Welcome to the Sixteenth 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 tale is rated PG-13.

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.

For my favorite Comedian - Sir Bob Hope.
(1903 -2003)

and Dr. Edward Teller, The Father of the Hydrogen Bomb
(1908 -2003)

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

And now - Part 16 of -

- "A Time for Love, A Time for Hate"

Chapter LXXX

(Music for a Darkened Theatre, Disc 2,"Dead Presidents"#9 "Montage")

"Downtown Acme Acres...pretty strange place for an invasion!" thought Dick Strong as he thrust his hands into his trenchcoat pockets and stalked along the dingy streets.

The two-tone anime undercover man wore his fedora hat low over his eyes and pulled up his coat's collar to partially conceal his sharp features and wild sideburns. He and Jimmy Sparks had been in town to lie low after Gigantor had helped Kimba the White Lion to escape from the Magic Kingdom. Cooling his heels in a foreign city wasn't exactly what Dick found to be exciting. Not that Acme Acres was exactly a quiet place - compared to his native Japan, he found the American toons rather wild. But now that he and the other agents had been alerted to an unknown incursion - they might see some action!

With watchful eyes, the spy crossed 42nd street to a small cheap storefront on the south side of the city. "THE PAD" said the blinking red neon sign, with the words "Adult Emporium" underneath. Dick grunted at the blocked out windows, lit a cigarette and stepped inside. Surrounded by shelves of adult videos and other pornography, he found his quarry.

"Yeah Z.Z., send me yer new videos. I got some hungry customers!" said the gray and black tabby cat toon into the phone. The cat's expression subtly changed into a devious leer and he lowered his voice'...And while yer at it, why not deliver 'em personally? I'd love to see ya again, babe -...Hello??"

The cat slammed down the phone with a curse and slumped on the counter sullenly.

"I can't git no satisfaction" he muttered.

"Fritz the Cat?" asked the detective flatly.

Fritz's yellow eyes shifted and he cocked his head with a wary eye. He knew a policeman when he saw one. He casually lit a cheap cigarette. The chemical scent of the spent paper match and burning tobacco mingled with the unsavory atmosphere of his triple X-rated merchandise.

"Who's askin'?" said Fritz, taking a deep drag off his cigarette.

"Police", Strong told him bluntly, flipping open his identification badge wallet briefly in a well-practiced move.

"Whadya want - Mister Dick Strong?", the cat said with a derisive chuckle, "Gee that's a name I'll remember!"

With a smug look, he deliberately blew his cigarette smoke into Dick's face. The two stared at each other, waiting for the other to break and cough. Instead, Dick coolly blew his own cigarette smoke into the cat's face.

"Hey man! Ya tryin' ta give me cancer?!", coughed Fritz as he choked and waved away the smoke, "I'll sue ya for second-hand smoke! Whadya want anyway? You got nuthin' on me, copper! My business is legit!"

"We're not looking for you, small-timer. We've got bigger fish ta fry" the sharp-eyed detective told him callously.

"Then what do you mean by comin' in here, Dick?"

"We're looking for somebody who doesn't belong here. You seen anyone strange around here in the past twelve hours?"

"Heh...This is Acme Acres, man. Everybody's strange." Fritz said in his matter-of-fact, cool fashion. "Man, I've been from here to there across this ol' world - I've fought many a good man -I've laid many a good-"

"Save it, cat" Strong said, cutting him off.

The undercover man tossed a card onto the counter as he walked to the door without looking back.

"It's important. You see anyone out of the ordinary - call me. There's a reward."

"Reward?! Cool!!", smiled Fritz picking up the card greedily, "I work great as an informer, man! I'll be in touch!"

(SPIDER-MAN, #3 "Costume Montage")

As the door closed behind him, Dick Strong swept across the street, searching with a purpose, but for what or whom - he had no clue.

Fritz excitedly fumbled through the stash of junk behind his counter till he found his binoculars. As he began peering out through the dirty windows, a half-dressed, reddish collie wearing blue granny glasses came out of the back room.

"What are you doin' now, Fritz? Taking up voyeurism?" she asked with annoyance.

"Just keepin' my options open, Winston", he grinned, trying to focus the binoculars, "And makin' a fast buck er two!"

With all his fumbling with the binoculars, the cigarette fell from his lips onto his fur.

"YEEEEOOOOOOWWWCH!!" screamed Fritz as he wildly flailed his arms and swatted out his flaming fur.

Winston sniggered as Fritz swore.

Outside, the sharp-eyed detective's dark trenchcoat blew and billowed in the wind from a passing car.His swift heels clicked on the sidewalk as he strode urgently on in search of danger. The only questions in his mind were: "Why here? Why now?"

