Welcome to the Fifteenth installment of -


(Winner of 30 UKE Awards)

Please send all comments to pepe.k@eudoramail.com or looneyk@earthlink.net

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

This story contains many references to music, some of which you may be familiar with. It contains and was inspired by the music of Danny Elfman's film soundtracks. In order to enhance this experience, I've made notations as to where each specific piece of music fits into the story. If it's available to you, I'd strongly suggest getting the CD or cassette tape, so that you'll not only read the story,but hear it happen as well.All the music is available on CD. Most is from Danny Elfman's Original Motion Picture Soundtrack "EDWARD SCISSORHANDS" (#MCAD-10133) and MUSIC FOR A DARKENED THEATRE -Vol. 2, and William Stromberg's original motion picture soundtrack of "TRINITY AND BEYOND" (The Atomic Bomb Movie)

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

This story is dedicated to my Beloved Wife.

In Memory of the Brave Crew of the Space Shuttle COLUMBIA

and of

Mr. Fred McFeely Rodgers

1928 -2003

For Karen Plunket-Powell

and for

Eric Donahue

1971 -2003

May his music live on....

All historical data of the years 1861-1862 contained herein is based on authenticated facts.

And now - Part 15 of -

- "A Time to be Silent"


Chapter LXXII

"What just happened?!? What's going on?!?" thought Hamton frantically as he watched Fifi and Dr. Lord climb onto their horses and ride away.

He had returned just in time to see his skunkette hugging their teacher after the huge sea serpent "Champ" had come ashore to chase the Toonsters. Now he found himself alone, standing in the silent pine woods as twilight closed about him. Here he was in a dimension not his own - and ...what had he just seen?! Was Fifi cheating on him??! No, she couldn't be! They were practically engaged! She said she loved him! They were soul mates! They were intimate! No, it couldn't be true! ...But... suppose it was? She'd acted strangely ever since Lord had showed up. She had dismissed his jealousy before and he'd believed her! He'd asked her what was wrong and she'd said it was something else! Could Fifi be lying to him??...

"No!", he shouted to himself as he began to pace madly back and forth between the trees, "We promised not to keep secrets from each other anymore! She wouldn't lie to me! Maybe she was just happy to see him after he'd disappeared...But why is she so close to him?! They've only met a few days ago!"

The silent forest held no answers for him and his mind had only desperate questions. Hamton's anger and confusion made his head spin - or it would have if he had been home. Here he was frantically wanting to explode with an overloaded mind and he couldn't! His toony wild takes couldn't happen here. Try as he might, all Hamton could do was stamp his feet and snort angrily! In frustration the enraged pig grabbed the trunk of the nearest tree and without thinking - smashed his forehead into it!

The pain was blinding! Hamton staggered back, holding his throbbing cranium - and was further shocked as the pain did not diminish.

"Darn! Darn!!" he whimpered miserably as he half sat - half fell to the soft ground and hard pine roots and realized that he wouldn't recover instantly. "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!! Why did I do that? Oooh!" he groaned as he held his head in his hands as if it were about to come off. "What'll I do now??"

"Hamtone! Vat happened? Are tu all right?" asked Fifi's concerned voice.

Art by Thorne

He turned just as the skunkette ran up to him from the road, leaving her horse behind her. Dr. Lord also quickly dismounted and rushed to his side as well.

"We came back to look for you - what happened??" Lord asked worriedly.

Between the intense pain and his jealous resentment, Hamton didn't want to answer and covered his eyes to hide his real heartache. Fifi squatted next to him and held his shoulders, trying to see where he was hurt.

"Hammy, deed tu hit your head?!" she pleaded, taking his hands.

"...Yes..." he mumbled, wanting to turn away.

Fifi's night vision picked out a dark stain forming on his forehead.

"Oh Mon Dieu! Hammy you're bleeding!!" she cried.

In shock, Hamton looked at the hand he'd just been pressing to his aching head and saw traces of fresh blood on his palm.

"Oh no..." he moaned with wide eyes.

The Doctor quickly pulled out a white handkerchief and folded it into a pressure bandage. He gingerly wiped away the scraps of pine bark and cleaned the wound.

"Here", he said placing it over the cut, "Now hold this on it. The bleeding will stop in a minute."

Hamton continued to stare at the red drops on his fingers in disbelief.

"But toons don't bleed... we don't get hurt...Ohhhhh!" he suddenly groaned as an icy chill ran through his body and he slumped forward into Fifi's arms.

"Oh Hammy, vat eez eet?!" the purple skunk begged as she hugged him to her.

"...I feel cold.. faint..." he moaned.

Lord quickly stood and whipped off his jacket to wrap around Hamton. His huge waistcoat covered Hamton's smaller body like a cloak. Carefully, he laid the boar on the ground with his head cradled in Fifi's lap.

"How do you feel, son? Are you dizzy? Do your ears feel strange?"

Hamton chewed his lip and said "No... but my stomach is upset."

Lord leaned down close and looked into his eyes. Hamton looked up into the silver stare, inches from his face and saw concern. Still, he averted his own eyes and pulled the coat closer to him. Tiny beads of cold sweat dotted his forehead. The Doctor sat up and bundled the coat around him.

"He's a little shocky, but that will go away in a moment" Lord told Fifi. "You'll be fine, Hamton. Just relax for a minute, then we'll take you home."

"How can I relax?" the swine mumbled bitterly as he looked up at their anxious faces. "Now I can't be angry at them", he thought to himself, his eyes shifting in resentment within his aching skull.

"Do not worry, mon conniechon! We'll take care ov tu!" Fifi promised, looking worriedly down at him.

Hamton's lips pursed and un-pursed as his jealousy tried to keep him from looking up into his true love's eyes. Cautiously he glanced up at her - and saw a tear in her large eyes. Whatever was going on - he saw that she was genuinely crying for him. His heart began to soften, but as Lord moved to sit beside him, his anger returned to brew and simmer. The three looked at each other in silence as they waited for him to recover.

"I thought you said there was no monster" Hamton said finally, with a hint of mistrust in his voice.

"Obviously I was wrong", Lord admitted easily, "Quite an astonishing creature to find in one's own backyard! I was impressed by your defense of the boat. Where did you learn how to arm and fire depth charges?"

"From an old movie..." the pig said warily, "What happened to you? Where did you go?"

"I was watching from shore. You handled it well."

Fifi saw where the questions were leading and interrupted, checking Hamton's bandage.

"Ah theenk ze bleeding haz stopped, Hammy. Maybe we should go now?"

"I think you're right, Fifi. It's best that we get him home quickly", Lord said briskly as he helped Hamton to his feet. "Easy now. Can you walk?"

Hamton stood and pulled the coat tightly to himself, uncomfortable between them. His head began to throb again and he instinctively reached out for Fifi's shoulder. Lord put out a hand to help him, but he clasped onto the skunkette's arm in a gesture that stopped the Doctor.

"I can walk, thank you" he muttered as the pair slowly walked to the waiting horses.

Their horses waited on the road as the sun finally dipped below the horizon, leaving it's fading rays filtering through the darkening woods. The pain in Hamton's head was slowly ebbing, but climbing onto his steed took considerable effort and he slumped in his saddle dizzily. Lord took the lead on his huge white mare while Fifi followed, holding the reins of Hamton's mount. Both she and the Doctor kept looking back at him with concern as he wobbled atop his plodding equine, thoroughly uncomfortable. Lord sat upright, his white pupils glowing as he thought ahead to the others.

["Shirley! Everyone! Return to the transporter immediately. We'll be leaving for home the moment I arrive."]

["Like, what's up Doc?...mmm Deja vu..."] came Shirley's thoughts.

["Hamton has been hurt. Nothing serious, but we should get him back home as soon as possible. Please get everyone together. I'll contact Andy Fox to arrange the transportation."]

["Fer sure, Sensai!..Um, I hope Hamton's like - not too blitzed er sum junk."]

["Don't worry, just get everyone together. We'll be there soon."]

Lord stopped his breathing to concentrate as he attempted to contact the vulpine scientist in his laboratory back in the Tooniverse. His few attempts yielded no results, just long blobs of noise. He retrieved a large blue crystal from his vest pocket, concentrated on it and tried again.

["Andy! Andy Fox, do you copy? Come in..."]

The next blurb of noise sounded almost like two long words.

["Please repeat your message, Andy. I'm not reading you well."] Lord thought slowly and clearly.

["Ssssllllloooooooooooowwwww.....dowwwwwnnnnnnnnnnn"] said the fox's voice as if it were on a vinyl record played at the wrong speed.

"Mm! I should have remembered that..." the Doctor said aloud.

"Qu'est ce que c'est?" asked Fifi from behind him.

"Time in the Tooniverse is passing more slowly than it is here, so my thoughts are sounding too fast for Andy to read and his thoughts sound almost too slow for me to read. We'll have to compensate."

["Ssssspeeeeeeed...uuuuuuuup,... Aaaannndrrreeewww."] he thought back to the fox though the glimmering crystal.

["IIII thought III tollld youu nnot tooo calll meee thaaat."] came the slightly faster but indignant reply.

The Doctor smirked slightly as they rode on towards the house thought the high grass of the meadow, but he continued.

["Ssooooorrrrrrryyyy... Pppprrrrreeeeppaaaaaarrrre... ffffooorrrr ... rrrreeeettrrrriiieeeevvvaaaaaalllll... iiiimmeeeeedddiiiaaaattllllyyy."]


Lord slipped the crystal back into his pocket and looked back over his shoulder.

"As soon as we get to the transporter, we'll go right home."

"How are tu feeling now, Hammy?" Fifi asked with concern, bringing her pony back alongside Hamton's horse.

The pig tried to keep his throbbing head from bobbing along with his steed's strides, as that made it ache all the more.

"Hurt" he pouted, looking at her from the corner of his eyes.

"You'll be all right soon, mah cherie`", she told him compassionately,"Tu should be healed zee moment we get home, yes?"

Hamton bobbled around in his saddle, trying not to look sullenly at her and thought "It 'll take longer than that."

The three rode on in silence across the darkening landscape of Vermont. The tall shadowy pine trees and the eerie stillness were broken only by the thud of the horses's hooves, adding to Hamton's troubles.


Chapter LXXIII

"Whadya mean Hamton got hurt? How?" demanded Plucky.

"Like, how should I know? The Doc didn't say" shrugged Shirley, "He just said it wasn't serious, but that we should hit the road immediately."

The fowl couple stood at the transporter in the old hallway of Lord's Vermont home with most of the other Toonsters and waited.

"Well, I wouldn't mind a quick departure", said Babs, "My ears are a mess!"

"Yeah, my feet feel all dirty" Buster agreed, picking dirt from between his toes.

"You think you got it bad?!", whined Gogo imitating Don Rickles' voice, "I've got a very serious wackiness deficiency here, ya hockey puck!"

"Yah," nodded Arnold, "Undt I could use a shower."

Everyone else froze - looked at him - and then glanced away with rolling eyes and said "Yes."

"All right, let's be on our way" the Doctor announced as he entered the hall with Fifi and Hamton before him.

Wearing the Doctor's waistcoat, Hamton shuffled along unhappily.

"Hey! What happened, Hammy?" asked the Pluckster running over, "Heh...ya look like like a shrunken Doctor Who in that outfit."

Hamton's face grew red and he was about to yell at the duck when Plucky noticed the large jagged cut on his friend's forehead.

"Oh my gosh!", cried Plucky, "What happened, buddy?! Are ya hurt bad?!"

"Ya ever heard of anyone being hurt good?" remarked Babs as the others crowded around their injured friend.

"...'Ee hit hiz head", Fifi said, speaking for him, "'Ee waz bleeding when we found heem."

Everyone regarded the wound in dismay, never having seen such a thing before. The sight of the drying blood shocked them.

