who have been diving on the wreck of the U.S.S.MONITOR, with Commander Scholley in charge and Captain Murray as Team Leader. Also with us are Doctor John Broadwater, Manager of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's MONITOR National Marine Sanctuary and Director of the Monitor Project, and his associate, Mister Jeff Johnston, the NOAA's Historian on ironclads."

The Toonsters all greeted the humans somewhat timidly, until Buster asked, "These are the guys that are gonna help us in our mission, right Doc?"

"That's right. They're going to tell us what we're going to be doing back in time and how to do it," Lord told them as he gestured to Admiral Hood.`

"Thank you Doctor," smiled the Admiral in white, "Today Dr. Broadwater and Mr. Johnston will be explaining our mission; giving you the historical background you'll need to know, what our objectives will be and the reasons for this mission. Commander Scholley and Captain Murray will be adding to that with their first-hand knowledge of the wreck of the MONITOR, as well the rest of the Diving Team. They'll also be teaching you some basic seamanship and terms so that you'll be able to understand what's happening when you're aboard ship back in the War Between the States."

"And whut's the other Admiral gonna do?" asked Wakko.

Admiral Hood stood silent a moment, without a clear answer to give. Before things could become tense, Admiral Chamberlin put on a smile and stepped up alongside his companion in white.

"I'm just here to see that things are all shipshape," the man in black chuckled.

"Well, our PT boat, the STINGRAY is sure shipshape!" said Furball with pride.

"And so is my head! See?" grinned Gogo pointing to his conical beak and putting up his umbrella-top. "I even have a mast and a sail!"

The crowd laughed and the ice was broken.

As the crowd mingled and the Toonsters introduced themselves to the humans, Lord drew Admiral Chamberlin off to one side to speak to him privately.

"So why are you really here, Dean? You know two members of my team know you now."

The man's gruff look returned and he said, "Security, you know that. As long as you and your friends are in Reality, it's my job to see that they remain safe."

"I can take care of that myself," the Doctor commented. "We didn't need the F-14 flyover or the insertion of the SEALs. Planes attract attention."

"The SEALs were going to be here for your project, regardless. Deploying them gave us additional help and gave them a break from doing all that saturation diving they did at the wreck site."

"I suppose you screened those people we saw on the ferryboat and those two young boys as well?" Lord said crossing his arms.

"As a matter of fact we did," answered Chamberlin.

"Well you're wasting the taxpayer's money needlessly."

"I don't think so, Pavel. After your last assignment, we have reason to believe that there may have been a security breech that could lead them to you," Chamberlin warned.

Lord turned with concern to face away from his comrade.

"Don't remind me. I already had to tie up some loose ends concerning that - and in a way that wasn't to my liking. It seems one of our foreign friends got wind of it."

"And just who was that?" asked Chamberlin insistently.

Lord's eyes shifted warily.

"Nothing you need be concerned with," he scowled, "Besides.. you know what a cautious fellow I am."

"It's my business to be concerned," the Admiral said, trying to keep his voice under control. "This little toon mission is risking exposure unnecessarily."

Lord slowly turned to him with a deadly whisper, "I'll take care of my own mission thank you. I'm quite capable of protecting them all."

The Admiral faltered and half-smiled, "I know you are. I'm not trying to cause trouble Pav, I just don't want to see one of my most valuable assets compromised. Anything can happen."

Lord's silver eyes focused on the man and blinked slowly, his expression unchanging. Only his voice softened.

"I realize that. I just don't want you breathing down my neck... I'm doing this for benefit of Mankind, because I'm tired of destroying life in order to save it. This will be more constructive."

The man in black shrugged and assented, "All right.. but we'll be watching. If one person can find out - others can too. Just remember that your people are vulnerable while they're here. Be careful."

The Doctor patted him on the shoulder as he went back to the others.

"Don't worry, I will."


Chapter LXIX

Lord returned to the main group and began to describe how the mission would proceed. The Toonsters were now happily mixed in with the divers, sitting on the few chairs they had and in lines atop the torpedo tubes and depth charges. Lord drew himself up to face everyone from the pilot house.

"Now, let's see how well everyone studied. Hamton? What was happening in America at the start of the Civil War?"

Hamton stood up nervously before the assembled group.

"Uh, the United States was divided into the Union and the Confederacy over the issues of slavery and state's rights.. uh and a civil war had begun because of it. The, uh.. the North knew that in order to control this war, they had to cut off the Confederacy's supply-lines."

"Very good," nodded the Doctor. "Shirley? How did they plan to do this?"

"Okay wull, like - the industrialist Northern dudes? They like, came up with this plan, ya know? Like, they didn't want the war tuh last a long time er sum junk.. I mean like - who would? Kay, so they like, made up this radical plot to like totally starve the South into submission - like such a drag ah'm sure!" rambled the Loon. "They like, would use all these ships and junk to totally hem in all o' the Southern coastlines! Are you there? They blockaded all the shore around the whole Southern States, I mean is that incredible er what? ..Oh and like they called it 'The Python Plan' er sum ghrody thing like that.."

"'Scuse me," said Jeff Johnston quickly. "Yer referring to 'The Anaconda Plan.'"

Shirley blinked and stared: " Oops! That's righteous dude. I knew it was like one of those mondo big snakes er sum junk."

"Totally," said a the bemused Doctor. "Now Buster - What position did this put the South in?"

"Mmm, spread-eagled?" quipped the blue bunny. After everybody stopped laughing, he continued, "Well.. the Rebels weren't planning on a long war - they thought they could win inside a year! But with all their seaports blockaded and nothing getting in or out, they knew they'd have to break the blockade somehow or they'd all run out of supplies and be in real trouble! They'd lose the war! ..See the Union had almost all the factories and were able to make guns and anything they needed, while the Rebels had lotsa farms and raw materials, but no way to sell 'em or turn 'em into things they could use! So they knew that to survive and win - they'd have to break the Union blockade."

"Excellent," nodded Lord. "Now who can tell me their two plans to accomplish this?"

Babs pink paw shot up and she jumped up and down.

"Oh! Oh! Me! Me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me!" she called.

"Yes, Babs?"