Hundreds of images flashed by in the dark. Street signs, gutters, stores, buildings, corners, rooftops - every image of Acme Acres City that could be seen was scanned and re-scanned by two huge yellow eyes.

Commander Johnny Winters sat in his darkened lighthouse before his many computer screens. The snowy owl's feathery fingers danced across the five keyboards. His fingers moved as fast as lightning as he searched for clues, looking at every possible place in the city. As if he were playing an organ fugue by Bach, his hands flew and jumped from keyboard to keyboard faster than the human eye could follow.

Even the eyes of his Boston terrier, Mister Muggs, couldn't follow the amount of images as they flashed across the screens at five per second! The poor dog's eyes and head jerked back and forth as he sat on the floor next to his master and tried to keep up with the pictures that sped across the screens. His eyes twitched like he was watching a tennis match at warp speed and the little dog soon whined and hid his eyes with his paws. He simply could not hope to compete with his master's owlish super-vision.

Johnny's fingers flew faster as the strobing images were reflected in his unblinking yellow eyes, as he searched for something unknown. Suddenly he seized on the corner of a street and stopped the other flashing cameras to focus in on the single image - but what was it? His finger tapped a key to enlarge the sight of the trace and his beak smiled in the midst of his moon-like face. He tapped at the headset he wore and called it in.

"Chaps? Corner of Fourth and Main. I believe we have a trace.."

Miles away on the "Speedway of Death" outside town, another headset was tapped with a black-gloved hand.

"I'm on it" said Racer X as he pulled up his gear shift into fourth gear.

His rectangular mirrored, wrap-around goggles glinted in the sun as he stepped on the accelerator and the engine of his yellow diamond-shaped racing car roared with raw power! The Shooting Star zoomed along the high-banked turns of the highway and Racer X braced himself against the G-forces that pulled at his body. Beneath his black mask, his face was taut with urgency as he raced down the road towards a mysterious menace.

"Thufferin' thuckotash! Thpeeederth!!"

As the Shooting Star whizzed past, the racing car left Granny's 1955 pink Nash Metropolitan spinning in the dust. As Racer X disappeared from sight, leaving behind only a gleam of reflected sunlight, the old lady turned with a scowl to her lisping feline companion.

"Sylvester! You get up here and clean up that mess!...At least with you around I'll never run out of windshield washer fluid."

Chapter LXXXI

Andy Fox stood waiting impatiently outside Doctor Lord's mansion. His red fur had dried from the drenching he'd received hours earlier when the Toonsters had left on their first time trip to Reality, but now hours had past and of the travelers, there was no sign. Sundown was rapidly approaching and the fox's stomach was sending him grumbling requisitions. After their conversation about the upcoming press conference about the Lola Bunny scandal, Bugs had followed Daffy and gone home, leaving the vulpine scientist behind.

"What I need is a sammich.." thought the fox.

His appetite was suddenly put to a stop as his eyes fooled him. A blank void in the air before him appeared, causing him to try to refocus his eyes on something that wasn't there, like a blind spot in his vision. As he shook his head from the disorienting sight, the grand blackness of the gravity well materialized before him. There was a flash as the Time Tunnel deposited the Toonsters and Dr. Lord onto the lawn, and then just as quickly, the white energy corridor and the darkness vanished! Andy did a double take as the group of youngsters rubbed their eyes and blinked, readjusting to the light of Acme Acres again.

"What took you so long?" Andy asked.

Lord cleared his throat and said "It's been a very long day for us and so I took the opportunity to get us home at dinner time. We all need a break."

"Well, you might have told me earlier - I'm starved."

The Doctor lowered his piercing eyes at the silent faces of the Toonsters. Hamton's "Leave her alone!" rebuke at the Doctor still rang in their ears. They had all heard his jealous thought and stood waiting uncomfortably for a reaction from their professor.

Hamton's face was red as he stood pouting, half-angry and half-afraid. Lord drew himself up as if about to speak, his strong black brow knitting into a stony frown. Hamton's muscles tightened as he prepared himself for a confrontation. Lord's cold silvery gaze flashed into blazing white, pupil-less furnaces, but - nothing happened...

The immortal stood frozen, motionless and emotionless. Fifi gasped inwardly as she watched him stand like a statue...just as he had the night he'd told her the truth of his identity. His unblinking white stare was intensely alien and Hamton gulped down his anger as fear took hold of him.

As the towering figure began to move toward them, Fifi unconsciously put a protective paw on her pig's shoulder. Lord moved through the group like a skyscraper rolling on tank treads, heading straight for the pair. They shrank back and...then he passed them, walking steadily onward, to stand finally next to Andy Fox.

For a terrible moment, he stood seemingly staring at nothing and the Toonsters held their breath. Lord finally blinked and his eyes returned to normal.