"Bleeding? No wonder you warned us against violence" Buster said to Doctor Lord. "Did it hurt alot, Hamton?"

The unhappy pig was embarrassed with everyone's eyes on him.

"Yes. And it's not going away", he whined, "Can we just go home?"

"Yes", agreed the Doctor, "Let's get - Wait! Where's Wakko?"

"Here I am!" called the Warner kid, running up from the end of the hall.

"Don't tell me" said Mary attempting to silence him.

"Yup!" grinned Wakko like a naughty child, "Potty emergency!"

"I asked you not to tell me that" remarked Mary, imitating the voice of Maxwell Smart.

"Onto the Transporter platform, everyone" Lord called, fishing into his pocket for the bluish crystal again. ["Aaaannndyyy... aaaaarrrrre.. .yyouuu ...rrrreadyyy?"] he thought to the Tooniverse.

["Powwwwerrrr aaaat onnnnne hunndrrrred perrr cennt. Rready too ennnerrrgiiiize!"] came the fox's answer.

The massive control console came to life as everyone formed a circle around it. The Cosmic Diffuser's concentric metal rings began to glow with radiant energy and the sizzling electric spark gap snapped into existence between the two vertical wires of the giant Jacob's Ladder over their heads. The Toonsters gathered on the platform, ducking their heads as the monstrous spark rose with it's usual "ZZZZ-ZZZZZZZZZ!" sound up the wires to break with a nasty snap at the top. Fifi wrapped a protective arm around Hamton as the rest all held hands. Hamton looked up at the falling sparks and felt a strange wind blowing through the hallway as the machinery caused a storm outside the house - and didn't care. He felt ashamed at harming himself, angry at both the Doctor and Fifi - and at a total loss as to what to say or do. He decided to split the difference and say nothing until he was alone with her again.

["Rrrrrraaaaaise..powwerrrr..to...onnnnne..hunnndrrredd.. fiivve ..perrcennt!...Opennnn ..Zzz' Eyyye!"] thought Lord, his eyes glowing a luminous white.

The Toonsters clutched at each others' paws as the machine's electrical change made their fur stand on end. Many of them watched their wounded friend worriedly, as the laser-like transferal positioning beams played over their bodies.

["Rrready!"] announced the Fox.

"Here we go!" called Lord over the sound of the sudden rainstorm outside. ["Traaaannsssporrrt!!"] he thought and said simultaneously as he pulled the main lever up!

As everyone looked up, the beams focused down as bright as a super nova and made them shut their eyes. As the machine and it's occupants de-materialized, George Shannon ran into the hallway, just in time to see Lord's fading form waving goodbye to him. As he skidded to a stop, the toons faded out of sight, leaving nothing but the sound of the rain on the roof over his head.

Mr. Shannon stood silently for a moment, pouting at their unannounced departure, before turning away, shaking his head.

"Kids today", he sighed, "Rush, rush, rush..."

Back at Dr. Lord's mansion, Andy Fox stood watching the mixture of machinery as it hissed and thundered in the vast underground laboratory. On the video screen before him, the face of the window-like Z'Eye shifted it's ever-changing liquid patterns of color and imagery, shooting blue and red transferal/ locator beams onto the empty hole in the ceiling where the transporter platform would soon appear. The alternating flashes of red and blue made the fox dizzy with radical changes in visual perspective.

"This is worse than watching "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" in 3-D! I should have brought popcorn..." he said blinking at the wild lights.

For a moment he imagined seeing the outlines of the circular platform forming like a cross-sectional drawing, then suddenly it was there and retracting down the thirty feet to the floor where he stood. The Toonsters stood atop it rubbing their eyes as it lowered to click and lock into the base of the machine, the towering Jacob's ladder and the Cosmic Diffuser descending along with it. In the midst of the smaller toons, the Doctor was pushing up the last of the over-sized levers as he shut down the machine.

"Why does this place remind me of the camera room at Warner Brothers?" commented Plucky.

"Yippee! We're home!" shouted Gogo Dodo joyfully. With a leap, he spun in mid-air, turned cartwheels and handsprings and split into seventeen miniature copies of himself.

"Vo-Doe-Dee-O! Vo-Doe-Dee-O! Vo-Doe-Dee-O-Do!!" chorused all the dodos that now filled every corner of the room.

"Groovy! My doo is like - back to normal!" Shirley smiled, primping her perfectly coiffed blonde curls.

"My ears are back in shape!" Babs exclaimed joyfully.

"So's the rest of you, Babsie" Buster said with a leer, admiring her silky fur.

"At last! My feathers aren't messed up and sticky and sweaty!" announced Plucky, slicking his feathers into a semblance of a suave haircut.

Babs did a joyful spin-change into Julie Andrews' Maria character, whirled around and sang "THE HILLS ARE ALIVE-!!"

"WITH THE SOUND OF MUCOUS!!!" sang Buster, interrupting.

As everyone else groaned, Babs hit Buster over the head with a guitar. KAT-TANNNNNG went the broken metal guitar strings! Babs did another spin-change into Quick-Draw McGraw and glared angrily at the rabbit with a broken guitar around his neck and little Baba Louies spinning around his head.

"Hoooooold on thar! Ah'll do the singin' around here!" admonished the horse-faced Babs, "And doooooooon't you for-get it!!"

Buster's voice cracked and his eyes spun as dizzily as his head.

"Thank you for saving the rancher's daughter, El Ka-bong! Euuugh..." he said with a goofy grin before collapsing.

"Hammy - look! Your head eez all healed!" Fifi said planting a kiss on his now-perfect pink pate.

Hamton rubbed his forehead cautiously, finding his wound gone. He brightened for a moment, but the source of his pain remained. His frustration grew, knowing that he couldn't say anything about it in public. His jealous mind raced unchecked and his rage grew as he saw both Fifi and Lord smiling.

"I'm hungry" he muttered, biting his lip.

"Well, everything's back to normal!" commented Mary.

"Humph!", thought Hamton to himself, "More nasty comments about my weight! Even Mary's getting into the act now!"

The angry pig's brow furrowed but he held his tongue.

"Speaking of which - that reminds me to remind you!", smiled Wakko with a twinkle in his eye, "We said we'd zap Plucky later and now it's later!"

Plucky looked warily at the others and began to back away with a sheepish grin as they began to advance on him with malicious smiles.

"Yah!" said Arnold.

"Yeah!" agreed Fowlmouth, rolling up his sleeves.

"It's Clobberin' Time!" concurred Babs, spin-changing into the ever-lovin' Thing from The Fantastic Four.

"Oui!" grinned Fifi.

"Yeah!" growled Hamton.

"Now hold on a minute!", squawked the backpedaling duck, "Didn't ya learn anything from being in Reality?! Violence doesn't solve anything! It just causes pain ... mostly to me!!"

"As usual, the duck always tries to weasel out of it!" thought Hamton, as the focus of his anger became his offending friend.

As the Pluckster was backed into a corner, Shirley stopped her friends.

"Like...Plucky's right. Violence totally isn't the answer...Even though he like, bugged me the most...I'm willing tah forgive him" the Loon said with a coy smile at her beau. Then with a smirk she added, "Especially if he apologizes er sum junk."

The duck bristled at this and Hamton's frustration grew.

"Apologize?!?" the green mallard exclaimed.

A small glowing ball of sapphire-colored energy grew between Shirley's thumb and index finger and her angelic face became devilish. Faced with imminent zappage and the malicious grins of his peers waiting for him to grovel out an apology, Plucky recalled his motto: "If at first you don't succeed - give up". Lowering his eyes and sweating, he mumbled an apology under his breath.

"What was that again? I can't heeear you?" Babs jeered.

"Alright, alright!", the Pluckster said in surrender,

"....I'm...gonnabe...Sorry... ifIdon'taplogize..." he muttered.

"Like - say what?" Shirley demanded.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry already!" the duck finally glowered.

"Well that's not good enough for me!", Hamton declared as he lost his temper and swept towards the mallard malefactor, "Yer always picking on me, getting me into trouble and using me!"

"But Hamton - that's what a sidekick is for, chum!" countered Plucky.

The now-furious pig drew up to stare down snout to beak with him.

"Well then I'm through being yours! All yer nasty comments have been far too personal lately!", shouted the boar, clenching his fists, "First you call me fat - then you call my girl stinky!"

"Ya know any pigs and skunks that aren't?!" retorted the duck.

The paw that Fifi had on his shoulder didn't stop the enraged pig as he swelled with anger to a intimidating size and made an astoundingly high jump into the air. Plucky and the others watched in shock as Hamton shot up towards the ceiling, then the duck quacked wildly in panic a second before he was flattened by the pig's plump posterior!

While the other's watched with shocked faces, Hamton stood up purposefully, dusted himself off, and marched with a determined look up to Dr. Lord. Behind him lay Plucky, squashed in the shape of Hamton's fanny on the floor.

"Ho-kay, who ordered pressed duck??" asked the mashed mallard in a goofy voice before popping back into shape.

As everyone else stood in shocked silence, Hamton found himself facing the towering skunk; his fists clenched, his teeth anchored like a mule's and his body swollen with rage. Though he was surprised at the pig's sudden behavior, Lord looked calmly back at him. His wedge- shaped, icy white pupils stared eerily through the pig like a basilisk, freezing him in his tracks. Hamton knew what he wanted to yell - how he wanted to accuse the Doctor of messing with his girl... but faced with the piercing silver stare of Lord's chilling eyes and the presence of his peers - he backed down and misdirected his frenzy.

"Uh...You said we'd get free ice cream!" he blurted out, "Well, I'd like mine now... please..."

The Doctor crossed his arms patiently.

"That is true", he stated emotionlessly, "Very well. I shall take you all out for some. It looks like we could all use a break before our first time trip."

The Doctor stood waiting, until Hamton's angry brows lowered and he turned away towards the door to the elevator. Fifi scampered after the grumpy pig with concern as he marched away. The rest of the Toonsters paused nervously before following him in a puzzled silence.

Lord sighed and began to follow, calling to Andy Fox, "Coming?"

The fox stood with a still-raised eyebrow and nodded.

"I believe I will. Recent events seem to warrant some examination ...besides, since you seem to only stock this place with real cat-food, I could do with some lunch."

The Doctor smiled in his usual mysterious fashion as they followed the others to the elevator.

"Next time before you jaunt off somewhere, could you feed yer cat first?" continued Andy, "My paw-fur is gonna smell like yucky meat by-products for days."

"Well with your diet I should think you'd be used to that" Lord smirked.

"Quiet, you."


Chapter LXXIV

After an uncomfortable silence in the elevator, Hamton continued to march out of Lord's mansion in a huff. It wasn't until they reached the street outside that Fifi had the courage to ask him what the matter was.

"Nothin'" he said shrugging it off.

Behind them, Buster and Babs were also puzzled at the pig's sudden flare of temper. They hopped alongside Doctor Lord and held a quiet discussion on their way to get ice cream.

"I don't get it, Buster! There's weird stuff goin' on around here!"

"Ya mean besides the trip to Reality, us all joining the Navy and getting chased by a monster sea serpent?"

"Just possibly", she said mussing his ears playfully, "Okay! Plucky and Shirley are actually getting along. Shirl is even being romantic with him. He's actually being nice to her! Even when he gropes her tail - she doesn't get mad at him! She doesn't even zap him into a pile of ashes! She even forgives him - and he actually apologizes!"

"Gee, and what about that strikes you as out of the ordinary?" remarked the blue bunny sarcastically.

"And Hamton - Acme Acres most congenial, non-confrontational, peace-loving, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly guy suddenly blows his stack and beats up his best friend with his butt!"

Buster did a spin-change into his "Brainy Domes" character complete with a bubble pipe and Deerstalker hat.

"And what - I say what - is so unusual about that, Flotsam?", he asked in his snooty British accent, "The pig has always had a little nasty streak, has he not? Do you not recall his using the duck as a vacuum cleaner?"