"Okay! Yes!" the pink bunny jabbered, pacing about. "I know this one! .. At first the Confederates thought it might be easy to break the blockade, cuz the Union didn't really have enough warships to cover all of it's coastline - but! The Union Secretary of the Navy - Gideon Wells - he bought all these civilian ships and put guns on 'em - even New York City's Ferryboats! So! The Confederate Secretary of the Navy - Stephen Mallory - he had no warships at all! So, he came up with this plan to buy some from Europe. But this was a problem, ya' know, cuz the European countries didn't really wanna get involved in somebody else's war! ..They kinda admired the South and didn't mind seeing the Union get kicked around cuz they got most of their cotton from the South - and they were thinking about selling stuff to them, but they wouldn't sell them any ships ...Er, what did I just say?... Oh yeah! Anyway,this Mallory guy was real smart! He had to come up with a ship that could destroy the Union's wooden ships- so he wanted an iron-clod: an armor-plated ship!"

"Non! Nonono! Eet'z not iron clod! Eetz ironclad!", interrupted Fifi proudly. "Zee French had zem fairst when zee Emperor Napoleon zee Third fought zee Crimean War against Russia. Zen een 1859, France built zee first sea-goeeng ironclad 'La Gloire.'"

"Humph!" smirked Babs. "That's the third time this month I've been shot down in flames by nationalism!"

The rabbit stuck out her tongue and made a saucy face and a raspberry at Fifi, who turned right around and gave one back at her. As the two schoolgirls spat at each other back and forth, the other Toonsters and the divers chuckled at their silliness.

"I hate to interrupt this mutual admiration society, but I think we should continue," said Lord. "Gogo? Can you tell me how the Confederates finally got the ironclad they wanted?"

The Dodo considered this problem and said, "Hmm... By singing 'Ave Maria' a hundred times and putting stinky cheese in their underwear?"

Everyone roared with laughter but Lord, who shook his head.

Gogo continued to ponder that answer a moment before speaking in his dry William F. Buckley Jr. voice.

"At the beginning of the War, The Rebels had no shipyards to build ships in, you see. But when the state of Virginia seceded from the Union, the Naval shipyard at Norfolk fell into their hands. Furthermore, several naval vessels and arms and ammunition were saved from being destroyed by the retreating Union forces.. including the partially-burned hull of the U.S.S. MERRIMAC. The Rebels raised her and found they now had the means to build their own ironclad - a deadly machine which could easily destroy the Union's wooden fleet, while their shot and shell would simply bounce off it's iron sides like so many basketballs."

"Excellent, Gogo. You never cease to amaze me," the tall skunk acknowledged with a nod. "Mary? Can you tell me what the North did next to circumvent this problem?"

"Yes, Doctor," said the dark-haired girl. "The Union had to have it's own ironclad to stop the MERRIMAC and keep the blockade from being broken. Since the Rebel ship was already being built - it was a race against time for the Union to build it's own iron ship. By accident, they found a design that could not only be built quickly, but might just be the best design to defeat the MERRIMAC. But weather this new vessel would even float or operate became the subject of hot debate...because it was unlike any other ship anyone had ever seen before! At first, the Naval Ironclad Board looked at the cardboard model of it and rejected it as impossible. It was taken to President Lincoln - and he was so impressed by it, that he insisted the Board review it again."

"Outstanding, Mary," the Doctor smiled as he walked around into the group. "I think our historian should take up the tale now. Jeff?"

The dark-eyed mustachioed human stood and shook hands with the much taller skunk. He spoke in matter-of-fact way, gesturing with his hands.

"Thanks Doc... The Union ship, the U.S.S. MONITOR, was designed and built by the Swedish engineering genius, Captain John Ericsson in Brooklyn, New York. This controversial vessel was entirely steam-powered, had no masts and sails, was built like a ship-shaped flat iron raft and had only two heavy guns. However, it was the first warship in history to carry these guns inside a rotating gun turret. It has been described as 'a tin can on a shingle' - or 'a cheesebox on a raft'. The northern newspapers called it 'Ericsson's Folly' and said the iron hull would never float and the men aboard her would be standing in their own coffin. The race to build her was a hard one and the tempers of the Navy and Ericsson flared many times. Even after the ship was launched, the Navy refused to pay or even commission her until she had proved herself in battle. So, hounded by doubters she set sail - or rather was towed - toward Hampton Roads, Virginia and her battle with the VIRGINIA."

"Waitaminute!" interrupted Plucky. "I thought the Rebel ship was called the MERRIMAC? Right?"

"It was, and still is called that by most people - even her own crew called her the MERRIMAC, but she was recommissioned by the Rebels as the C.S.S. VIRGINIA," Mr. Johnston told him.

"Hey Hamton! Zat place haz your name," Arnold noticed.

"Arnold? Tell us about Hampton Roads," said Lord.

The pit bull was caught off guard and sweated as he fumbled for an answer.

"Er... eet vas der harbor outside ov Norfolk? Yah! To ze north vas two Union forts undt several ov der blockading vorships, while de South held ze southern sides, yah! Just von day before der MONITOR got zere, der MERRIMAC- Oopz!.. Ich mean der VIRGINIA came out undt attacked der Union fleet! She rammed undt sunk von ship undt captured undt burned anodder. Eet vas der worst defeat fer de U.S.Navy until Pearl Harbor!..De next day, eetz vere the two ships met undt fought for hour hourz to a draw."

"Very good, Arnold," nodded the Doctor. "Furball? What was the outcome of the battle?"

The blue cat scrambled up onto the pilot house (after skidding down it's side once) and sat next to Lord.

"The Rebels thought they'd won cuz they saw the MONITOR leaving the fight, so they left. The MONITOR boys brought their ship back and saw the VIRGINIA leaving, so they claimed victory for the same reason!" exclaimed Furball. "But the VIRGINIA had failed to break the blockade, while the MONITOR had saved it... but people have been arguing about it ever since," the cat told him.

"That's wonderful, Furball," smiled Lord. "Anything to add, Jeff?"

"Yes," said Mr. Johnston. "In the short term - In one day's battle, the VIRGINIA destroyed two capital ships, damaged others and sent close to two hundred and fifty men to their deaths. The MONITOR stopped her and saved the fleet. The MONITOR aided General McClellan's attack on the Confederate capital of Richmond. She may have also kept England and France from entering the War on the Rebel's side.. or at least from supplying them with arms. . .At the time, President Lincoln praised the MONITOR and it's crew for having saved the Union from disaster... It's arguable on what effect the battle truly had on the War, but the effect it had on the rest of the world was immediate - all the navies of the world became obsolete overnight and every warship built since then has felt their mark - armor plating, heavy guns and the rotating gun turret were the wave of the future. The days of wooden sailing warships were ended forever."

"Thank you Jeff," nodded the Doctor. "Hmm, whom have we missed?" he wondered at the others.

Plucky hummed and tried to hide behind Shirley, but could not escape Lord's penetrating eyes.

"Plucky? What happened after the battle?"

The duck sweated nervously to recall.