"We'll have our de-briefing tomorrow", he said, "Then we'll be going on a few short time trips before the main events when we'll be going into battle at Hampton Roads. Should any of you not wish to participate further - say so now."

The Toonsters all looked at each other nervously.

"Uh, when it's over we'll all be heroes, right?", asked Plucky with excitement, "Famous heroes? With banquets and medals?!"

"If you are successful... unquestionably" nodded the Doctor.

"I'm good" smiled the satisfied Pluckster quickly.

"Fine. Then I suggest you all eat and rest well. Tomorrow will be a very long day..." said Lord prophetically. "Good evening."

With that, the tall skunk walked away towards his mansion. Andy Fox gave a confused shrug at the others and hurriedly followed after the ancient being.

"Well that was certainly weird!", Babs commented, "I thought he was gonna-"

"Shush, Babs!", Buster said stopping her. "It's none of our business!" he whispered as he took his fiancee's arm and pulled her away.

"Eh, let's go ta Weinnie Burgers. Comin' Mary?" said Fowlmouth.

"Um..sure! Uh, let's do that" agreed the raven-haired beauty.

Hamton stood looking at his feet while most everyone walked away in an uncomfortable silence. He and Fifi received furtive sidelong glances from the others as they went off to dinner. Their clouded faces made his anger turn to embarrassment and he realized how they'd seen his behavior.

Fifi knew he would ask her what was going on - it was obvious now to everyone that Hamton was jealous of Dr. Lord. What could she say? There was no way out!

Shirley saw what what her friends were about to do and stepped in.

"Like hey, dudes and dudettes! Let's go fer dinner with everyone!", she exclaimed, "My treat?!"

Hamton looked at her doubtfully, "Gee Shirl, that's very nice of ya, but-"

"C'mon Hamton! You haven't tried the new mondo-fabulouso Truffle-Burger"!" the blonde bird said, while winking slyly at Fifi.

Fifi shrugged and half-grinned at this, though she knew that there was no such thing on Weinnie Burger's menu.

Hamton's shoulders sagged and he finally said "Okay..."

Inwardly, both Fifi and Shirley sighed heavily with relief as they linked arms and began to follow the others. Hamton stood still, trying to come to a decision as to what to do. Maybe..maybe... Plucky clapped him around the shoulders good-naturedly and drew him away towards the restaurant.

As soon as the girls were out of earshot, the duck whispered: "Er.. what's a truffle?"

The perplexed pig sighed sadly at the duck's ignorance as they trailed the others and began to explain absentmindedly.

"A truffle is esculent root, a subterranean fungus of the genus Tuber, of a fleshy roundish figure -"

"Heh, sounds like Babs' Grandma" commented Plucky.

"- Truffles grow wild in England, France and other European countries", continued Hamton in a monotonous voice, "They have a delicious taste and are served as a condiment. Usually special dogs and pigs hunt for truffles, as they can smell them growing underground from up to twenty feet away. Pigs are especially fond of truffles..."

Inside Lord's vast mansion, Andy Fox scampered after the swiftly moving skunk as he entered the elevator.

"Where are we going?", asked the scientist as the door closed behind them, "And why so fast?"

The Doctor faced the opposite wall and didn't turn to look at him as the elevator car descended: "Central Operations, so that you can learn how to operate the Time Displacement Apparatus"

"Good, I wondered why you didn't show me that before."

"Transporting people alone is not a problem. But soon, I'll be handling the transportation of several thousand gross tons of vessel - and that will require all my attention and energies. While that is happening, we'll need you to operate the time machinery to get us all back home."

"Vessel?" inquired Andy as the elevator slowed at the bottom of the underground complex.

"The Monitor and the Virginia", Lord told him emotionlessly as the doors opened, "When we are to recover them, the Monitor will weigh over a hundred tons and be partially filled with more tons of seawater. The Virginia will weigh in at thirty-five hundred tons and will be filled with explosives set to go off. I'll have to levitate them into the time portal... unless you'd prefer to handle that part?"

Andy was taken aback and said with wide eyes, "Ah...no. I think I'll let you handle that while I do the strenuous controlling of the time machine."

"Very well" said Lord as he walked away down the corridor.

Andy stepped out of the elevator and turned to look at the display panel. The indicator showed them to be at the very bottom - floor minus fifty three. Andy realized how deep underground they now were and looked up at the ceiling.

"Elelator go down the hoooole" he said quietly to himself as he followed the Doctor.

Chapter LXXXII

The manager of Weinnie Burgers grinned through his stubble-covered jowls at his newest victim - or employee.

"Well Rotten-rick, you've managed ta bribe yer way outta scrubbin' garbage cans - but dat's as far as you get."