"True, Domes. He can behave like a perfect swine", said Babs spinning into her "Doctor Flotsam" character, complete with a mustache and bowler hat, "But -"

"Butt me no butts, Flotsam! Mister Pig-guh is obvious-ly the social-ly repressed type - holding all his emotions within a thick shell of inhibitions and prone to explode when thing-zuh overwhelm him!"

"By Jove! That's positively wizard, Domes! In which school did you learn to make such astounding deductions?"

"Elementary, my dear Flotsam! Elementary!"

As the Doctor rolled his eyes at the joke, the bunnies spun back to being themselves.

As they walked around the corner, Wakko joined the Doctor.

"Say Doc? Where we goin'?"

"The best ice cream parlor in town - Muhlmeister's, of course."

The Warner kid's eyes rose in thought.

"Oh yeah, I remember! ...It's gone, y'know."

The tall skunk blinked in surprise.

"What? Oh dear..."

"Yeah, it changed hands back in the eighties", Wakko told him, "They called it "Muhl-monster's".

"Yeah!", exclaimed Babs with a grin, "The Big Eighties!"

"Now it's "Le Trendy Deserterie" said Buster.

Lord looked reflectively at the buildings around them and sighed.

"That was one of Red's favorite places to go in town..."

Wakko's chin drooped sadly as he said ,"Doc...I've been wantin' to ask you... can I please visit her?"

Lord's pace slowed and his hand slipped onto Wakko's sagging shoulders. The Warner kid's eyes nearly closed with emotion as they slowly walked on together.

"Of course you can, son" Lord said softly.

"Le Trendy Deserterie" stood singularly as one of the more gaudy places in downtown Acme Acres City. The multilevel pink stucco building had crazy windows slanted at wild angles and a school bus and an airliner stuck into it's sides. Despite the look of this bizarre establishment, it was what was parked at the curb that caught the attention of the Toonsters, and especially their Professor.

Sitting there was a bright yellow, diamond-shaped racing car. From it's pointed black nose to it's twin tail fins, the auto was streamlined and dangerous-looking. Hamton's fury took a back seat as his curiosity got the better of him.

"Wow! That's one mean-looking machine!", he exclaimed, "Number Nine?...hmmm, where have I seen that before?"

"Look at zee one next to eet! Ah've seen zat een a movie somewhere, no?" said Fifi, pointing to a golden-colored Aston Martin DB 5.

"Like, that's "Le Trendy" fer ya!" observed Shirley, "Celebrities to the max!"

The Doctor had no reaction other than eying the scene warily.

The Toonsters found the restaurant reasonably quiet for a Monday lunch crowd and had no trouble finding tables or booths for themselves. Buster and Babs found a table with Shirley and a very sore Plucky.

"Oh joy, oh rapture!" cried the pink bunny, "I finally get to have my fave desert in a nice, smoke-free environment! A Carrot Crunch Santa Fe Sundae Surprise, please?...uh - and sprinkled with orange Pixi Stix!"

"Bartender? Gimmee an Electric Blue Cherobyl on the Rocks, heavy on the Gamma rays... with an Evil Dead Zombie chaser!" Plucky told the waitress.

"Like, what's wrong, babycakes?"asked Shirley with concern.

The Pluckster slumped on his elbows and sighed, "I'm drinkin' myself ta death and nobody better try an' stop me!"

"All you'll get from that stuff is a terminal brain-freeze, Mister Hemingway", remarked Babs, "I oughta know."

"Something troubling you besides paranoia, Plucky?"asked Buster.

"I Am Not Paranoid!" stated the mallard, "It's just that everybody's out to get me!"

"Like, I think Hamton's butt flattened more of Plucky than we thought."

"Yeah, I was sorta left with that impression too!" Babs chortled.

"Go ahead an' laugh, ya snickering sycophant!" said the sullen duck, "Your best buddy didn't sit on your face for no reason!"

Buster reacted with a smirk to himself until his fiancee bent his ear - literally.

"Well Plucky, ya do make him the butt of alot of yer jokes, ya know?"

"But!- (Arrgh!) - I mean Moreover - that's the way we've always been!"

"True!", grinned the pink comedienne, "No buts about it!"

Shirley leaned back and put a calming hand on his wing.

"Wull Plucky, we've like, all grown up a butt - um - a bit... and like maybe Hamton is tired of this childish submissive relationship to ya - and wants, y'know - respect rather then repression er sum junk?"

"Ya mean Plucky's ego would have to take a backseat?" mocked Buster.

"Alright! Enough already with the butt jokes!" the duck demanded.

"But Plucky -" Shirley tried.

"But me no more butts, Shirl!"

"But Plucky! You'll have to like - apologize to Hamton, I mean."

The Pluckster eyes went wide with realization.

"But I don't! - But I can't- But I-!! ARRRRGH!!" he growled at having said the word himself.

Shirley and the bunnies mocked him by clucking around him like chickens pecking for corn, as Plucky covered his face with his hands.

"Butt, butt, butt, butt, butt, butt, butt, butt, butt - Butt!" they clucked.

Meanwhile, Doctor Lord had stopped at the entryway, his eyes scanning the restaurant until he saw who he was looking for.

"Find yourselves a table, I'll be with you in a while" he told Hamton, Fifi and Wakko.

Hamton ignored him and tramped over to a table away from everyone. Fifi followed him anxiously and Wakko plodded over, looking over his shoulder at where Lord had gone. Sitting down, the Warner kid shrugged happily and turned to suddenly face a very grumpy pig. The angry boar glowered and growled like a volcano.

"I WANT ICE CREAM - NOW!!!" Hamton erupted.

In a split-second, they were surrounded by a score of scared waiters, all anxious to soothe the bellowing beast.

Hamton looked at them through shifting, slitted eyes and said in a determined voice:"I want ... a Wyatt Burp."

Everyone gasped in shock!

"But Hamtone - zat'z zee beegest ice cream soda een zee World! Nobodee haz evair feeneeshed eating one!" Fifi told him.

"Even Dizzy Devil couldn't put away that much ice cream!" said Wakko in astonishment, "Gosh, I wouldn't even try it!"

Hamton squinted as emotionlessly as Clint Eastwood and said "Make it a double. With nuts."

The trembling waiter whispered "Y-y-yesir.." and then yelled to his fellow waiters "Call out the Soda Jerks!!"

He and the others disappeared into the kitchen.

From behind the kitchen doors there was an urgent murmur of anxious voices, then a waiter resembling Chico Marx drove a forklift out, carrying a fifteen foot tall ice cream soda glass that shook the floor when it's weight was lowered into place before Hamton. With a rumble, a steam shovel driven by Harpo Marx came in on caterpillar treads and with a "Beep, beep, beep!", a dump truck filled with one hundred gallons of different flavored ice cream backed it's way over, driven by Groucho Marx. As Harpo filled the giant glass with bucket-loads of ice cream with the steam shovel, Chico came in on a hook & ladder fire truck dressed as a fireman and carrying a fire hose spewing root beer. From the top of the extending ladder, he sprayed torrents of the soda into the glass, the resultant mixture looking like low tide in New Yawk Harbor. Another waiter resembling Zeppo Marx staggered in juggling twenty white peeled coconuts and proceeded to throw them one by one into the soda glass. Groucho drove the empty truck away and returned dressed in a dress as Carmen Miranda with a huge headdress made of exotic fruit and bananas.

"I like the South American way" he sang as he dropped all the fruit into the soda.

Another waiter resembling Gummo Marx slipped into the room on gumshoes to pull a huge ceiling mounted nozzle over the soda glass. With a tug on the release lanyard, he sent a monstrous load of whipped cream spewing on top of Hamton's soda. Finally Chico drove the hook & ladder truck back in with Harpo hanging by a wire harness from it's lofty heights. The grinning clown was dressed as a pink fairy in a tutu and he gently placed a maraschino cherry on the very tip-top of the world's biggest ice cream soda.

"Ot'sa fine!" said Chico, giving him a thumbs up signal.

There was a twang as Harpo's harness broke and the crazy mop-headed fairy did a double take before falling into the soda, splattering his brothers and everyone with whipped cream and coconuts.

"Ot'sa no good" commented a cream-covered Chico.

Groucho surveyed the messy scene, lit himself a new cigar and said "Well - you said you wanted it with nuts."

Amidst wild applause, the Marx Brothers bowed and shuffled off to Buffalo. Hamton ignored everything and began to eat.

In a secluded booth, Lord sat whispering to two shady characters.

"Sorry to have surprised you with this impromptu meeting, old chap", said the snowy owl softly in a cultured British accent, "But something's come up - most unexpectedly."

["Maybe we shouldn't talk-"] thought the grim anime-styled man in the trenchcoat.

"No!" interrupted the Doctor hushing him, "There are telepaths here and I don't want them involved."

"Alright, but speaking like this is dangerous" whispered the man, shifting his fedora hat forward, "We don't want people getting wind of this."

"Very well", Lord nodded, "What's happened?"

The man's mirrored sunglasses glinted in the light.

"There's been an incursion" he said ominously.

The Doctor paused and sat back in thought.


"About an hour ago", the owl told him calmly, tugging at the cuffs of his blue double-breasted suit, "...And it wasn't one of ours."


"An alley near here" the man's deep voice told him.

"Any clues?"

"None. Purpose undetermined." the white owl said blinking his yellow eyes.

"Very well, we're on Yellow Alert" Lord proclaimed. "Winters, inform HQ and have all available agents concentrate at this point."

"Right-o, Doctor" nodded the owl.

Lord turned to the serious-faced spy.

"X - track it down. Get more help if you need to, but find it. I want no innocents involved or harmed." he commanded.

"Dick Strong is in town, so there's just the four of us", X told him, then hesitantly asked "...Do you have reason to believe that it's one of them?"

"Expect the worst - hope for the best" Lord sighed.

"Might I suggest calling in our friend from Slobovia?" asked Winters.

Lord's eyes shifted uncomfortably.

"Laika's already on assignment in Africa."

The owl sat back with a slight frown and the Doctor regained his mysterious smile.

"I realize how you find each other fascinating, Johnny, but she can't be spared...besides, she'll be back in just a few days." To the both of them he said "Report to me when you have something."

"Right-o, sir."

"Let's get going" said X, before leaving.

"I'll be at the lighthouse, sir" Johnny Winters told him quietly before following.

"Hammy? Eezn't zat Speed Racer going out?" asked Fifi pointing at X who was making a discreet exit.

"No" said Hamton, briefly breaking out of his sulkiness before returning to sucking monotonously on the giant soda straw.

His belly was expanding like a water balloon on a spigot but he didn't care. He stared straight ahead and continued to suck down his monstrous desert.

Fifi knew there was something on his mind, but also knew it was useless to try and talk to him while he was eating like this. She sucked on the straw of her own black cherry soda and wondered what was wrong.

"Gee, that's the biggest soda I've ever seen!" exclaimed Wakko, "Lucky Doc's good for it. That's the most expensive thing on the menu here."

Fifi was a little shocked at Hamton and looked over just in time to see the Doctor getting their bill, but Lord barely glanced at the sales slip. Instead, he paid it immediately and walked to the door to stand watching for something. His voice rang in everyone's mind, taking the Toonsters unawares.

["Toonsters? Since we'll be needing it this afternoon, let's try our group telepathy again."]

With that, their heads suddenly filled with their own voices. One, however, drowned out all the others. Plucky seemed to be singing a song to himself to the tune of "Rock-a-Bye Baby."

["Flush-a-bye Babsie - Down the toil-et! If she comes back - We'll flush her a-gain!!.....oops!"]

["Strike that"] thought Lord as his eyes rolled heavenward.

["Nice timing Doc!"], thought the Pluckster,["Oh NO!!....ewww, that's COLD!!"]