"Um, well...the ships almost had another couple a' fights, but they er.. never happened. Then the MERRIMAC lost it's home base and was blown up tuh keep it from getting captured. The MONITOR sank in a storm someplace, that's all."

"Correct," agreed the Doctor.

The Pluckster heaved a sigh of relief and tried to lean against Shirley's shoulder only to receive a whispered "Pl-ucky! Not now."

"Now then -" continued Lord, as he paced around the pilot house to stand before the assemblage, "This shall be our mission - One: to witness and record all events in the years: 1861 through 1862 - related to the MONITOR and the VIRGINIA. Two: To recover the VIRGINIA intact before she can be destroyed. Three: To recover the MONITOR intact before she sinks."

Though the Toonsters had had an inkling of what might be in store for them, there was still an audible gasp from the toons. How could they bring entire ships back through time? The Navy divers also raised a few eyebrows. But the Doctor was prepared for this.

"If you don't mind, I'll anticipate your next question.. Why? These ships, particularly the MONITOR, were almost fifty years ahead of their time. For the men aboard her, she was cutting edge technology - like having magnetic force fields would be here in Reality. The MONITOR had over forty unpatented brand new inventions incorporated into her design; a forced draft system, a friction recoil system for her cannons, a unique steam engine, the first working gun turret system and some of the first flush toilets aboard a ship."

"Terlets?! So it had terlets! What's the big deal?!?" objected Fowlmouth.

"Try to get along on a ship without them and you'll find out," smirked Lord.

After everyone stopped snickering, they now listened to Dr. Broadwater, a soft-spoken bearded fellow with a gentle smile. He'd passed out some print-outs to show everyone. The first showed a side view of the odd-looking MONITOR: a flat iron raft with a flat iron hull underneath and a tower-like turret in it's center.

"If these ironclads had survived the war intact, they'd both be very valuable living museums today, like the famous frigate: 'Old Ironsides', the U.S.S. CONSTITUTION or the first nuclear submarine: the U.S.S. NAUTILUS. They could provide insights into how they were built and operated and we'd have better examples of nineteenth century metallurgy and workmanship. Also, these vessels became the icons of their day. The VIRGINIA was the most feared weapon of the Confederacy, causing the North to block their harbors to prevent her attack. After the first day's battle, there were reported sightings of her all the way up the northern coastline as far as New York and Maine! Secretary of War Stanton feared that not only would the Navy be destroyed, but that the southern monster would burn and destroy Washington DC, New York and Boston. The two ships came to symbolize the Union and the Rebels - songs were written about them and the men who manned them became heroes. They were the 'David and Goliath' of the Civil War."

"Yah mean that clay boy and his dog?" asked Wakko.

The human put his face into his palm and shook his head in disbelief as some of the other's laughed.

"If I may continue. Both ships are now nearly irretrievable. After the MERRIMAC was blown up, she was cut up for scrap and made into horse shoes. What's left of the MONITOR lies upside down, sixteen miles off Cape Hatteras in two hundred and thirty feet of water. Between the swift and dangerous currents and the accidental depth charging it got during World War Two, it's in too fragile a condition to ever be raised intact and it's corroded hull is eroding away at a frightening rate, even as we speak. If you'll look at the chart of it's deterioration, you'll see what I mean."

Calamity looked at the paper he'd been handed and saw the progression of the ironclads' erosion. It was nearly a flat pile of rust and debris, with the turret underneath.

"It would certainly be a shame to allow this marvel of engineering crumble into dust," the coyote said.

"Yeah, just look how it's fallen apart!" agreed Hamton.

"I got a few questions about this," said Buster. "If we're gonna be in this battle - couldn't we get killed?"

"During the actual battle, only one man was seriously injured," Jeff Johnston piped up, "and no one was killed."

"Yeah, but you said there was alot of people killed in the first day's battle," added Babs.

"Those were all on the Union ships that were destroyed," Lord told her, "and we shall be aboard the VIRGINIA at that time. Should I find that anyone ends up in a host body that is destined to perish - we'll recall the mission before it can happen."

"If we're like, inside these fighting men," gasped Shirley, "..Won't we be like - killing other people?? I could never do that. No way."

"As I said before," Lord said reassuring her, "when you are inhabiting another's mind, they are in control of what's going on. You're merely along for the ride and can do nothing to influence them. You won't be responsible for their actions. And remember - this was war and they were soldiers who knew what they were doing. ..At any rate, we cannot change history.. except in those few moments when the time stream is in partial flux and our hosts won't be present while we are ourselves. It will be in those times when we will save the MONITOR and the MERRIMAC."

"But we are not soldiers or sailorz," observed Fifi. "Eez eet right for us to do zees theengz?"

Admiral Hood stepped forward with a smile.

"I have been authorized to make it all legal by swearing you in as volunteer sailors in the United States Navy for the duration of this mission, if you so desire."

"Like - Me join the military?! HA!!"

"In yer dreams, pal!"

"No way, Jose!"


"Forget it!"

"I'm outta here!"

"We're history majors!" cried all the Toonsters.

"You'll get all the pay and benefits retroactive to 1861!" grinned the Admiral.

"Hmmmm..." thought all the Toonsters.

"You'll be heroes!" grinned Commander Scholley.

"Ehhhhhh..." considered all the Toonsters.

"And free ice cream!" grinned Dr. Lord.

The Toonsters quickly went into a huddle, muttered a second, then clapped like a football team and turned to the humans.

"We'll do it!" announced Buster. "...But ya have to get dates for Wakko, Calamity and Furball - and Gogo wants a 1952 Waring Blender."

"With extra chrome plated attachments!" added the Dodo with a leer. "Rrrow Rrrow!"

"You got it!" smiled the Admiral with a laugh.

"Heh, we were just kiddin', Doc," Babs chuckled. "Of course we'll do it."

"Well you'd better if you want a passing grade," smirked Lord dryly.

The bunny reacted in shock and then giggled at the Doctor's joke.

"Eh-heh-heh-heh... you're kidding too, aren't you?" she grinned sheepishly.

Lord leaned down to chuckle as she had: "Eh-heh-heh-heh...no."

The tall skunk's sudden seriousness took the bunny by surprise, deflating her ego. She expected to shrink to a few inches high in a toony reaction, but of course - she just stood there looking dumbfounded.

The Admiral came to attention and Commander Scholley gave him an old, yellowed piece of paper.

"Would you all step forward and raise your right hands - er paws?"

The Toonsters stood as a group confidently facing the Admiral and the ship's flag. Their four-fingers paws rose as one. Captain Murray pulled a silver bosun's whistle from his wetsuit as the company came to attention. They all saluted as he blew the shrill squeaky whistle and piped them aboard. The Admiral continued.