"Are you sure you won't let me off the rest of my hours?" grinned Roderick Rat as he waved a wad of cash under the man's nose.

"Not while aye'm around he won't" said Officer Pooch, sticking his head in the back window, "Now you get back ta yer werk, Sonny-Jim."

"It's Roderick, you moronic cretin..."muttered Roddy under his breath.

The manager grabbed him like a pencil and threw him ears-first into a Weinnie Burger's sign where he stuck in it like a dart in a dart board.

"Get up front an see to duh customers! _And Remember!_ Give 'em JUST what they want!! Dey get what dey ask for!!" he yelled.

Dressed in the bilious Weinnie Burgers uniform that made him look like a red bean with legs, the grumbling rat went to the front desk - just as the Toonsters came in.

As Roddy covered his reddening face with his palms, Buster's eyes gleamed with gleeful surprise.

"Well looky what we have here!"

"..May I take your order.....sir?" grumbled Roddy through gritted teeth.

"How about the number for the Board of Health?", quipped Babs, "They usually don't approve the use of rats in restaurants."

"Why I oughta-!!" began Roderick hastily, but suddenly he felt his boss standing behind him, breathing fire on the back of his neck.

Buster and the Toonsters saw that they had the upper hand and Buster spoke in his haughty "Biff Vanderbunny" voice.

"You may take our orders when we're seated, Roddy!" he laughed, "Come now! Your best table with seating for "The Lucky Thirteen, please! There's a good chap!"

Roddy glowered as the group sauntered to a corner table. Babs took Buster aside and whispered a reproach in his long blue ears.

"Buster! Don't use the Vanderbunny schtick now! Roddy'll catch on and the next time we need ta fool 'em, it'll be blown!"

"He's never caught on before", shrugged her fiancee, "But yer right Babs."

Everyone sat at the three tables as Roderick painfully forced himself to come over with a pad and pen to take down their orders.

"Welcome to Weinnie Burgers," he said with a false grin, "My name is Roderick and...grr..I'll be your waiter."

"Perchance I'll have the Rat-attoui!" Plucky teased in a cavalier way.

"Naw! Dat's what yas say when ya spit it out!" laughed Fowlmouth.

Roddy ground his gritted teeth angrily, but took the fowl laughter.

Gogo Dodo leaped atop the table and whirled into an impersonation of a grouchy old charwoman waitress. He spoke with a screechy, British pepperpot accent as he rattled off the menu.

"Waaaaaall, for 'afters' we've got rat cake, rat sorbet, rat pudding - or strawberry tart!"

Amidst the laughter and Roddy's grumbling, Wakko Warner piped up.

"Strawberry tart?!?"

"Waaaall, it's got some rat in it" Gogo admitted.

"'Ow much?" Wakko asked suspiciously.

"Three", the Dodo in drag paused before conceding, "Rather alot really."

Wakko crossed his arms decisively, "Awlright! I'll have a slice without so much rat in it."

Gogo grinned and grabbed the ketchup and mustard bottles off the table and alternately began squeezing bright red and yellow goo all over his head, while spinning around like a radar antenna.

"Eeeeeeeeewwwwwww!" cried everyone else.

The dodo came to a halt and said in his sweetest, feminine voice: "One slice of strawberry tart without so much rat in it - later!"

Roddy closed his eyes in disgust, but maintained his pained smile.

"Clean up on table Three!" he called loudly.

Dizzy Devil tornado-spun his way out from the back room, stopped with a hungry grin and picked up Gogo by his feet.

"This won't end well" remarked the dodo a fraction of a second before Dizzy stuck him into his gaping toothy jaws and proceeded to suck on the goony bird like a popsicle, to the horror of all.

A moment later, the Tasmanian devil pulled Gogo from his lips with a pop and replaced him in his former position on the table. The dodo looked like an umbrella that had been blown the wrong way out.

"Mmmm! Dijonnaise!" commented Dizzy before spinning away.

Gogo's eyes slowly opened to find his body covered in sticky devil slobber. While everyone else winced in disgust, a strange smile spread over his face.

"...I'm feeling jazzed" Gogo said blissfully.

"Wull, like that ruined my appetite. I'm totally grossed out!" remarked Shirley. She paused a moment in thought, then said," Okay! It passed - I'll have like, my usual tofu burger."

The rest of the Toonsters heard this and said "SPEEEWWWW!"

Everyone else ordered their dinner until they came to a very pensive and unhappy pig. Hamton looked up ruefully to see the others waiting for him to make a decision - something he was having a lot of trouble doing. Perhaps he was wrong about Lord and Fifi. He'd embarrassed himself by raising his voice about it in front of everyone. As his mind flip-flopped about what to do, he found Roderick staring at him with a pad and pen in hand.