["Anybody wanna try some canard a' la mode?"] thought Babs.

With that, Lord silenced their communications, shaking his head.

The enormous straw at the very bottom of Hamton's titanic soda made a noisy sucking sound as he drained the last of his desert. There was a cheer as the five Marx Brothers toons ran up and shook his hand.

"Congratulations, my gluttonous friend",said Groucho, "Because you're the first to ever actually finish our infamous Wyatt Burp soda -"

"Hey keeds! Bug-a you parents for one, eh?" interjected Chico.

"As I was saying before we were so commercially interrupted - as the first victim to ever survive eating a Wyatt Burp - you sir, shall receive another Wyatt Burp absolutely free! - with only ninty-nine percent interest" Groucho told Hamton.

Hamton stepped out from behind the table where he'd sat. His eyes were glassy and his belly was swollen tremendously.

"Well keedo! Now-a dat you finished de whole-a theeng -", asked Chico holding a microphone to Hamton's deadpan face, "What-a you got to say to all de people outa dere?"

Hamton's expressionless face remained unchanged, but from his mouth issued a monumental blast of a belch that made Wakko envious.

As the shattered glass from the blasted-out windows tinkled to the pavement outside, Groucho pulled the tattered remnants of his burp-blown clothes back around himself, straightened his glasses, lit a new cigar and said "Thanks for sharing that with us, young man. Yes folks - come on down to "La Trendy Deserterie" where anyone can make a pig of themselves! - And in public too."

With some help from Fifi, Hamton waddled out the door - and was suddenly jarred back to full consciousness by what he saw! A tall man in a white skin-tight racing suit was climbing into the yellow racing car. He wore a black mask with a white X across it, covering his entire head. The mysterious man wore mirrored racing goggles and a serious look on his face as he gunned the car's engine briefly before rocketing down the street and around a corner, out of sight!

"Holy cow, did you see who that was?! Racer X!"

Fifi gasped "Tu mean-?!"

"Yes! The Masked Racer - Speed Racer's arch rival! I wonder what he's doing here?"

"Maybe 'ee'z 'ere to race against Speed? We could ask zee Docteur..." said Fifi.

Hamton paused, having noticed her usage of the familiar "tu" instead of the formal "vous" and smiled a bit, but still...

"Maybe later" he told her as they followed Lord down the sidewalk.

As the Toonsters moved back to the mansion, Lord kept watch, looking warily up the side streets. Wakko skipped alongside him, seeking attention.

"Doc, when can I -uh...?"

The Warner kid stopped in alarm when he saw the skunk's glowing white eyes glance back at him.

"Somthin' wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing for you to worry about, my boy" Lord answered as he continued to scan the area with his mind cautiously.

As the Toonsters continued, the tall figure of a man followed at a distance, shadowing them. The two-tone anime-styled man wore a trenchcoat and hat, concealing his features. As the Toonsters entered the mansion's grounds again, the man smiled secretively to himself.


Chapter LXXV

The group of thirteen young toons stood at the center of the vast green field amongst the strange black statues. The afternoon sun blazed as it always had in the perfectly blue sky dotted with rounded fluffy white clouds.

"Gee Doc, I can begin to see why ya like Reality", Gogo announced, "This place always looks the same - no variety!"

"After a little Reality, you might change your opinion, Gogo" the Doctor told him. "Ready to observe the Time Displacement, Andy?" he asked the red fox.

"Certainly", answered the vulpine scientist glancing at the gate, "By the way, it looks as if you have a couple of visitors."

The Toonsters looked over in surprise to see Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck approaching. Bugs appeared as he always had, but the duck was decked out in a bright red sports coat with the faces of clocks painted in black all over it, carrying a multi-colored silk umbrella and wearing oversize sunglasses and a dark pink beret.

"Hiya, Doc", hailed Bugs as they walked over, "We just stopped over tuh see how tings are going."

"Ahem!" said Daffy bouncing on his heels.

"Er... and dis is de artist formerly known as Daffy" Bugs remarked.

Shirley laughed and said "Ooo! Like, we could tell that from his -"

"Raspberry Beret!" she sang with Babs in harmony, "The kind you find in a second hand store!!"

The Toonsters laughed at the spontaneity.

Daffy doffed his shades with a supercilious air and said "Don't be so gauche, you Plebeians! You may now refer to me as "Dada Daffy"!

"Isn't that what Porky always calls you?" quipped Lord.

"Humph!", humphed Daffy, "Laugh if you will but I am now the world's leading Dadaist!"

"That's because you're the only one" remarked Buster.

"All dat money's gone to his head" Bugs commented sadly to Andy.

"And found it empty. Now he can use it as a safe!" smiled the Fox.

"Ha!", snapped the fashionable fowl," Just you wait till my first gallery opening! You'll all be begging for one of my mustache doodles!"

"And Nero fiddled as Rome burned. As long as you're happy, Daff" the Doctor shrugged affably. "By the way, where's Porky?"

There was a pregnant silence as Bugs and Daffy looked at each other and smiled knowingly.

"Uh, Porky went home early today.." Bugs said innocently.

"With Petunia -" smirked Daffy till Bugs elbowed him.

"Er -um ..I understand yer making yer foist trip today", the principal said, "We just came along tuh see how it's done."

"Very well, then you should go along with Andy just over there, so you don't end up too close to the vortex" Lord told them, "And above all - don't worry."

"Doc? Where are we going first?" asked Babs.

The tall skunk slowly walked over to the great black obsidian dragon statue. He stood there a moment in an ominous silence, scanning the horizon in all directions as a hush fell over the group. Satisfied, he turned again to face the Toonsters, his silver eyes still as stone.

"The Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia... on the night of April twentieth, in the year eighteen hundred sixty-one A. D." intoned Lord prophetically.

The Doctor's eyes came alive with glowing white light!

A menacing hush fell as the wind around them dropped away to nothing. A strange quiet hum began, like a television with the sound turned off. The birds in the trees flew away as a tremendous black storm cloud slowly blotted out the sun, it's shadow covering the Toonsters. The echo of thunder rolled down from the heavens like the crack of doom.

(Trinity & Beyond, #1 "Monument")

Bugs watched as a perfect Acme Acres day went dark. The air became still and filled with the smell of rain. Lord's frightening music engulfed his mind with sharp shocks of percussion and an unearthly lingering coo, making the rabbit's fur stand on end! A bolt of lightning shattered the silence, causing Daffy to cringe under his umbrella. The frightened couples took hold of each other with trembling hands as they stared with dread at the gathering gloom. Their wide white eyes were stark with terror as the music built to a spine-tingling climax! Furball's tail-fur stuck out like a bottle-brush as he awaited what was coming!

"I - I think I hear my mom calling me!" shivered Plucky as he tried to sidestep away, only to be held by the collar by Shirley.

"Look!!" shouted Arnold, pointing at the horizon.

As the music growled and the ground began to quiver under their feet, the toons saw an inky blackness spreading like a raging forest fire towards them! The black blight swallowed everything in it's path, growing and widening, as though a giant living shadow was consuming all of Acme Acres!

Hamton watched the ghastly darkness eating up the green landscape before him and wanted to run away and hide, but saw the face of his sweetheart gazing at it without fear. Hamton gulped loudly and held Fifi's hand tight in his own as she bravely faced the approaching menace.

Babs shrank into Buster's arms as the ghostly blackness reached the edge of the field and raced directly at them like a pitch-black tidal wave! Before they could turn to run, it engulfed them completely! When they opened their eyes, the toons found themselves in complete darkness. They could see each other, but it was as if the whole world was gone!

"Where the heck are we?!" wondered Fowlmouth's muffled voice.

"It's like being inside a giant empty soundstage with the lights out" said Mary though she could hardly hear herself.

From out of the darkness came operatic voices singing a wordless rising crescendo and a soft wind began to blow into their faces. As they looked off into the direction of the breeze, a pinpoint of light appeared, as though miles away, coming toward them.

"What's that?!" asked Daffy as he clung to Bugs' legs in terror.

"...Reminds me of the ol' twelve fifteen...comin' down the tracks at night..." Bugs remembered wistfully.

Andy and Daffy didn't have but a moment to wonder at the bunny's reminiscence before they felt the ground begin to vibrate beneath their feet.

The light was moving right towards Lord and the Toonsters, and growing larger and brighter, like the headlamp of an oncoming steam locomotive. The wind was coming from it, blowing Shirley's golden hair back from her face, as the rays of light from it seemed to split into thousands of tiny spectrums. It grew bigger and bigger and closer and closer - the light like a long beacon of pure energy!

From where Bugs stood, it appeared that a white tornado had come down to Earth sideways, it's funnel about to suck up his students!

The ominously thrilling orchestral music and the light swirled together, growing to a terrifying intensity! Fifi glanced and did a double take as she witnessed her Grandfather smiling at the frightening spectacle. While everyone else was scared, he actually seemed to be gaining strength and power from the experience and enjoying it, his eyes blazing white!

"Busterrrrr!!"cried Babs as she cringed into his chest.

The others began to draw back as the monstrous light drew closer, but the Doctor's mind called out to them!

["Stand fast and be ready to step in!"], he commanded, ["Everyone hold hands!"]

As the music and light began to swirl around each other, colors threw themselves into the Toonsters' eyes, nearly blinding them! They gripped each other's paws tightly and felt the hair, fur and feathers on their bodies standing on end, chilling them as the light and sound became overpowering! The time tunnel came to a stop just before them, like a fifty foot tall circle of the surface of the Sun!

["HERE WE GO!!"] ,called Lord, ["HOLD ON TO EACH OTHER!!"]

As the music came to a thunderous climax, the circle of light became too intense to bear as it opened like an iris! Bugs, Daffy and Andy saw the Toonsters and Lord silhouetted for a moment before the mouth of the white-hot furnace, then heard Lord's call!

["STEP IN - NOW!!"]

As a group, the toons took a single step - the opening slammed shut and in the drawing of a breath - the energy funnel and the cloak of darkness vanished! Within moments, the darkness of the storm was gone with only a small rainbow appearing as the Sun punched through the clouds.

"Holy carrot sticks!! They're gone!! exclaimed Bugs.

"That was incredibbubble!! What power! Remind me never to underestimate Doc's powers again!" commented the quivering quacker who still hid behind Bugs and was peeking out from under his umbrella like a clam from it's shell.

"According to what he's told me", commented the Fox, "The Doctor only uses his powers to control the instrumentation that performs the Time Displacement."

"What instruments? There's nothing out there! No transport pod, no H.G. Wells type thingee - nuthin'!" argued Daffy.

"They must exist somewhere, but he hasn't told me the location" answered the scientist dispassionately.

"So how's he do it?" inquired Bugs, taking a carrot from his silver carrot case.

"Evidently a low pressure area is formed by a gravity well (that black void you saw) then he summons the time/ space displacement corridor (or Time Tunnel, if you will), and the passengers are projected through it to wherever and whenever he has chosen." Andy said coolly.

Daffy stared sourly at the fox.

"Remind me never to have you paint my portrait, Fox. There's no color in your patterns of logic - only black and white."

The red fox smirked a tiny bit and said "I'd only need black and white to paint you, Daffy."

"And some orange" added Bugs.

"But I can redo you in puce, pink and green if you like?" Andy pointed out gleefully, pulling out a paint box and painting a yellow mustache on Daffy.

The duck glowered at being given a taste of his own medicine and wiped off the mustache. He sniffed at them snobbishly and closed his parasol.

"Please, he said haughtily, "Marcel Duchamp - Not Ted Turner."

As he began to walk off in a huff, Daffy was caught in a sudden downpour of rain from the last remnants of the storm and found himself drenched to the skin, his new silken clothes ruined. As Bugs and Andy tried to snicker quietly, the duck raged at the sky!


As if on cue, a second cloudburst fell, drenching Bugs and the Fox.