"Do you solemnly swear to uphold the Government and Constitution of the United States, to support the President and the laws he represents, and to obey the orders of your superior officers so help you God?"

"We do," agreed all the toons proudly.

The lady commander unfurled a small pale blue flag with a single white star in it's center and stood to attention.

"Do you solemnly swear to uphold the Government and the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, to support it's President, Jefferson Davis and the laws he represents, and to obey the orders of your superior officers so help you God?"

There was a moment's hesitation as the toons all looked at each other in confusion, then they all chorused, "We do, Suh!"

"Ah say! We shore 'nuff do, Suh!" said Fowlmouth imitating his mentor.

"..Then by the authority vested in me by the War Department and both the United States and Confederate States' Navies' - I hereby accept you as volunteer seamen in both navies. Advance and be welcomed!"

The Navy divers gave a rousing cheer as the Toonsters all shook hands with the Admiral and the other officers. It was a glorious moment.

"Okay, there's something ya gotta learn - the most important thing to say in the Navy," said one of the divers.

"What's that?" asked Buster.

"Just four little words..." said the fellow, looking to his comrades, who all shouted in unison: "GO NAVY!! BEAT ARMY!!!"

With this, the Doctor had Gogo open up the galley to everyone and soon drinks were flowing freely as the Toonsters were welcomed into the Service. Admiral Hood made a toast to their mission.

"Here's to your first mission! May you all have fair winds and following seas!"

As the toons raised their Coo-Coo Cola, Fifi asked Commander Scholley, "Excusez moi, Commandair - but vat does zat mean, exactly?"

The well-tanned brunette in the white uniform told her, "It's an old naval traditional wish - to have a good day at sea with good weather and having the ship going along with the current. It means 'the best of luck' to a sailor."

Fifi looked sideways to see Hamton smiling back at her.

"It looks like our mission has officially started!" he said with excitement.


Chapter LXX

For the next few hours, the Toonsters were taught basic seamanship by the US Navy Diving Team, while Dr. Lord sorted out the details of the mission with the officers below deck. The SEALs went out in their Zodiac boats, teaching the toons to steer and to help set up a few targets across from the ship on a tiny strip of swamp land. The Toonsters learned quickly about nautical terms of navigation and the handling of ropes. Everyone did fairly well at tying knots except Plucky, who wound up tangled in a series of running bowline knots and sheepshanks. He lay bound with the cords while Shirley and the others giggled at his predicament.

"Get me outta this, for Pete's Sake!" the Pluckster squealed.

"Hmm, I dunno, ya look kinda cute this way," Shirley joked.

"I keep telling you, Mister Duck," said Commander Scholley, "It's 'the rabbit comes out of the hole - goes around the tree - and back into the hole'. That's how you tie a bowline."

"Rabbits! Rabbits! It's always rabbits!!" raged Plucky, thrashing under the lines of hemp and getting himself more tangled. "Isn't there an overly trite but helpful phase about ducks?!?"

"Hmmm," thought Babs. " How about 'dead duck'?"

"ARRRGH!! Never mind the overly trite but helpful phrases!! GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!" screamed the duck.

"Like, chill out Plucky," Shirley said calmly, as she reached for the loose end of one of the ropes. "We just pull this through this loop and-"

With a short easy tug, the Loon caused the entire tangle to fall off of the furious fowl, much to his surprise and disgruntlement.

Doctor Lord strode up the hatchway with the officers following. With a serious face, he walked into the midst of the group.

"There's one lesson you need to learn before we return to the past," he said, "Captain Murray? May I borrow that formidable-looking sidearm of yours?"

The Captain took his machine-pistol from it's holster and handed it over. Lord handled the weapon with ease and flipped a small switch on it's grip. He turned to the Toonsters, showing it to them.

"Even though your human hosts will be the ones handling weapons, you'll need to know how they work so that you can report accurately what you've experienced."

"Eh, don't worry Doc," Buster told him. "We know how to handle - or rather not handle guns."

"Yup!" chortled Babs. "We all took Yosemite Sam's Shootin' Irons 421 class!...er - all except Shirley."

"Know anything about handling live explosives or demolition?" asked Captain Murray.

"Slappy Squirrel's .357 Magnum class," nodded Calamity.

"Heheheh!" laughed Arnold at the coyote. "I thought you took Vile E. Coyote'z 'How to Get Blown Up' Class, Colonel Klink!"

Calamity growled at the dog making fun of his voice, but Lord ignored the jocularity.

"Be that as it may - you'll have to get used to _this_."

So saying, he turned the weapon at arm's length, pointing it at the gunnery targets set up on the spit of land. His eyes became slits as he aimed.

Suddenly the whole world seemed to stop in it's tracks as the tremendous shot rang out! The Toons all winced and held their ringing ears in shock. Not only had this first shot been terrifyingly loud - it was nothing like they'd imagined. There was nothing glorious or thrilling about it, just an ear-splitting blast as the gun fired a single shot. Lord stood still focused hard on the target, the gun barrel smoking and motionless. The target, a propped up watermelon, had a clean black hole drilled through it.

Lord lowered the weapon and handed it back to the Captain. Wordlessly, still focused intently on his gunnery target, he strode with deadly purpose to the nearest of the PT boat's machine gun turrets and climbed inside, his huge frame barely fitting within the firing cupola.

As, the Toonsters and humans rushed to the side to watch, Lord slammed two magazine belts into the twin 50. caliber Brownings, the brass shell casings of the five inch-long bullets gleaming in the afternoon sun. With practiced precision, the sliver-haired skunk flipped two small switches on the guns' hard sides, releasing the safetys. With a sound of sliding ball bearings, Lord swiveled the lethal twin machine gun barrels onto the target. His face took on an almost metallic cast and Fifi's eyes went wide with alarm! Might this bring on his Berserker's fury?

The Doctor (and everyone else) held their breath and their ears. With a sudden movement, Lord adjusted his sights, zeroed in on the green and yellow watermelon and blazed away! Twin jets of flame burst more than a foot from the muzzles of the guns, sending deadly tracer-fire drilling through the ripe fruit! In a moment, a neat row of bullet holes scored the center of the target - then the melon exploded in a shower of pink and red everywhere! When the terrible racket ceased, everyone cautiously looked in shock at where the watermelon had been, their hands still covering their ears, to see what was left.

There wasn't much. The greenish-brown ground was covered in red. Lumps and bits of red mush were scattered across the area, showing the bullets' path - but the melon had been decimated. For all the world - it looked like a bloody crime scene. Shirley and a few others turned away from the disturbing sight.