"What'll it be..sir?" asked Roddy's uncaring scratchy voice.

Fifi saw the pain in Hamton's expression as he mournfully shrugged his shoulders, so she ordered for him.

"He'll ave zee new Truffelle burger" she said quietly.

The rat began to make fun of Fifi's accent; "A what?? We don't have 'truff-elle burgers' on our menu!"

Shirley handed Roderick the menu she'd hastily wrote in behind his back. The bill of fare now listed "The All-New Truffle Burger Deluxe". Roddy's boss glared over his shoulder. As Roddy looked at their order, a plan for revenge formed in the rat's brain.

"Coming right up!" he grinned, returning to the restaurant's kitchen.

In the pantry, Roddy searched for something, tossing cans and packages over his shoulder. He grinned nastily as he pulled a rotten black potato from a sack and plopped it on a plate.

"Dat's not a truffle!", his boss scowled at him, suddenly becoming swooningly dramatic, "A truffle is a tasty tuberific treat! A gourmet delight! NOW - GET EM DUH REAL THING!!! _Or else_!"

(Music For a Darkened Theatre, Vol.2, Disc 2,"Family Dog" #20)

Roddy's legs spun like wheels as he ran out the door and down the block to the nearby Acme. Knocking down half a dozen customers, he raced to the gourmet food section and found canned black truffles. Rushing to the Express checkout lane, he found himself blocked by Cool Cat buying sardines and espresso coffee. Roddy waited, tapping his foot while Cool Cat snapped his fingers to the beat of the store's Muzac.

"Car-razy, Man! Car-razy!" jived the hip cat as he finally left.

Roderick charged the can of truffles and zoomed back to the restaurant, sweeping aside Granny and Sylvester in Granny's pink and white car.

"Goodness me! What is everybody in such a hurry for today?!"

gasped the octogenarian.

"Must be road rage" shrugged Sylvester.

Roddy zipped back into Weinnie Burgers' kitchen, ripped open the silverware drawer to find a can-opener, but couldn't find one. After he tripped on the carelessly-thrown flatware (making his boss growl at him again) he saw the automatic can opener mounted on the wall that the boss had been pointing to all along. Roddy got up with several forks sticking out of him and opened the can of water-packed black truffles and smothered a deluxe Weinnie Burger with them. Seconds later, he had put it on the table before Hamton.

The pig looked at the dish with interest, coming sightly out of his depression and smiling. But he lifted the bun of the sandwich and frowned again.

"Uh, these are canned truffles.. Don't you have any fresh ones?"

Roderick turned red as his blood boiled, but his boss's angry stare put out the fire like a cold shower. Taking a deep breath, the rat ran back out again to the street, caught a cab to the airport, drove to his private airplane hanger marked 'RR'. There he booted Chip, Dale, Monterey Jack, Zipper and Gadget Hackwrench out of the way and prepared to take off in his private 'Leer Jet'. The Rescue Rangers lay dazed on the runway in a heap.

"Golly!" said Gadget as Roddy's airplane roared out of the hanger, nearly running them down.

With a mad gleam in his eyes, the Perfecto Preppy rocketed across the Atlantic, blowing past Beaky Buzzard and leaving him spinning in the jet's contrails. Roddy came in for a landing in the countryside of France, avoiding the deadly trees that loomed in his path. He rushed out of the plane, being pulled by a big brown bulldog he had on the end of a leash.

"Les Woof! Les Growl! Les Grrrrr!" barked Le Chein! The dog pulled Roddy all through the forest; through a stream that filled the rat with water, through painful underbrush filled with sticker-burrs that emptied him again. As Roddy's body spouted water from a dozen holes and watered the nearby flowers, the dog finally stopped and excitedly began to dig at the base of a tree. Roddy tossed Le Chein out of the way and dug wildly with his paws. He dug up a tin can, an old used tire and a Boeing 747 before finding the sought-after treasure!

Fresh truffles!

Immediately he ran back to his 'Leer Jet' (with the angry dog attached to the seat of his pants by his teeth) and took off! He roared back across the Atlantic Ocean, blowing the feathers off of Beaky Buzzard who was now standing on a cloud, trying to hitch-hike naked. The Rescue Rangers had just finished dusting themselves off only to be squashed flat by Roddy's hurried landing!

"Holy lug nuts!" gasped Gadget.

"Ya got that right!" winced Chip as he clutched himself painfully.

"Gosh Chip! I think my voice just got higher!" squeaked Dale.

"Is that possible, mate?" wondered Monterey Jack as they all collapsed.