"That's better" remarked Daffy as he put his put his umbrella back up and walked away.


Chapter LXXVI

Buster and the others held on tightly to each other as they felt themselves shooting through space - falling and rising all at the same time! Only blinding white light could they see as they flew spinning and hurtling beyond the speed of light! Hamton felt himself screaming but no sound could reach his ears. Only Fifi's firm paw in his hand kept him from totally panicking.

Suddenly the white light popped out and was gone ...and the world of sensation returned. An evening sky was overhead and a wooden deck was beneath their feet. The weight of reality's gravity had returned and the toons sagged and stumbled. The air was heavy with the smell of seawater and the clank and hissing sounds of a steam engine. Buster looked up to see towering masts above him and a wharf alongside the ship.

"A wooden ship" he croaked as his voice cracked, unprepared for the effects of reality on his speech.

The Toonsters stood on the main open deck of a small wooden steam ship. It was a cold evening and they could see their steamy breath. They saw the ship was tied up at a stone dock. The huge shape of a ship-building house stood partially lit by torchlight and the purple twilight. To either side of them, the group saw large black cannons, not too unlike the standard type they were used to blasting each other with back at home. The ship seemed deserted at the moment except for themselves.

"Welcome aboard the U.S.S. Pawnee, I presume" said Dr. Lord, walking to the side and looking at the old buildings that lay beyond. "We must be part of the crew of Union Marines and sailors that came to try to save the yard."

"Save it from what?" coughed Babs, looking about.

"From being captured by Virginia's Rebel army", Lord told her, pointing off down the rows of square brick buildings, "Virginian secessionists are clamoring at the gates over there right now. We must hold them off. Now be prepared! In a few moments we'll be in time synch."

"Then what?" asked Plucky, his green color making him nearly invisible.

"Then we'll have to use only our thoughts to communicate. Don't fight what your human hosts say and do - just remember it well so our trip is not wasted" Lord told him, his eyes glowing softly in the darkness.

"Wait a minute! Where's Gogo?!!" shouted Mary.

Before their panic set in, a weird thing happened. The toons felt themselves flowing and changing. Suddenly they were taller - and looking about - saw each other as humans! They were men dressed in rough wool cloth uniforms; some armed as Marines with rifles and carbines and some as old-style sailors with round caps on their heads and jersey shirts. Babs suddenly noticed she had a beard as did most of the others.

["Buster! - I'm a man!!"] she thought, her words echoing in everyone's minds as the Doctor set his telepathic communication in motion.

["You need a shave too"] laughed Buster's thoughts.

Breaking through the cacophony of anxious minds, Lord's voice rang with calming reassurance,["Relax everyone, we've just entered our host bodies. Now calm down and let them...uh...do their thing."]

["But we've dadgum lost Gogo!"] thought Fowlmouth.

["On no you haaaaven't!"] came the Dodo's thoughts from the shore.

"Ahoy the ship!", called a man's voice from ashore, "Commodore Paulding sir - we have found the Commandant of the Yard."

"Bring him aboard, sir" Lord found himself saying.

Hamton found himself feeling rather thin as a human. He looked at the man whom Lord inhabited, a middle-sized, resolute old fellow who looked somewhat impatiently over the side of the ship and tapped his foot. He was a tough-looking old man, whose white hair and granite face spoke of over fifty years service in the Navy.

"Unhand me sir!" said a weak and miserable voice from amongst a small group of soldiers walking up the gangplank.

The speaker was another white-haired old fellow, his uniform jacket in disarray, being escorted unwillingly by his own country's marines. He was brought before Paulding and reluctantly saluted, a beaten man.

"Commodore Charles McCauley", announced Paulding formally with a sigh, "By the order of the Secretary of the United States Navy, Gideon Wells - You are hereby relieved of command of this yard."

The unfortunate man looked up at him, knowing it was the end of his life's career, and stubbornly pursed his lips.

"I stand.. relieved...and gladly sir" he said trying to be stoic.

["Hiya everybody said the missing Dodo"] came Gogo's thoughts from McCauley, ["I just found myself inside this drunken old guy!"]

["He's drunk?"], asked Plucky's thoughts,["What about you?"]

["Oooh yeah! But I'm enjoying it - while he's really miserable."]

"None of this was my fault, sir", began McCauley as he slumped his shoulders, "All of my Southern-born officers - the whole damned corps of the yard! ..They have all deserted me here. I was left with only the watchmen and sailors of the Pennsylvania and a few Marines! We face thousands of Rebels - thousands!"

"You were ordered to have the Merrimac ready for sea - now is she?!" Paulding demanded.

"General Taliaferro demanded my surrender! I refused! They have gun emplacements and obstructions downstream! What could I do?" McCauley whined.

"What did you do sir?! That's what I'm here to find out!!" growled Paulding, growing red in the face.

"I had no choice!", babbled the intoxicated wretch, "My orders were not to provoke any action here! Virginia might secede from the Union!"

"Virginia has seceded from the Union!", shouted Commodore Paulding, "I repeat sir! Is the Merrimac prepared for sea?!!"

McCauley's eyes fell and he shook his head. He continued to babble pitifully.

"I can't start a war... I can't sir!, I mustn't...I had to-...."

["This guy's had it!"], Gogo's tipsy mind told them, ["He's a few fries short of a Happy Baby Puppy-Face Meal."]

["So it would seem"] commented Lord as Paulding shook his head in disgust and called an officer to him.

"Lieutenant Wise! Take a detail and go aboard the Merrimac - find out what's been done with her."

Hamton felt himself responding to this call and found himself saying "Aye-aye Sir! You two - come with me!"

Oddly enough, the two men who accompanied him were inhabited by Plucky and Babs. They ran down the gangway and jumped ashore. Hamton's host seemed to know the way and together they ran along the wharf, jumping over piles of cut lumber and detouring around boxes and crates.

Out of the dusk loomed a frigate alongside the stone dock - an old Constitution-class vessel. It was sinking slowly into the river. As they looked, they saw more ships slipping into the dark murky waters.

"Damnation! They've scuttled all the ships!" exclaimed the Lieutenant.

["Scuttled? What's that mean?"] asked Babs mind as they continued sprinting down the riverside.

["It means they're sinking their own ships to prevent capture by the enemy!"] thought Hamton in answer.

["Doesn't the Merrimac become the ironclad Merrimac?"] wondered Plucky.

["Right. We've got to find her!"] the pig thought.

From around a corner, they saw a gang of sailors laboring on several large black cannons. Several brawny men were whacking away with sledge hammers at the sides of the guns, apparently to break them.

"What are you men doing?" demanded Lt. Wise.

"Trying to break off the trunnions, ye-!..Oh, beg pardon sir, I didn't see you in the dark", answered a man politely, "We have orders to destroy all the heavy guns, Sir."

"Orders?? From whom?" insisted Wise.

"From the Commandant, sir", the man told him,"The whole Yard is to be destroyed."

["So that's what Commodore McCauley said wasn't his fault"], observed Babs, ["He's gonna destroy everything rather than let the Confederates get it!"]

Hamton, Babs and Plucky felt their human selves run on, feeling much more adept in the human bodies and more like themselves. They found their way at last in the darkening night to the Merrimac at last. The huge black sailing ship lay in the water at an odd angle, seemingly listing over to one side. The painted white stripe of her gun ports running the length of the sides of her massive 270 foot long hull shone in a peculiar way in the darkness.

["That looks...wrong.."], thought Plucky, ["Maybe we shouldn't go aboard."]

["C'mon beak-face - we've gotta check it out!"] thought Babs.

They ran aboard the darkened vessel. Though looking rather

dilapidated, the deserted ship seemed to be in order.

["I'm tellin' ya - something's not right here"] Plucky warned.

["Aww, don't be such a chicken, Plucky!"] Hamton thought angrily.

["Yecch! Don't say that! ..It sounds too much like 'chicken-plucker'!"] the duck thought back in revulsion.

"Search the ship!" ordered Lt. Wise as he crossed to the ship's stairway.

Hamton and Plucky found themselves creeping down the stairs and into total darkness. Feeling their way along in the blackness, they cautiously climbed down the ladder towards the lower decks. The scent of soggy wood and bildgewater mingled with the bad smell of the many men who had lived on the ship.

["Dr. Lord was right"], thought Hamton crossly, ["All navy ships *do* smell the same inside."]

["This one is more waterlogged than anything else - let's get outta here Hamton!"]

["I'm in command for once!"] Hamton snapped.

As he took his next step down the ladder, his heavy-soled leather shoe stepped into water and he slipped, missing the rung and half-falling into cold seawater! As he struggled to stay up, the hand of his human companion grabbed his arm and held on! His feet thrashed in what seemed to be a ship full of icy brackish water!

["Hold on, Hammy!! I got ya!"] Plucky called as he hauled him back up onto the ladder.

"I've got you Sir!" said the man to Lt. Wise as they gripped each other and looked down into the blackness below.

"This ship has been scuttled too!", cried Wise.

Just then, the ship lurched violently as the hull keeled over to one side as the hull hit bottom and began to settle! The two men hung swinging by their hands on the ladder as they were carried with it! As they scrambled back up the ladder, a big wave slopped at their legs as the water was thrown sideways in the hull!

["THE SHIP IS SINKING!! LET'S GET OUTTA HERE!!"] yelled Plucky's mind!

"Let's go Sir!" shouted Wise's companion and they hurriedly climbed up, hand over hand to the stairway where they stood listening to the approaching water below.

Lt. Wise picked up a loose wooden block and dropped it back down the hatchway. The splash they heard came sooner than he'd expected.

"Let's go!" said Wise, clapping the other man on the shoulder.

The bearded man Babs inhabited was waiting on the quarterdeck and he calmly walked down the slanted deck to speak to the Lieutenant.

"Her bildgecocks must've been opened, sir. She's sinking into the mud." he told the others.

"Yes we know", Wise answered, breathing hard, "But the channel here is too shallow for her to sink completely."

"It would take sea-divers in their air-hats to close them again, sir" the other man said.

"And we didn't bring any such equipment with us!" cursed Wise.

The men stood a moment as they felt the MERRIMAC sinking under their feet. The bearded man shook his head.

"The Commodore, he ain't going to like this one bit, Sir."

"Aye, the Merrimac has had it", the lieutenant concurred, "And since she won't sink far enough - she'll have to be put to the torch. Let's report back."

As the bearded fellow left, Wise stopped his companion.

"Billy - you saved my life down there", said Wise kindly, "I would have drowned in that black water. I shan't forget."

Billy's smile flashed white in the darkness.

"You would have done the same for me, sir" he grinned.

Together they raced off back towards the PAWNEE with their findings, but their toon inhabitants continued to speak their minds.

["I'm sorry I got mad at you, Plucky. I had no cause to act that way."]

["Aww forget it, chum! I've been sat on by bigger butts than yers."]

["But you really saved my life. Can you ever forgive me?"]

["Hey, that's true, I did!.Ya think Doc should give me a medal, huh?"]

["Gee - I dunno -"]

["Whadya mean ya dunno?! I actually saved your life! Do I deserve a medal or not?!"] persisted the greedy Pluckster.

["Well I guess so -"]

[" You guess?!? Of course I do - I'm a hero!!"]

["..It's nice to be friends again, huh buddy?"]

["Sure is!...Now, when are ya gonna tell Doc to give me the medal?"]


Chapter LXXVII

Hamton, Plucky and Babs returned just in time to find the Pawnee being unloaded. Round wooden barrels of gunpowder were being carefully carted away, along with barrels of flammable cotton waste and metal tanks of turpentine.The officers were all given flares, torches and tremendous firecracker fuses. The young Marines were forming ranks on the wharf; Mary, Fifi and Shirley among them.

["Oh like this like isn't happening!! I'm not only a ghrody gross male - But I'm like carrying a gun! I'm like turning into 'The Establishment'! My aura is totally maxxed out to the max!!"]