Fifi watched Lord's face for telltale traces of the Berserker, but none came. Instead, her grandfather snorted, blowing away the remaining gunsmoke, his expression unchanging. He put the safetys back on the guns and slipped out of the turret to face his pupils.

"Any questions?" he asked grimly.

When no one said a word, he nodded and said, "Very well. You understand why Shirley is a conscientious objector then. This is a very serious business... and it has to be treated as such."

The humans watched the doctor and nodded approval at his lesson and marksmanship. The Toonsters could only stare in suppressed shock at the lethal power they had witnessed.

At four o'clock, the naval officers bid everyone goodbye and climbed into their black helicopter. The divers were to follow soon, but they first wanted "a little R and R" and got into their Scuba gear again. As they gunned the motors of their inflatable zodiac boats and began skylarking around the PT 537, Dr. Lord decided it was time for everyone to get a break.

"Alright sailors, stand down and let's have some fun!"

With a cheer, the toons raced below decks to get on their bathing suits, the girls getting the forward cabin, while the boys took the one next to it.

"Didja geta load of those big divers?" gossiped Babs as they dressed. "I've never seen such stud-muffins back home!"

"Get real, Babs!" said Shirley. "Stud-muffins?! Like, ah'm sure! Humans do totally zippo fer me!..Um, like no offense, Mary."

"Oh I agree!" nodded Mary. "I prefer toons. I mean these guys are nice and all.."

"That's whut ah'm sayin'," Shirley concurred. "Physically, they just don't get me goin'."

"Oh come_on! Those big hunks didn't ring your chimes?!" laughed Babs. "They're sooo smart too!"

"And like, this is coming from 'Lil' Miss Engaged'?! Ah'm sure!"

"Yeah," agreed Mary kiddingly. "You not happy with Blue Boy anymore?"

"Don't be silly, I love Buster," the pink bunny said carelessly. "It doesn't mean that I've lost my taste for beefcake, though. What do you think, Feef?"

"Oh, zey were okay. Ah deedn't mind zem watching moi," the skunkette said slipping into her red bikini. "Zey were not too bad - at least humanz are weethout fur."

"Seems to me you've already got a cute guy like that, huh Feef?" smiled Babs, pulling on her yellow dotted string bikini.

Suddenly from the boys across the hall, they heard Plucky laughing: "And to your left is a naked pig!"

There was a round of snickering heard, followed by the snap of an elastic waist band and a yelp from the Pluckster.

"YEOW! Not the Atomic Wedgie!!"

As the girls listened to Hamton's spiteful giggle, they shook their heads at first before breaking up into laughter.

"Boyz weell be boyz, no?" Fifi giggled.

After the girls all laughed, Mary posed a serious question as she slipped her hot pink bikini on.

"Say, Shirl? Are uh..are you back together with Plucky again?"

The Loon hesitated, "..Wull...."

"Come on!" Babs insisted. "It's confession time! Don't tell me ya took him back?"

"..Um, like ..yeah, we're totally a unit again," the Loon admitted with a dreamy smile. "It's waaay cosmic - like written in the stars!"

"Well, as long as yer happy with him," Mary smiled to herself.

"Yeah, so you went and bagged yerself a bird too, huh Mary?" Babs joked, elbowing the human toon.

"I think FM is nice!" Mary said feigning innocence.

"Underneath that rough exterior - he actually is," Shirley acknowledged.

"Az long az vous are both happy togezzer," Fifi agreed.

"Uhhh..what about you, Feef?" the pink bunny inquired, finally getting a chance to find out what was troubling her. "You seem down in the dumps lately - and I don't mean the Acme Junkyard. You and Hamton doing okay?"

The skunkette turned her back to them to adjust her bikini top - and to hide her anxiety.

"Oh..non. We are fine...ah just..." she trailed off because she could say no more.

Shirley picked the answer to cover for her friend.

"Like, don't tell me you have fears of commitment, girlfriend!"

The Loon's cue was picked up, "Oui!..ah .. just don not know what to do..."

"Well, how do you feel about being with him?" Mary asked. "I mean, deep down, how do you feel about Hamton?"

Fifi sighed deeply in thought and said simply, "Well.. when we are - how you say? Cuddleeng? ..And 'ee holdz moi tight and ah snuggle heez chest.. and ah can close mah eyes and feel hiz breathing.. and hear hiz heart beat - ah know zere eez no place ah'd rather be... and eef ah had to die... zat eez where I would want to be."

The other girls were smiling dreamily and as Fifi finished, they all uttered a communal sigh. This broke them up with girlish laughter.

"Sure sounds like true love to me, Feef!" grinned Babs.

Art by Thorne

As they emerged on deck the girls were assailed with wolf whistles as the Navy divers hooted at them from their speedboat close alongside. Flattered, the toonettes did their "Amazing Three" poses, with Mary adding a nubile dash of sauciness to the mixture.

"Arf! Arf! Arf!" barked all the divers, as the clapped their hands.

Babs elbowed the other girls aside to glory in their adulation.

"That's it!" she simpered provocatively at them. " Bark like good little Navy SEALs for me!"

One of the men smirked and pointed to Babs' string bikini.

The others laughed and began to sing.

"It was an Ittsy-Bittsy-Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - that she wore for the first time today! "

As the SEALs roared with laughter, the guys came on deck and began singing the song too. Babs eyes went wide in realization and she stared at her comical swimwear.

"I bought it for a song, so I guess I have to pay for it with one!" she quipped, blushing.

(The Ventures - "Hawaii-Five-O")

A flurry of snare drums slammed out a machine gun-like drum roll as Dr. Lord played the fast-paced and fun "Hawaii Five-O" in everyone's minds! As kettledrums gonged, the Navy divers flew across the lake in their two Zodiac speedboats, charging and leaping the waves with their outboard motors' propellers screaming through the air! They grinned as they weaved their fast, ultra-light boats wildly across the path of their larger consort.

Thundering along just behind them came the STINGRAY! The music's electric guitars and trumpets began to sing as the big PT boat zoomed along at full speed with Dr. Lord and Arnold at it's helm. The ship's prow burned a sparkling white bow wave through the dark blue swell as the ship's engines howled, her three propellers turning the water to cream!

Behind in the STINGRAY's wake, at the ends of their tow lines, the Amazing Four were water skiing! Fifi, Babs, Shirley and Mary skated across the surface of the lake four abreast, like a precision skiing team. Their young limbs glistened with spray as they swayed and bounced, holding tightly in their skis, their arms outstretched as they held the towing bars. The girls smiled confidently as their hair flowed back with the wind and began a sweeping maneuver from side to side, creating huge rooster tails of spray as their skis sliced the waves!