Roderick charged out of his aircraft, stopped to swat the dog off his behind and ran on, Le Chein's teeth still stuck on his tail. The rapid rodent ran the roads, went back to Weinnie Burgers past where Granny and Sylvester had parked out of harm's way, on the top floor of a parking garage.

"Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me!" grinned the lisping feline.

Granny wiped her glasses clean of his spray of spittle and glared at him.

Roderick rushed into the restaurant from the kitchen, to triumphantly place an "All-New Truffle Burger Deluxe" before Hamton as if he were serving a king. He was breathing hard and still had Le Chein's dentures stuck on the end of his tail, but Roddy grinned in victory!

"How's that?!" exclaimed the rat.

Hamton looked up from his depressed state, sniffed at the burger and sadly pushed it away.

"I'm not hungry" he said.

After his eyes bugged out and his jaw hit the floor, Roderick collapsed completely on the floor.

"Heh! Sleepin' on the job!", said Plucky reprimanding him, "No tip for you!"

"Say, what's 'ol Roddy doing working here in the first place?" wondered Buster.

"Maybe he vanted to join der verking class undt learn responsibility?" said Arnold.

In the silence that followed, everyone stared blankly at him.

Arnold thought a moment and admitted "Hm, I guess no rich guy ever tried dat, huh?"

"Roderique's just serveeng heez sentence doeeng, how you say? Communitee serveece" Fifi told them.

She then proceeded to tell them how Montana Max had bulldozed her house, how Roderick had tried to defraud Monty of the property, how he'd been caught by Dr. Lord and how she'd come to own her own home.

As Hamton listened, he grew more disheartened at the fact that it had been Dr. Lord there protecting Fifi instead of himself. If there was something between the two - how could he possibly hope to compete with such an amazing, powerful, wealthy individual - who also happened to be a skunk like Fifi? What could he offer her except his love?

Without a word, the hopeless pig took his plate, got up and moved to a table by himself. After an uncomfortable silence, Fifi move to join him.

"Boy, what's got into Hamton today?" wondered Buster quietly, "I haven't seen him like this since Fifi's mom died."

"Whatdaya think? He's obviously jealous of Dr. Lord's being nice to Fifi" Babs whispered.

"Like, what makes you think Doc's favoring Fifi?" Shirley asked.

"What would you call him giving her that whole property for one dollar?" questioned Plucky.

"Maybe I'd call it an more of an insult to Monty" suggested Mary, "Taking her single dollar - and refusing Monty's fifty thousand."

"Aw c'mon!", insisted Plucky, "He also rode off to save her this morning when her horse ran away!

"And he also converted the PT boat to a hydrofoil, so like you wouldn't feel so seasick!", Shirley reminded him, "Does that make him sweet on you?"

"Well, no...", admitted the duck, "But he doesn't call me "Petite", either."

"Doc is like, an old friend of Fifi's family", Shirley explained carefully, "He was the doctor that like, delivered her when she was born!"

"...Oh...." said all the others realizing they'd been too suspicious.

"Well, that would explain some things" commented Buster.

Meanwhile, Roderick had come to his senses and began refilling everyone's drinks. Arnold looked suspiciously at his glass and then at Roddy.

"Hmmm! Dis vouldn't be rat poison - vood it?" he teased.

"NO! IT's N-...er, no sir... it's the sports drink you ordered" Roderick told him after noticing his boss at his elbow. Away he went, grumbling back to the kitchen. The Toonsters paired off for separate conversations, the bunnies and the two waterfowl still at their own table.

Hamton had sat gloomily for a few minutes in silence, staring at his truffle burger. Fifi sat next to him eating her croissant sandwich. He knew he had to ask her a question that would be painful for them both. He ran over the question a dozen times in his mind and there was no easy way to do it. How could he accuse her of cheating on him? Did he really need to? She might never speak to him again if he said the wrong thing. Suppose he was wrong? Suppose the hug he'd seen her give to Dr. Lord was mere concern? He'd been missing and perhaps she was just glad to see him. Hamton thought of the times Babs or Shirley had hugged him out of mere friendship - it didn't mean any more than that. Could he be wrong?

Fifi's mind was running a mile a minute also. How could she explain her connection with Dr. Lord without giving away the secrets of who and what she and Lord were? How could she not tell him without lying? They'd promised each other to keep no more secrets. She hated having to lie to Hamton's face. He was so undeserving of all this! If only...

The purple skunkette came to a realization that if the two of them were to be together as they planned - he'd have to know the truth. No other way was possible. If Lord needed her to join minds with him - he'd have to accept Hamton as well...but what could she possibly say to Hamton right now?

Just then his trembling voice came to her ears. Hamton's wide eyes were brimming with tears and his shaking hands took ahold of hers.