["Right now, vous are just an aura, so joost calm down Shirlee!"]

["Think of it this way, girlfriend - yer gonna go out and protect yer country"], thought Mary, ["We're gonna keep those Confederate slavers from getting ahold of these weapons! We're gonna keep them from hurting others, right?"]

["Yeah, but like we're using guns and force against the people! I don't wanna shoot somebody with this rifle - I wanna stick a flower in its' barrel! 'Make Love - Not War', Man!! It's totally Un-groovular!!"]

As Commodore Paulding came to the head of the column of Marines, Lord thought to Shirley, ["My apologies, Shirley, it seems as though when we arrive amongst a large group of people, we have little or no control over whom we end up inhabiting. But have no fear. No one shall be harmed here tonight."]

The Marines came to attention, a group of fresh new soldiers. They had been among the first of President Lincoln's seventy-five thousand volunteers - and could not be fully trusted if the situation deteriorated further, but Commodore Paulding had little choice. Now they stood in their new red and blue uniforms - just 349 raw recruits.

"Men of the Third Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry!" announced the Commodore, "Make your regiment proud! You are to guard the southern walls and gates and keep the Rebs from taking the yard. Watch for signals from your officers! The Yard must be destroyed before we leave. Commander Rodgers! Captain Wright! Disperse your men - some to the yard, some to the walls! At the double!"

["Oh well, if we're gonna wreck the weapons, that's okay"] the Loon shrugged as the Marines marched away to the drumbeat.

"Sir, the Merrimac has been scuttled. She's keeled over in the river and has filled up past her orlop deck" Lt. Wise told the Commodore.

"So the former commandant has told me, Mister Wise" Paulding replied.

"All the ships we could see have sunk, except the Cumberland, Sir, but they won't sink any farther in the river. The Rebels will be able to raise them" said Wise, stamping his wet shoes.

"Fortunately, the Cumberland was not under the command of the Yard.", the Commodore told him, "We shall have to fire the rest of the squadron. Lieutenant - take a detail and a boatload of tinder ...and make sure the Merrimac is destroyed completely."

"Yes Sir!" Wise saluted and began to assemble his crew of wreckers.

["We're gonna burn a sinking ship?"], wondered Babs, ["Isn't that kinda redundant?"]

Elsewhere, a group of Marines and sailors had climbed aboard the old U.S.S. Pennsylvania, a run-down ship-of-the-line with four gun decks and 140 guns. Sunk in the mud, she had been used as a training vessel. Now the men lugged a tank of reeking turpentine up onto her deck and began to use buckets to spread the highly - flammable wood mineral spirits throughout the ship. They were being none too careful.

["Watch it with that stuff, Fowlmouth!"] thought Calamity.

["What? It's just some stinkin' oil! It can't hoit us till it's on fire, right?"]

The short man inhabited by Furball stepped where the foul liquid

had been dumped and slipped in it on the wooden deck.

["It's turpentine! Like paint remover!"] warned the coyote.

["...Ya mean - it's -"] gulped FM's mind.

["AHHHGH! It's 'DIP'!!!"] Furball's brain screamed, even as the short fellow he inhabited held a full pail of the smelly solvent before his face.

Suddenly he dropped the bucket in horror and the contents splashed back upon his clothes! Everyone stared at the man who stood wide-eyed in fear. Inwardly, Furball was horrified!

["OH NO! The Dip got on me!! I'M GONNA MELT! HELP ME!!"]

["Nonsense, Furball! You're inside of that man"] Calamity told him, ["The turpentine can't hurt you."]

[" ...A-a-are you sure?? I feel..wet!"] the kitty's mind cringed.

All the other men laughed at the embarrassed man who now reeked of turpentine. He tried wringing it out of his shirt without success.

"Ye better stay away from that torch, mate!" said the officer who Calamity inhabited.

The grumbling sailor moved away from the fire and the turpentine and began spreading cotton waste in the ship's forecastle, wiping the harsh solvent off himself with the fuzzy cotton.

["Fascinating!"] thought Calamity to himself.

["What's fascinatin'?"] Fowlmouth asked.

["The possibility that we can influence these humans.."] the coyote pondered.

["What do you mean?"] asked Furball, still trying to convince himself that he wasn't about to dissolve into a blue puddle.

["You were extremely frightened by the turpentine.."]

["So?"] winced Furball's mind uncomfortably.

["Your powerful emotional reaction may have been transferred to your host - causing him to drop that bucket because he felt the same fear as you did."] Calamity hypothesized.

["So?"] questioned Fowlmouth.

[" So - our own feelings may influence these humans...or vice versa"] Calamity concluded.

["Doc said it was like acting - but not to ad-lib"], thought Furball as he listened, his thoughts turning to trepidation, ["Because we might... change history..."]

["Hmm, well that would be extremely disquieting"] the coyote thought.

The men had finished their task of demolition; the ship was now a firetrap ready to burn. They climbed down the side to their rowboat on the darkened river. Only the officer inhabited by Calamity remained on deck, with a torch in his hand. He had laid down the gunpowder-soaked 'slow match' to eventually set off the blaze, but stood looking at the huge empty ship with an odd look on his face. He knew they were to wait for the Commodore's signal before the ships were to be set off, but...

["Uh-oh! This man is a pyromaniac!"] ,thought Calamity in alarm, ["He's going to go against orders and burn the ship now!"]

Down in the boat waiting inside the other men, Furball and Fowlmouth heard this.

["Ya better stop him! We're too close to the ship!"] warned FM's mind.

["No!!"], thought Furball firmly, stopping him, ["If he's going to do it - it's history! We can't let it be changed...Go along with it."]

["Well..you better get ready to row fast then!"] the canid's mind cried.

Calamity's host brushed some turpentine-soaked cotton with his torch and gleefully watched as the flames leaped and spread across the deck! The orange sheet of flame jumped to the rigging and choking smoke began to rise with the wind! As the whole top deck came ablaze, the man grinned - while inwardly, Calamity cringed at the sight of it!

The men in the boat saw the light and called to their officer, urging him to come down, while he stood thrilling at the sight of the inferno!

"Ensign Harry! We've got to get away from the ship! Hurry!" yelled the men below.

Their officer watched as the flames raced up the rigging and turned the mainmast into a giant fiery cross!

["Made it ma...top of the world"] the amused coyote commented.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Harry called with a grumble as he finally descended the ship's side to the waiting boat. "Let's go! The match took on too quick" he lied.

As the sailors pulled hard on their oars, Ensign Harry looked back, watching the once-proud battleship now engulfed in flames. Its burning masts lit up the night sky like giant candles.

On shore, marines and sailors were attacking the yard's many cannons with sledge hammers. Arnold was within a stocky red-haired fellow, thoroughly enjoying the exercise as he pounded his fifteen pound hammer against a seven inch, soda-pop bottle-shaped Dalgren gun. Again and again, he struck iron against iron with his brawny arms, trying to break the metal pegs that held the gun to it's carriage. Each blow was bone-jarring and he sweated from every pore!

["Dis kind ov history I like!"], the pit bull thought, ["C'mon you vimpy trunnion! Break! I pump you up! I smash you! I crush you into liddle pieces!"]

After an hour of banging, Arnold had sore paws, sore arms and shoulders, a sore back and felt like he was having a heart attack. But he and the other men hadn't even made a dent in the sturdily-built Dalgren guns.

["I guess dis is ven dey built dem de vay dey used to!"] he thought.

"If you can't break them - spike them or throw them into the river!" an officer told the men.

A man placed a wrought iron nail into the priming vent of the gun he'd been laboring over and Arnold's man drove it in with a single blow of his sledgehammer!

["Vell dat vas easy!"] thought the dog with relief.

"Good, now spike all those others!" said the officer and tossed him a sack full of more nails and pointed to the other guns.

The red-haired man looked at the rows and rows and rows of the other cannons in disbelief. Then he picked up his hammer and went to work.

["One down...only one thousand and one hundred and ninty-nine more to go..."] thought Arnold with rolling eyes.

Activity in the Yard became hectic. All the ships but the Cumberland were sinking, even those useless vessels on "Rotten Row". Sailors attacked the standing rigging with axes, bringing spars and topmasts crashing down. Marines ran from building to building with pails of turpentine, sloshing it against walls, over the millions of feet of lumber in the storehouses, over everything including the 74-gun ship that was being built in one of the ship houses.

As word of what was going on spread through the surrounding towns of Portsmouth and Norfolk, a frightened crowd of civilians poured through the streets and towards the gates of the Yard. Within the ranks of Marines stood three men inhabited by Shirley, Mary and Fifi. They stood with their rifles as the crowd rushed to bang on the gates!

"Keep those people back!" shouted an officer.

["Gad! I'm like no good at confrontations!"] thought the frightened Shirley as the angry citizens screamed threats at them.

["Be brave Shirlee!"] thought Fifi, though she was just as scared. ["We can't let zees men stop ze demolition teams!"]

"Please! If the wind is from the river - the whole city with be burned with the Yard! Don't do this!!" pleaded a man in the crowd.

"Keep back!" yelled a Marine angrily.

["We've got to go along with these men! This is history - we can't alter it."] thought Mary resolutely as her host tightened his grip on his gun. ["Doc said no one gets hurt here tonight, so we have nothing to fear."]

["Well, since we know ze future, we should relax and let eet take eetz course."] agreed Fifi.

The show of military force kept the crowd from becoming a mob,

but the angry villagers still shouted and shook their fists.

["Fer once, like even foreseeing the future isn't making me feel any better. Negative hostile vibes! It's like when Plucky made me watch all those Eddie Cougar movies!"]

["Eeeeewwww!"] thought the three toonettes.

Babs, Hamton and Plucky returned to the Merrimac, which had finished sinking. Lieutenant Wise and the two men climbed back aboard and gathered all the flammable material they could find. Cordage, rope, ladders and hawser ropes were piled on deck in the shape of a letter V from the mainmast to one of the gun deck ports. On top of the combustibles they strung cotton waste saturated with turpentine, leaving the ends hanging outside the ports. The decks fore and aft were flooded with turpentine and a slow match was laid to it.

Back aboard the Pawnee, Commodore Paulding spoke with his aides while old Commodore McCauley sat on a stool nearby and grumbled to himself in a corner of the Captain's cabin.

"Commodore, we're doing everything possible, but there's a few problems", Captain Wright told him, "We can't do anything to disarm the Yard's store of guns and simply spiking them won't stop the rebels."

"Yes I know, Captain" Paulding said shaking his head," All they have to do is drill the nails out of the vents and the guns will be usable again! But we've run out of time - we don't have enough men to defend against General Taliaferro's army here. We can no longer save the ships thanks to the gentleman over there and we cannot allow these weapons and stores to fall into Rebel hands!"

["According to my studies, Doctor"] thought Gogo in his painfully dry William F. Buckley Jr. imitation, ["The Confederates had actually fooled the Union forces into believing they had more men than they really did, correct?"]

["True"], agreed Lord, ["General William Booth Taliaferro actually had very few men. He made them seem like thousands by running train loads of cheering civilians near the Yard. That's how Commodore McCauley was made so easily frightened."]

"How dare you sir!" whined McCauley, struggling to his feet before Paulding, "I did mah duty as best I could!"

Paulding was disgusted by the liquor on the old man's breath.

"Sit down sir!.. before you fall down. I should have you put in irons for what you've done!", growled Paulding as he began to angrily pace the deck, "You had specific orders from the Secretary of the Navy to get the Merrimac prepared for sea, yet you delayed at every turn! Why sir? ...Maybe because you wanted to get one of the most powerful ships in the fleet for the Rebels, eh?!"

McCauley blustered but sat clumsily on his seat again.

"I done my duty sir - the Virginians won't get her!"

But Commodore Paulding was wise to him and he sneered.