The SEALs zoomed alongside the exciting foursome, waving and barking their seals' bark, daring the young ladies to action.

"Let's show 'em, team!" called Babs.

With an approving smile, the Fabulous Four began a series of synchronized moves and poses as the song's next stanza began. Their arms swept in graceful unison to each side, up and down, right and left, like a water ballet! They switched hands on their towing bars perfectly and swung their legs back into a synchronous arabesque! Grabbing the towing bars with both hands, they suddenly jumped and spun around to face backwards, holding their thighs and skis high! The SEALs cheered and whooped as the pretty toonettes turned forward again. The girls looked overhead to wave skyward!

A hundred feet above them flew the boys, para-sailing! As Buster and Hamton waved back from their own tow lines, Plucky and Furrball spun spiraling through the air, their multi-colored parachutes twirling behind them! Wakko hung on Calamity's tow line, while Gogo sat on Fowlmouth's shoulders. FM nearly lost his grip blowing a kiss down to Mary, but the Dodo held onto him before throwing a slide bar over the tow line.

"Alfred E. Newman Lives!!" yelled Gogo as he jumped loose and did a "Slide for Life" down the tow line to the ship, hanging from the bar by his hands! The long cable wire sang under his weight as he slid down it like a mouse sliding down a kite string! His landing was a bit harder than he'd imagined, but it was safe enough for Wakko to try.

"Schmenky!!" shouted the Warner kid as he slid down Calamity's tow line. He let go and double-flipped joyfully onto the STINGRAY's stern!

"Schmenky was Geronimo's brother-in-law," he told Gogo with a grin.

As the boys waved to the girls, the SEALs' boats sped up ahead of the ship, challenging Lord and Arnold to a race! The smaller, lighter Zodiacs weighed almost nothing and soon were leading the sixty year-old warship. The SEALs barked their victory!

Arnold growled for vengeance and looked to the Doctor. As a significant guitar riff rang, Lord turned to him with a smile, then looked above the ship's wheel to the lever. Arnold's sneer became a toothy grin as Lord shifted the ship to it's hydrofoil state!

As the the music built to a climax, the ship's hydroplanes extended down from the bow, from under the stern and the hull into the sea. The propellers swung downward and as the music arose, so did the STINGRAY! With a sustained roar, she flew past the SEALs with all the Toonsters waving back at them as the music came to a triumphant end!

After more water skiing hijinks, it was time for the Navy Diving Team to go. Lord brought the PT boat to a stop as the two Zodiacs stood awaiting their ride in the helicopter. After saluting the crew of the STINGRAY, five of the SEALs donned their swim masks and flipped backward into the water in the center of the lake. The remaining crew zoomed back to the waiting helicopter, leaving the men stranded in the water.

"What's the idea?" wondered Plucky. "Why are they leavin' those guys behind in the water??"

As everyone puzzled about what was going on, they heard the roar of rotors and the navy blue Blackhawk appeared, swooping down to hover over the frogmen waiting in the waves. With the wind and spray, it was hard to see, but something was dropped from the open door of the chopper. Then as the rotors beat the air and everyone's ear drums - the copter slowly rose straight up.

As the Toonsters watched, the men in the water were drawn up out of the water on a single rope, dangling like fish on a line. The Toonsters waved as their newfound comrades rose into the sky, waving from their lofty height. It was an amazing stunt, carried out flawlessly. The divers were still waving when the Blackhawk flew out of sight. The heavy sound of the chopper blades blew away with the wind, leaving a peaceful silence and a sense of accomplishment in the hearts of all.


Chapter LXXI

While some of the Toonsters changed out of their swim wear, Wakko and Calamity began hauling in the trailing tow ropes. As they scampered about the stern,

(Batman - #6 "Clown Attack")

pulling the wet ropes in and coiling them - something was stirring beneath the dark waters... something immense. It swept silently along, watching the bottom of the ship's hull, it's rudders and propellers. It heard the sounds of speech and felt the vibrations of footfalls on it's deck.

The sun was beginning to set as the four couples stood leaning against the pilot house, looking at the beautiful reflections of the pine trees upon the water. No one spoke - the scene was too wondrous for words.

As Wakko carried a coil of rope to the hatchway, he thought he felt the ship shift slightly. Perhaps it was just a wave slapping the hull, he thought. He dropped the rope and turned to get another. As he walked back to the stern, an odd ripple stirred the water by the ship's side in his peripheral vision. He paused to look - but saw nothing but the mirror-smooth lake. He shrugged it off and picked up the next rope and began to haul it in. The rope was very wet in his hands..and it smelled. It stank terribly and Wakko held his nose. It smelled of the bottom of the lake, he thought: like mud and diesel oil and old garbage and soap and paint all mixed together. A smell he didn't like.

"P U! Whut's that smell?!" he said to Calamity who was noticing it now.

"_Good_ heavens! My olfactory nerves will never be the same!" gasped the offended coyote. "Have you had bad burritos lately?"

"It wasn't me," the equally nauseated Warner told him.

Behind them, bubbles began to rise from the water, filling the air with more swamp gas. The bubbles grew bigger and bigger.

"Well, if it wasn't you.. and it certainly was not I, then...who??"

There was the sound of something slapping the water. While Wakko shrugged again and coiled the stinky rope, Calamity peered out at the lake. There was nothing on the horizon, no other boats or anything. He too, shrugged and turned back to his work - just as something swept up towards the stern.

The dark blue water turned black and seemed to move upward. A strange wave formed, moving towards the boat - a black, oddly- shaped wave. It slowly grew bigger and bigger, wider and longer. It's humped shape rose above the still waters, higher and higher!

Wakko turned again and saw this odd wave moving toward them, but he turned away again, taking it as just another part of Reality's strangeness. As he walked forward with a smile and the last coil of rope, his comrade suddenly sensed whatever it was.

Calamity stared as the hump grew taller and then slipped under the water about a hundred feet away. In silence, he gaped as the shape came towards them under the water, becoming more distinct. He saw the head of the thing, a very long neck, an impossibly huge, bulky black body adorned with paddle-shaped flippers and a very long tail! Speechless, he watched as the underwater creature came closer and closer! His fur stood on end with horror as the leviathan swept under the boat silently! His terror was doubled as he saw that the gargantuan beast was longer than the PT boat was! It kept coming - more and more of it moving below in the black depths!

Too terrified to speak, the petrified Calamity turned to face Wakko, his fur standing completely on end, his horrified eyes staring, his jaw gaping in fear!