"...Fifi..", Hamton cried plaintively in almost a whisper, "...Do you love me?

Fifi's bright smile and warm hug told him he'd asked the right question.

"More zan anytheeng!", she cried with joy, "More zan Life eetself!"

Hamton's face changed from despair to happiness.

"That's all I need to know" he beamed.

"Oh brother! There they go again!" exclaimed Plucky as he watched the pig and skunkette embracing.

"Ahh! Love conquers all!" sighed Babs blissfully.

"Hmm!", remarked Buster watching the amore, "I knew Feef was the type for PDA's - but not Hamton."

"Like, what a species-ist attitude! That's totally bad kharma, Buster!" prounouced Shirley.

"It means 'Public Display of Affection', Shirl", Plucky informed her.

"...Oh!...I knew that", the loon lied, "But it's still un-cool! Just cuz skunks are more...uh...well..romantic er some junk-"

"They certainly are!", Babs giggled as she watched the couple, "Buster! Are they-??"

"Yup", said Buster looking with a smile, "That's why they call it 'frenching'".

"Humph! Their relationship wouldn't be so stormy if they were alike" Plucky grunted sullenly.

Flames filled Shirley's eyes as she glared at him.

"Pl-ucky! Like, what is up with you?!? I can't believe you'd be so jealous of their happiness that you'd say such things! What have you got against inter-species relationships??!"

The Pluckster clammed up and crossed his arms.

"I've got personal reasons."

"You mean YOU've dated species other than waterfowl?" asked Buster in surprise.

"Well there was that cute piglet he went for from "Flesh de Lard" Babs reminded them.

"That was just a gag those thirteen-year-olds wrote!" Plucky exploded.

"Then WHY are you being a jerk about this?! WHY are you acting prejudiced!?!?" the angry loon demanded, electrical charges dancing around her head.

Plucky cowered and finally admitted "Because of what happened to my Aunt Myrna!"

"Yer Aunt Myrna? Like... the quiet depressed-type one?" asked Shirley taken aback, "Like, I've met her...What happened tuh her?"

The mallard lowered his voice as his friends listened closely.

"She fell in love with some guy on the internet. You know - one 'a _those_ type relationships? She was ready to marry the guy - and when they finally met - he turned out to be a cockroach! He'd lied to her and sent her pictures of some duck-stud!"

"Oooo, that cockroach was really a louse" Babs agreed.

"...Aunt Myrna's never been the same since. She says he ruined her life." Plucky concluded.

"..I guess I can see why you feel that way, then" said Buster.

Shirley's anger disappeared and was replaced by sympathy. "Plucky", she said with soft understanding, "I'm sorry about yer Aunt

Myrna..I wondered why she wuz like, so bummed out and withdrawn.

That like - totally stinks, but - you rilly can't judge by just one incident. Hamton and Fifi have totally known each other -"

"Sure looks like it!" snickered Babs as she continued to watch the couple until Buster elbowed her.

"As I was saying", the golden haired loon continued, "Hamton and Fifi have known each other fer years! They know like, exactly who they are and what to expect - and they totally love each other!"

Shirley put a wing around Plucky and said kindly "I think it's rilly sweet of you to wanna protect yer best friend like this."

"Aw c'mon..", blushed Plucky growing embarrassed a moment before trying to cover it up by blustering, "Oh I don't really, uh, well, that is to say, I mean, I uh...Did I tell ya how I saved his life today??!"

"Only about a dozen times" commented Buster.

"Look darlin', I realize it's yer way of like, showing that ya care about friends, but you rilly shouldn't stand in the way of Hamton's happiness - I mean - have ya ever seen him more totally happy than right now?"

"Well, there was the time he found a bakery that's open twenty-four hours a day.." joked Babs.

"Rope it in, Babsy" said Buster.

"Sorry, I was distracted by all the hormonal passion flying around", the pink bunny giggled before becoming serious, "Plucky, what Shirl is saying is that it's okay fer you you be concerned - just be reassured that it's what makes them happy. It'll turn out for

the best."

"Maybe - but you don't know that for sure" the duck admonished her.

"That's true... but that's what makes it worthwhile, right?" countered Buster.

Shirley spoke up to silence all doubts.

"Look...the rotten roach that hurt yer Aunt kept a secret from her - he lied about who and what he was...and uh...Wull, Fifi and Hamton have ...like promised not to keep anything from each other...any more.."

Shirley's impassioned speech nearly came to a halt as she realized her statement wasn't ringing true with the facts. Secrets were being hidden - even lied about - and she was a party to it.

The blonde bird's confidence weakened, but she tried to maintain her smile.

"So...like they'll be fine...fer sure!" Shirley affirmed, hoping she was right.