"I am well aware that you yourself are a Virginian, Sir", he said in a hard-hearted way, "I could have you hang by the yardarm as a traitor to your country for your dereliction of duty! ... But there's a war on now..and the Navy doesn't like to start off by having one of their own officers hung in a public trial... "

"It looks bad in the newspapers.. and upsets people at their breakfasts" Captain Wright said quietly.

The drunken old man was cowed into silence and inside him, the Dodo was feeling the liquor. McCauley hiccupped loudly.

["Boy, this (hic) guy is plaaaastered! He can't even (hic) handle halve a bottle (hic! scuse me) a' Scotch! (hic)"]

["Neither can you it seems"] added the Doctor with some amusement.

BOOOM!!! Everyone jumped as a cannon ball screamed overhead!

["Oh excuse me"], thought the inebriated Dodo, ["That booze is startin' ta kick in."]

"What the devil! Who's firing that gun?!?", demanded Commodore

Paulding, "I ordered that there be no shooting!"

'It's from the old Pennsylvania sir", the captain informed him, "Evidently some of her cannons were left loaded and the fire is setting them off."

"Well how in blazes did the fire get started?! I haven't given the signal to burn the ships yet!" yelled Paulding.

"I don't know sir, but I'll try and find out. There's another problem sir. The crowd of villagers at the gates are becoming more and more restless. Our men need reinforcements."

"Very well!" Paulding acknowledged, "Take the Pawnee and the Cumberland and anchor us in the river broadside to the gates. Load and run out the guns!"

"Aye-aye Sir!" saluted the Captain as he hurried out on deck.

As the Commodore walked to the gun deck with determination staining his looks, Lord posed a wistful thought to Gogo.

["I believe we're about to hear an order that hasn't been given for a long time..."]

["(hic) Like what?"] asked the drunken Dodo, ["Like ' Don't leave my glasses under that elephant!'?"]

["Hmm, not even Hannibal said that."], Lord mused, ["No, I believe it's-"]

"BEAT TO QUARTERS!!!" called Captain Wright from above on the gun deck.

["Oh, yeah (hic)...that one....(hic), uh Doc?.....Hannibal??"]

["I guess ya had to be there"] Lord shrugged inwardly.

As the ship's drummer boy beat out a steady cadence on his leather-skinned drum, the Pawnee swung out into the river to train it's eight guns on the demonstrators beyond the gates and the sloop-of-war Cumberland followed, it's twenty-four Dalgren guns being some of the largest in all the Union navy. The Confederates faltered a little but remained very vocal in their protests. The cannon were loaded with powder and shot and their muzzles were run out of the gun ports to stand dangerous and ready for action.



The eerie night was now lit up by the Pennsylvania, entirely engulfed in a mass of flames. Occasional blasts came from her loaded, unmanned cannons, which were heated cherry-red hot by the fire till the gunpowder inside exploded to send a glowing hot shot sailing off over the heads of the startled men.

Since everything would not burn, seamen and marines rushed through the Yard, laying gunpowder trails to blow up the valuable machinery and facilities for ship-building. The sailor inhabited by Wakko walked cautiously backwards into an arsenal of ammunition, pouring a line of black powder across the ground. After carefully placing the charge among barrels of more gunpowder, he looked up to see the tons of live shells, rockets, flares and gunpowder surrounding him on all sides. The building was literally filled with it.

["If only Slappy could see me now!"] thought Wakko with a smile.

Near the riverside, a detail of men were hurriedly wheeling large cannons over to the seawall. Arnold, Calamity, Furball and Fowlmouth were within their sweating bodies as they heaved the giant weapons into the slimy Elizabeth river. Seeing as they couldn't destroy or spike all the guns, they could at least make it difficult for the rebels to recover them. The petty officer in charge was hastily yelling orders and articulating them in ways that impressed even Fowlmouth.

["Holy @#&*! Dat guy swears woise den me!"] thought the amazed rooster as their officer fired off another string of colorful metaphors.

["Ach du leiber! Vat a mouth!"] agreed an astonished Arnold.

["I guess that's what they mean by 'swearing like a sailor'!"] remarked Furball wishing her could hold his own ears.

["It's not so much the filthy word choice .. it's the staggering amount of it!"] observed Calamity with unpleasant amazement.

"Come now you @#&* %$* )$%^~ *&^($%@'s! Throw those @&*)% +$#&^@# *(&%#@`{ &^%#~`= }>*ing shells into the river!!"

["Oo, I'll hafta remember dat one!"] thought the impressed Fowlmouth.

With that, the men formed a human chain from the storehouse to the river, handing each other a live cannon shell and passing it till the last man tossed the shell into the depths of the channel.

Babs and Buster found themselves as part of a detail of fifty men. Other than the Merrimac, the most valuable piece of equipment in the Yard was the huge granite dry dock used for building and repairing ships. Commander Rodgers and Captain Wright had been assigned to mine it with twenty kegs of gunpowder. The man Buster inhabited was a junior petty officer who knew the yard well.

The dry dock was like a tremendous in-ground pool with slanted stone sides. It's angular stone walls were 'stepped' with a higher level every few feet up the slope and gates at the end allowed water to be pumped in or out like a huge bathtub. A ship could be built inside it when it was empty and then pumped full of water to float the ship out through the gates and into the river.

["Gosh Babs! This would be really cool if it weren't so dangerous"] thought Buster as together they carefully placed the charges into the dock's hydraulic system.

["What's so cool about it?"] his fiancee grunted as her host lowered a heavy barrel of powder down to him, ["Here we are in the beginnings of a war, with an angry mob at the gates, ships sinking and burning -!"]


["- Stray cannonballs being fired at random over our heads while we handle live high explosives - which for once are *real*!"] Babs continued, ["Add to the fact that I'm now a *Man*!! What's so cool about it?!"]

["Gee, ya make that sound like a bad thing"] he thought.

["Don't be a smart Alec!"], she thought, ["With all this flammable stuff being thrown around - we could very easily be blown up! The gunpowder here wouldn't just cover us with soot - we'd be blown to smithereens! Permanently!"]

["Ahhh, yer just mad cuz ya hafta be a man. Ha! Yer insecure without yer cute toes and ear bows!"] he chuckled.

["Well, I have to admit it's kind of an eye opening experience... not to mention slightly uncomfortable in certain places."]

["Ya better get used to it Babsie. Looks like we're not gonna encounter many females on these time trips!"]

["Mebbe we'll wand up at some Suth'un soiree among alot 'uh romantical Suth'un belles an' elegant gen'ulmen!"] thought the pink bunny in her thickest Dorothy Despair imitation.

["Rope it in, Scarlet - we've got work to..."] Buster's thoughts tapered off as his host looked up from the slimy depths of the dry dock's bottom to the houses that lay silent alongside it.

["What is it, Buster?"]

Images were filling the mind of the blue bunny and the petty officer he occupied. Scenes of friends who lived in those homes and how they'd shared their evenings with him, their hospitality, their Sunday dinners, of the little boy for whom he'd carved a toy boat out of a block of wood, his friends...

["Uh.. this guy's thinking about how he has to leave here tonight... how he might never see his friends here again.. About how he'll hafta run away and join a circus and become a clown and spend the rest of his life falling off a unicycle with a smashed watermelon on his head!! Nooo!"]

["This is way too sad!'] Babs thought, deeply affected, ["...Wait a minute - did they have unicycles then? Busterrr!"]

["Okay, so maybe I gilded the lily a bit, but this guy is thinking that we shouldn't be doing this."]

["Ya mean blowing up the dry dock?"]

"You men! Let's go!", yelled Commander Rodgers suddenly, "The Commodore has ordered us back to the ship!"

The other forty eight men climbed out of granite dock, but Buster and Babs' hosts were needed by the Commander and Captain Wright.

"You two lay the power train and the slow match" the captain told them, "When we get the final signal from the ship - set it off."

"Yes sir" the men both agreed.

["C'mon bluebelly, this'll be easy! Just like in Yosemite Sam's class!"] Babs thought to her fiancee, whose host seemed to be hanging back.

["Hey Guy! Who you callin' bluebelly?!"] Buster objected.

["Us. We're Union soldiers so the rebels call us 'Bluebellies'. -And watch it with the guy stuff!"] retorted the pink bunny.

["Whatcha gonna do, Miss Macho? Beat me up with yer big manly muscles?!"] teased the blue bunny.

["Ooo! When I get my real paws back just wait'll I get my hands on you -!!"]

["What are ya gonna do? Tickle me with yer moustache, Beardy-Head?"]

["I am *not* Beardy-Head!"] Babs growled.

["Heh heh! Beardy-Head!"] Buster chuckled.

While the hares heckled each other, Commodore Paulding's men were returning to their ship, except for those few who were assigned to keep the Rebels away or to light the fuses. Plucky, Furball,Wakko, Fowlmouth and Arnold had already returned to the Pawnee where Lord and Gogo awaited them, while Hamton as Lieutenant Wise went alone in his rowboat to set the Merrimac ablaze. The pyromaniac officer inhabited by Calamity stood in the center of the yard, waiting for the chance to set fire to the ship houses and the ammunition stores.

(Music For a Darkened Theatre 2, Mission Impossible #1 "Trouble!" Play at FULL VOLUME!)

At the gates, Mary, Shirley and Fifi were among the last of the Marines holding the angry townspeople at bay.

["Ah don't like ze look ov zis! Zos men ave torches and clubs!"] Fifi thought, frightened.

["Do they have any pitchforks?"] wondered Mary.

["Like -Whaaat??"] asked Shirley in confusion.

["Do they have any pitchforks?"], Mary calmly asked, ["If they have pitchforks, they can be classified of as an angry mob, according to the Toon Villains handbook. Now, do they have pitchforks?"]

["What are you thinking about ?!?'] the other girls' thoughts demanded in disbelief.

["I'm just evaluating our situation logically"], she told them, ["If they have pitchforks - they are technically a 'mob' and therefore we'd be in danger."]

The crowd, reinforced by General Taliaferro's men, was getting ugly! They crowded and pushed against the wrought iron gates! The marines slowly backed up, holding their rifles in trembling hands.

Fifi cried ["Zey don't ave peetchforks -!"]

["Good!"] smiled Mary.

["They have guns!!!"] exclaimed Shirley.

Mary experienced a strange moment of clarity and reached a conclusion.

["...Well then I'd say personally that we're in a great deal of danger and probably the best course of action would be to - RUN!!!!"]

As the marines turned and ran like frightened chickens, a bright white rocket shot skyward from the deck of the Pawnee! It was the Commodores signal to fire the yard and retreat. As the rocket's red glare burst five hundred feet above them, the Rebels began attacking the gates with axes and sledge hammers! The three girls ran through the firelit Yard in panic as the villagers streamed after them! The Confederates chased them down the street, yelling in triumph!

Lt. Wise saw the signal in his small boat tied to the side of the half-sunken Merrimac and knew what he had to do. Hamton found himself climbing the ship's rope ladder up the giant black wall of the frigate's side. The ship was pitch dark as he climbed hand over hand up to the deck on his mission of destruction! His heart raced along with the Lieutenant's as he tensely crawled on deck. Hamton had never intentionally destroyed anything so important in his life before and the idea of burning this huge ship had him scared to death. With his heart pounding in his throat, he knelt, carefully lit a match and touched off the powder train.

The gunpowder suddenly hissed and with a whoosh - the turpentine-soaked deck caught fire! The flames spread in seconds, racing to the mainmast and the smokestack before he could even begin to turn to run! As he reached the ladder, there was another great whoosh of fire that engulfed the entire superstructure of the ship and singed the back of the lieutenant's uniform! Quickly he swatted out his burned backside and climbed back down. Above him, the ships's masts were now crawling with flames and dropping burning embers into the water around him to fall sizzling in the cold water! As he pulled for his life on the oars, he looked back at the once great ship that was now a beautifully tragic symbol of the destruction of all that had been. A sign of the horrible losses to come.