"Aw' c'mon, the smell isn't that bad" said Wakko.

(Batman #7 "Batman to the Rescue!")

Calamity walked in fear like an automaton to the pilot house and the couples all looked up at him in confusion. Finally, he could stand it no more.

"MONSTER!!!!" he exploded before diving down the after hatch to the engine room.

Just then the huge sea serpent burst from beneath the surface! It's sickly yellow eyes glared balefully at the toonsters and it's jaws dripped with slime! The splash of water nearly drenched everyone!

With terrified shouts, the toons ran in panic for the wheel!

"DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!" Buster yelled at Hamton as everyone ran to the opposite side away from the monster!

The pig grabbed the wheel and jammed down the ship's telegraph to "Emergency Speed"!

"It's Champ! What'll we do?!?" exclaimed Hamton.

The boat lurched ahead suddenly as Arnold threw the engines to full speed. Everyone hung on for dear life as the STINGRAY surged forward! Shirley was thrown toward the rear bulkhead, but Plucky caught her before she could hit it! They hung hand in hand as the ship roared away from shore.

"Where'z zee Doctor?!" cried Fifi and bolted below to look for him.

"I dunno! Where is he??!" shouted Shirley.

The PT boat raced along up the lake, throwing spray and waves before it. Behind in it's wake, the monster roared a grumbling growl and plunged after it, it's bow wave crashing and boiling thirty feet into the air! The titanic beast charged after them, like a savage killer whale!

"It's after us!!" yelled Buster. "What'll we do?!?"

"Well," said Babs calmly, "if we were home, we'd think of some funny and clever plan to whomp it over the head or something -"

"But we're not home!!" yelled her fiancee. "What can we do??"

"Well," continued Babs, "I don't have any disguises with me, so I can't very well make him think I'm a female sea serpent, now can I?"

"BABS, THIS IS SERIOUS!!!" screamed Buster!

"Okay, I guess the usual methods are out then. What do you think we should do, Cap'n?"

"Yes! You're our leader!" agreed Hamton.

"Shoot it!" yelled Plucky.

"NO! We can't!! You saw what happened when Doc fired that gun!" shouted Shirley over the din.

"That'd kill it!! We can't commit murder!!" said Babs.

The Champlain monster was beginning to gain on them as it shot through the water, it's head snaking in and out of the surface after them!

Buster thought of the dead watermelon he'd seen and closed his eyes to think hard. The boat's engines roared under the strain!

"I've got it! We'll use the hydrofoils and get away!"

"We can't!" cried Furball from the windswept bow. "The ferry's coming up! If we hit the cable, it's goodbye Charlie!"

"Who ist Charlie?" asked Arnold popping out of the after hatchway.

He took one look at the monster following them and disappeared back down below.

"Then what can we do?! It's coming!!" Plucky bellowed.

Buster's eyes flew open, a look of fierce determination on his face.

"Plucky! FM! Prepare to fire!"

"Now yer talkin'!" muttered the duck as he and Fowlmouth climbed into the machine gun turrets.

"BUSTER!!? YOU CAN'T!!" yelled Babs.

"That's cold-blooded murder!!" agreed Shirley.

"We're not gonna kill it - we're gonna scare it! We'll fire in front of it and drive it off without hurting it," the blue bunny answered.

"Whatever you say, Cap'n - just do it now!!" called Fowlmouth.

Plucky pulled back the gun charging bolt as he'd seen Lord do and switched off the safteys on his machine guns, while FM did the same. The monster and the STINGRAY were racing along at breakneck speed! The great beast's tail slapped the water like a thunderclap, sending up an enormous splash!

"Aim across it's bow - I mean - DON'T HIT IT!!" shouted Buster.

The monster roared, it's jaws full of wicked teeth.

"FIRE!" yelled the blue bunny.

Plucky and Fowlmouth pressed their triggers and the four machine guns blazed forth, the streaks of flame flaring out at the water in front of the charging leviathan! The ear-splitting din was fearful and the girls held their ears and closed their eyes to the conflagration. The tracer bullets left a streak of yellow-orange into the water, where a sheet of spray leapt into the air as the bullets struck! The fowl kept firing, their gun handles shaking in their hands, as spent shell casings fell like raindrops onto the deck. The guns "BRAT-AT-TATTATTATTATTAT!!!" was deafening! Both finally ceased their fire, the gunfire echoing across the lake into nothingness. The toons stared, trying to see through the falling spray...there was nothing there! The monster was nowhere to be seen. The water grew calm in their wake, but suddenly the beast sounded like a whale, flinging itself up into the air and falling with a resounding crash back beneath the waves. It was still after them!

Hamton began to zig zag, trying to throw the creature off track, but only succeeded in making himself and the others seasick with the wild swaying.

"Not again!" cried Plucky as he slumped over his guns.

"It didn't scare him off - now what!?" yelled Babs, as she clung to Buster.

"Take the wheel!" shouted Hamton, suddenly scampering back to the stern. "Furball! Help me!"

Buster took the wheel and held tight as he wondered what the pig was up to. Hamton crouched on the fantail beside the depth charge rack, working with a small metal tool to activate the drum-like depth charges. The monster lurched after them as they roared past Fort Ticonderoga heading south!

"Ah can't find zee Doctor!" called Fifi from the hatchway, "He's not on board!!"

A sense of doom clouded everyone's mind now, but Hamton and Furball worked frantically at the depth charge racks. Time ticked away as the creature gained on them again!

"HURRY! HURRY!!" yelled Plucky.

Hamton's piggy fingers struggled to set the depth charges and arm them, while Furball copied his actions on the other rack of deadly "ash-cans".

"How do we do this?!?" cried the cat desperately.

"I saw this in a movie once! Just hope it was historically correct!" Hamton cried, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

When the charges were set, Hamton held up his arm to signal Buster.

The bunny steered the boat onto the monster's oncoming path and yelled " ROLL 'EM!!"

Hamton and Furball tripped the racks, sending the heavy cylindrical depth bombs rolling into the water! With big splashes, the charges fell off the sides, tumbling into the lake - right before the lake monster! As Hamton and Furball crouched down, scared of the coming explosion -

Art by Pepe K.

The lake water lit up brilliantly for a split second - then the roar of a detonation blasted everyone's ears! The concussion waves made the boat tremble and blew a geyser of water forty feet into the air! Hamton and Furball suddenly found themselves drenched as though a rainstorm had fallen only on them. The terrible blast was followed by another and the STINGRAY was shaken from stem to stern! Buster grabbed ahold of Babs, while Fifi and Shirley were knocked from their feet to the deck. Hamton and Furball clung to the anti-aircraft guns for fear of falling off the ship.