In the center of the storehouses of ammunition, Calamity's host, Ensign Harry, ran from building to building, thrusting a lighted torch against turpentine-soaked wood! The flames licked, then spread, then raced up the walls! He danced a jig in the midst of the flames, laughing in a ghastly manner as the world burned around him. Only the smoke drove him away towards the Pawnee.

["Madness! Utter madness!"] thought the coyote within.

Aboard the Pawnee, Lord and the others watched the whole Yard become one vast sheet of flames! The smoke was thick and hovering, forcing the Commodore to move his ships away from the wharf. The men watched the horrific spectacle as it illuminated the night.

["Where's Shirley?!"] asked Plucky.

["Where's Mary?!"] asked Fowlmouth.

["They were among the Marines that went to the gates..."] Lord told them as his mind searched through the conflagration for the girls.

The three Marines hosting Mary, Fifi and Shirley ran down a dark side street! The sounds of the mob chasing them were getting closer! They flattened themselves against a wall to hide in the shadows, their pulses pounding in their heads! Suddenly there was a blast as a cannonball from the Pennsylvania sizzled past them and exploded into a building across the street! Flying wooden splinters narrowly missed them as the house was smashed by the force of the blast! The three girls shrieked in terror, as did their hosts and turned and ran again down the fire-lit cobblestone street! All around them, the houses were on fire, their stinking smoke boiling into the air! As they reached the end of the road, the burning building in front of them collapsed, tossing fiery debris at their feet! Just then, the Rebel mob came pouring around a corner!

["We're trapped!"] yelled Shirley as the girls cowered back.

Suddenly, two Union officers ran into the path of the mob from another direction and were instantly grabbed by the Confederates. Mary recognized them as Commander Rodgers and Captain Wright. With fear in their hearts, the three watched their officers being captured. The occupied mob didn't notice as the three Marines sneaked away out of sight and ran for their ship!

At the dry dock, Buster and Babs stood hesitating as the two men they occupied argued.

"Where's the Commander?!" demanded the Petty officer in anguish, "We can't set the charges off without his order!"

"We have to!! The yard is burning already! He gave us the orders to blow it when the signal was given!! And it has been!!" shouted the other man back at him.

["Buster? Where do ya think this is leading us?"]

["I dunno, but this is serious! This guy has reasons not to do this! He's gotta make up his mind cuz we've got to get back to the ship before it leaves!']

"We must get back to the ship - NOW!" yelled the bearded man.

After a terrible moment of indecision, the petty officer reluctantly stooped and touched off the tip of the slow match that ran to the powder kegs in the dock. It sizzled, hissed and the fuse began to burn, the raw gunpowder smoke stinging their noses.

"Run! We've got to get out of range!" said the other fellow and they both bolted down the wharf.

Together they ran, jumping over the piles of burning wreckage as the Yard blazed around them! The black night was illuminated by the red-orange glare of the town in flames! They ran towards where they knew the Pawnee would be waiting.

But as they dashed on - Buster's man began to look back, to falter to think of the houses where his friends lay sleeping.. just a stone's throw away from the doomed dry dock... Suddenly he turned!

["BUSTER!! NOOOOOOO!!!!!"] screamed Babs mind as she stopped and watched him turn on his heel and sprint back towards the dock!

Buster ran for his life!! His head was filled with the images of tons of granite raining down on the roofs of his unsuspecting friends! Little Bobby and the other children there - he couldn't let them be crushed and mangled by his own actions! He couldn't let it happen!

The fuse lay burning shorter and shorter just one hundred feet ahead as Buster charged for it! He felt his heart and legs pumping faster than they'd ever run before! Sweat and adrenaline poured through his body as he saw that there was no longer enough time left! He would either break the fuse or be blown up with the dock! To his right, an ammunition shed suddenly thundered with detonations - throwing shrapnel all around him as it's cannon shells exploded! He ducked as deadly shards of wood flew past his ears and leaped over the side of the dock and into it! His feet flew across the stone as the fuse burned down to a few remaining feet! His own scream of fear tore through the night as he grabbed the gunpowder-filled canvas wick to tear it asunder!!

Buster found himself standing with the broken fuse sizzling away to nothing at his feet. It hissed and went out - the gunpowder spent. It was as if the whole world had stopped and lay in silence...

The Petty officer wiped the sweat from his forehead and breathed an enormous sigh of relief. He pulled the rest of the slow match from out of the explosives and threw it into the river. He found his way back to his comrade who looked at him a moment before turning away to walk back to the Pawnee in stunned silence. The two men never spoke of the incident for fear of being court martialled, but Buster and Babs did.

["I...He couldn't let his friends be killed.. even to help his country in her hour of need."] Buster thought soulfully.

["Well, weather or not it was supposed to happen that way in history - it's the kind of thing you would have done anyway."] Babs smiled.

Buster smiled and blushed inwardly too, then thought teasingly, ["I don't care how nice you are to me - I'm not kissing you while you have a beard and mustache on!"]

["Hm! My beard'll be the least of yer worries when I get done with you!"], she laughed, ["But right now we've got to get back to the ship."]


Chapter LXXIX

On the deck of the Pawnee, Lord and the others waited for their comrades to return while watching the tremendous fire on shore. The Yard was blazing from end to end and could be seen from thirty miles away. Flames from the dry lumber in the ship houses were leaping hundreds of feet in the air! The vast storehouse of ammunition was afire, creating a thunderous assault on their ears as thousands of exploding shells were blown into the air, to detonate in mid-air like a shower of fireworks! Caches of signal rockets and flares shot crazily into the sky and the surrounding woods, whistling and screaming! As the Pawnee and the Cumberland slipped slowly downstream with the current, the tall masts of the Merrimac were pencils of fire against the night sky.

["What'll we do, Doc? Half the crew's not back yet!"] begged Plucky.

["Includin' all the goils!"] added Fowlmouth.

["We'll have to wait and see"], Lord told them, ["But worry not. They'll be here before long."]

["Shouldn't you be trying to contact them with yer telepathy?!"] the Pluckster insisted.

Lord's mind gave the duck what might be described as a withering look and he said ["I am."]

As the duck gulped inwardly, Commodore Paulding's second in command came to speak to him.

"Sir", he saluted, "It would be best if we return to Fort Monroe now."

"We still have men out there, Lieutenant", the gruff man said, "We cannot just raise anchor and leave them."

"May I humbly remind the Commodore that we are now deep in enemy territory. We must get our fleet back to safety, Sir."

Paulding looked again out into the pitch black night and sighed.

"We shall - but not before all our men are back aboard. Take your station, mister." he ordered.

"At once sir" the man said, suitably shaken as he swiftly retreated to his post.

As time wore on, everyone grew more anxious. Plucky and Fowlmouth became increasingly worried about the girls being lost.

["Maybe ve bedder go look for dem?"] thought Arnold nervously.

Just then a voice hailed the ship from the waters below!

"Ahoy there, Pawnee! Request permission to come aboard!"

It was the voice of Lt. Wise, who had stayed behind to pick up the last of the escaping men. As everyone appeared from climbing up the rope ladder, their thoughts rang out at once.

["Shirley!! Plucky, I'm like so glad you made it! Ach! Hamton undt Fifi! You are okay, yah? Mary! Ya made it! Hey FM! We got chased by the Rebels! Calamity, are you all right? Yes, quite. And I have some fascinating data on human psychology..."]

As the toons greeted each other warmly, the men they occupied reported to the Commodore.

"Sir, everyone is accounted for, except Commander Rodgers and Captain Wright" Lieutenant Wise told him.

"Sir...they were captured by the Rebels" said Shirley's Marine quietly coming forward.

Commodore Paulding was grimly silent a moment before he asked, "You witnessed their capture?"

["He's not gonna say it, but these Marines like saw it happen, but didn't do anything ta help... they were way scared."] Shirley told Lord.

Paulding looked at the three men and frowned, but dismissed them.

"Mister Wise, the Merrimac is destroyed?" he asked instead.

"I'm sorry to say so sir, but yes. She's a burning hulk", Wise told him sadly.

Paulding nodded and looked back at the fire pensively.

"Aye lad", he said regretfully, "That beautiful lady is no more... At least she'll never be used against her own country now."

As everyone else turned to look over the stern rail at the conflagration receding towards the south, there was another monumental explosion that shook the ship from stem to stern. The final stores of gunpowder were erupting into the night, foreshadowing the terrible war that had just begun.

["If that were only true"], thought Dr. Lord, [" For that beautiful lady will be resurrected in a new, bizarre and deadly form that will terrify the whole Union....Now, what did you all learn?"] he asked.

["That these were very brave men"] Hamton thought.

["Zat zey vere strong and verked terribly hard to do nearly impossible tingz!"] thought Arnold.

[That, like alot of 'em were rilly scared!"] thought Shirley

[That some of them acted irrationally"] thought Calamity.

["That they were heroes!"], thought Plucky, ["Like me! I saved Hamton's life!"]

["That they were torn between helping their country - and hurting their own countrymen."] thought Buster ruefully.

["That even though they did what they had to do - they also did the right things to do"] Babs thought sympathetically to Buster.

["Good work, everyone. Now, we'll save our debriefing until tomorrow"], Lord thought to them, ["I'm sure you're all very tired, so we'll return home now. Are you all quite alright?"]

["Yeah, just like, tired of being scared!"] thought Shirley.

["Um....Doc?"] thought Buster feeling guilty, ["My man couldn't bring himself to blow up the dry dock..I - he failed his assignment, I guess..."]

["Nonsense, Buster! Without the dry dock - the Merrimac could never have been built into an ironclad and history would have been different."] Lord told him.

[" So - that was what was supposed to happen??!"] the blue bunny asked with great relief.

["A' course! Didn't ya study, Buster?"] smirked Plucky's thoughts.

As everyone's mental laughter echoed through their heads, the

Pawnee steamed north down the Elizabeth river, the thumping of her

steam engines a reassuring sound to her men that they were again safe.

["Petité? Are you all right?"] Lord asked casually.

["Leave her alone-!"] Hamton's jealous mind suddenly thought.

At that moment of shock, the Toonsters once again became themselves as their human hosts swept away as they moved out of time synchronization. There was a very awkward silence as their faces and bodies returned to their normal toony appearance and the weight of gravity shocked their systems.

Fifi saw Hamton's red face again staring at Lord and didn't know what to do. Everyone had heard him before their telepathic conference call had abruptly ended and they looked rather uncomfortable.

"Say! I hope ya didn't forget about me!" said Gogo loudly as he appeared on deck from the ship's stairway. "Whazzzuuuup?! Did I miss anything?"

In the uneasy silence that followed, the Professor slowly turned away to look at the bow of the ship to face away from Hamton and Fifi as if he hadn't heard the suspicious warning. He blinked his silver eyes expressionlessly and spoke kindly to the Dodo instead.

"We're all fine Gogo. Time to go home now." he said in an odd tone.

"Great!" answered the bilious bird heartily," This time Doc - How about some better music for the trip home, huh? How about some Spike Jones and his City Slickers?"

Lord's eyes glowed bright white in the darkness as he initiated their Time Travel sequence, staring off at nothing.

As the huge ghostly wall of blackness approached them from the horizon to return them to Acme Acres, an old marching song began. As the stirring strains of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" played in their minds, the Toonsters looked back again at the scene of burning destruction they had left behind, it's flames soaring into the night sky.

"What a terrible waste.." murmured Babs as she clung to her fiancee.

The burning flames were mirrored in all their eyes as they silently watched the fire that would soon consume this human land of reality in turmoil.

Before the blackness and the ensuing time tunnel could engulf them, Hamton whispered, "Fifi...we need to talk."


Look for the next Chapters of -


coming to you soon.