"Heh, let's hear it for historical accuracy," a soaked Furball grumbled.

Finally the water calmed behind them and their wake ran true and clear. There was no sign of the monster. The shipmates looked at each other in relief and began to smile -

BADUMP! Something rammed the ship's hull from the starboard side, sending it skidding to port! Everyone fell this time. Gogo was in the galley trying to hold the fifty dishes on the counter to keep them from falling, but was unsuccessful! He watched the pile of china wobble in his arms, then it spilled all over the floor with a horrible crash! All he managed to catch was the coffee pot. When the Dodo realized it was made of metal and wouldn't have broken anyway - he threw it atop the smashed crockery and jumped on it in frustration.

Mary ran up on deck just in time to see the huge sea serpent coming in for another attack.

"Cool! It's a Plesiosaur! What a find!" she crowed.

The monster seemed to hear this, it's expression turning angry and it bumped the boat again!

"Eeek!" shrieked the toonette as she ran to seek shelter with Fowlmouth.

Buster pulled the ship away from the massive beast and drove off toward the opposite end of the lake. With a crash of waves, Champ spun around and dove after them! The creature submerged, throwing a wall of water forward and causing the boat to skid in it's course.

"What'll I do?!?" thought Buster. "I'm supposed to be in charge!"

"BUSTER!! DO SOMETHING!!" shrieked Babs.

"We've got to delay it till we can get to shore!" he cried. "On land, he'll never catch us! But how-"

With fierce determination in his eyes, Furball ran to take the wheel from the blue bunny. The others were surprised at him.

"I know something we haven't tried," he said grimly. "Arnold! Prepare to fire the torpedo tube!"

"Vas??" gasped the dog, dropping his sunglasses as he looked up again through the hatchway.

Wordlessly, the big pit bull rushed to the forward starboard torpedo tube. He pulled a panel open and tried to set it to fire.

"You can't, Furball! You'll hurt the monster!!" pleaded Mary.

The dripping cat's brows were furrowed with resolution as he gripped the wheel with both paws and gritted his teeth.

"We can only take so much before we have to defend ourselves! I've learned that the hard way before... Would you rather let it eat us?"

Mary backed away fearfully and shook her head. Buster stepped back and held on to his fiancee.

The monster was now five hundred yards astern of them and was slowly gaining on the fleeing boat.

"Arnold - are you ready?!" shouted Furball.

The big dog was guessing at the buttons and switches he was operating, but most of the lights on the panel were lit up as he sweated over the long green tube.

"Uh... Yah - I think zo!... I hope zo!!"

"Stand by to fire! Everybody -HANG ON!! Ready About!!"

Reaching the edge of the lake, Furball spun the wheel and the PT Boat went with it, skidding sideways a hundred feet as he turned her a hundred and eighty degrees about! The ship and crew shook wildly as she came to a halt, the spray flying everywhere in a rooster tail that splashed the pine trees on shore. The engines roared and the ship paid off and began to move again - straight for the monster!

"Furball!! What are you doing?!?" yelled Buster.

"Making a torpedo run!" the cat grunted as he hunched over the wheel.

The STINGRAY headed on a collision course with the giant charging beast ! The couples grabbed ahold of each other, some shielding their eyes from the sight of the black monster's glaring yellow gaze! Several tons of force were about to either just miss each other - or collide head on with bone-crushing violence! The Toonsters trembled as they awaited their fate. They raced closer and closer!

Arnold sweated profusely over the last switch. He tripped it and the torpedo's propellers began to spin wildly inside the tube!

"TORPEDO RUNNING HOT IN ZE TUBE!!" he yelled in panic!

Furball's sweating brow tightened. The torpedo had to be launched now - or it would explode! Carefully, he turned the wheel just the last few degrees...and lined up the shot!

"FIRE ONE!" he shouted.

"TORPEDO - LOS!!"Arnold called as he hit the lever, sending the deadly "fish" shooting from the tube with a hiss of compressed air and into the water!

Furball peeled the STINGRAY away to port as the torpedo raced through the lake to it's target! Everyone cringed, shutting their eyes as they awaited the explosion....that never came!

There was silence except for the engines as everyone stared at where the monster had been. Now there was only an eddy, as if it had sunk from sight.

"What happened?" demanded Furball. "Didn't you arm the torpedo?!?"

Arnold froze in silence.

"...Vas I supposed to?"

Everyone slapped their foreheads as the dog sheepishly grinned.

At the dock, Mr. Shannon was waiting, watching the sunset.

"How do, kids! How was your day? Anythin' happen?"

The wet and tired Toonsters looked at each other in exasperation.

"You might say that," commented Babs dryly.

Suddenly from behind them there was the roar of Champ! The monster had found them and was climbing out onto the shore!

"AAAAAAHH!! IT'S THE CREATURE!!" screamed everyone!

Quickly, the Toonsters and the human scattered into the woods in panic, running to their horses and galloping back towards Lord's mansion to escape! Soon most were out of sight except Fifi, who had hidden behind the boathouse to see the creature up close.

As she watched, the tremendous black creature walked out of the water, it's bizarre face searching silently for them among the pine trees. Slimy mud and water fell like rain upon the pine needles from it's mountainous humped back. The mammoth beast came to a halt in the clearing by the house and stared at the shadow where the skunkette was hiding. It's eerie yellow eyes looked quizzically at her, as if knowing she was there. Fifi shivered, her fur standing on end!

Then the monster began to laugh.

It was a strange chuckling sound from deep within it's black leathery bulk. Puzzled, Fifi walked out slowly towards it. The laugh became familiar..

"I thought you knew I didn't like to be called a creature," it said to her.

In the drawing of a breath, it grew smaller and changed to the form of -

"Grandfather!" Fifi gasped in shock!

"I told you I can alter my form. You should believe me," said Lord, standing up from his crouched stance and smiling. "It was a pleasure testing you all."

"Testing us?! Vous call zat wild chase a test?!" laughed his granddaughter.

"How better to discover everyone's capabilities under stress?" he smiled, his silver eyes glowing in the low light.

"Zen zere waz never any danger - cuz eet waz tu az zee Monster!"

"No danger at all. I've been a sea serpent for centuries. Humans need a little fantasy in their hum-drum lives," the Doctor chuckled. "Now - let's go home!"

Fifi shook her head and with a grin, she ran up and hugged him happily.

But just at that moment, two wide eyes saw them in the twilight. Hamton gasped silently!

Look for the next Chapters of -


coming to you soon.