The bunnies and the waterfowl looked with mixed emotions again at their couple of friends smiling and holding each other closely.

Gogo called Roderick over to make a side order.

"Hey! Gimme a triple thick milkshake - hold the cup."


"So that's the procedure for Time Traveling?" asked Andy Fox.

"With these controls, yes", answered Dr. Lord, "Usually it is much more simple to control it mentally by myself, but it is set to only accept my thought-wavelength and no one else's."

"I suppose that that way, there's fewer chances of making mistakes and putting the travelers in danger?"

"Quite. The responsibility of command is mine alone."

"You can't just pop back in time by using your powers?" Andy asked.

Lord's eyes shifted slightly.

"No, I cannot teleport. I am not a being of energy as you are."

"Your powers are different from mine, that's all" said the fox.

"Perhaps you could teach me teleportation some time".

"Perhaps - although by the look of things, you seem to enjoy many different modes of travel" Andy said with a chuckle.

"Getting there is half the fun", Lord replied in a oddly distant tone, then a gracious smile crossed his lips, "May together we become greater than the sum of both of us."

The two scientists were in a large, strange circular room with a white domed ceiling, like a planetarium. A round grouping of control panels sat in the center of the floor where the Doctor sat in a large rotating chair, staring at the walls. Andy tried looking at them, but found that the concave, milky white surface created an optical illusion, seeming to appear far in the distance when in fact it was only thirty feet away. The seamless whiteness of it threw off his depth perception until the fox had to sit down to keep from becoming dizzy.

"What is this? An I-Max theater?" he puzzled.

For some unknown reason, Doctor Lord didn't answer him and the fox found him still staring blankly at the walls. Andy waved a paw finally and Lord blinked dazedly.

"...'Tis my viewing and control room, young sirrah" he said in an odd voice, his peculiar accent seeming to thicken.

Confused, Andy stepped up close to look into Lord's unfocused silver eyes.

"Doctor? Are you feeling alright?"

Looking up at the fox strangely as though he had never seen him, the tall skunk asked: "In whatte londe am I? Whatte plaise hast thou brotte me?"

The Doctor's unfamiliar speech and confused manner made the fox a bit nervous and he began to back away in alarm. Lord stood up suddenly, his considerable height making him unpleasantly imposing. Wide-eyed, he spoke quickly as if defending himself.

"Wick londebay yae comen lawdayke awtreen godlae deynorm andoar sic straunguwlondes! Spekefaw eek waenoot awfthy taloorbrede! ..Auf speceryit darmayt?!"

Thoroughly frightened by his friend's bizarre behavior, Andy shrank back and shouted "Doctor, please! I..I don't understand you!"

The shout stopped Lord in his tracks and he blinked again as if slowly waking from a dream. Andy cautiously came forward and touched his shoulder. The skunk sat back down heavily and shook his head to clear it, then looked up at Andy again, recognition returning to his face.

"Oh blast", he whispered, "...Andrew? What happened?"

"You zoned out on me, Doc", the fox told him as he sat in the opposite chair, "You were speaking another language. It was as if you didn't know me..."

"What did I say?" the Doctor asked cautiously.

"I don't know. At first it just sounded archaic, then I didn't understand a word."

Lord shook his head regrettably.

"You must forgive me...I must be more tired than I realized... Did it sound like old English? Or Latin?"

"Maybe. There was one word in Latin, but as for the rest I wouldn't know. I'm not a historian....Are you quite sure you're alright?" the red fox asked empathically.

Lord leaned wearily on his elbow, holding a palm to his forehead.

"I'm sorry if I frightened you. Time is catching up with me...I'll be fine. I shan't keep you from your dinner much longer... Was there anything we missed concerning the operation of the Time Apparatus?"

"No", said Andy, "But you've only shown me the controls here. Where is the device itself? And the power source?"

The Doctor's sharp white triangular pupils fixed themselves steadfastly into the Fox's green eyes and he lowered his voice.

"You realize that by learning this secret", he said in a most serious way, "- that you'll become vulnerable to others who may seek it for their own purposes?"

"What's so important about it?", objected Andy,"It's just another time machine. Even Plucky was able to build one out of his lawn mower. What danger could there be?"

"This is the only one capable of crossing not only time - but dimensions - and universes", the Doctor said patiently, "...In the wrong hands, such a device could prove to be..significantly dangerous."

The fox sniffed at this, thought a moment, then said, "Well, if you don't tell me - how am I going to operate it?"

"Very well", assented Lord seriously, "But this must remain a secret. I trust you can defend it - and yourself...Tell no one."

The fox put a paw over his heart, "I swear before Frith-"

"I said no one" the Doctor interrupted with finality.

Andy shrugged "As you wish...But if you're trying to impress me, it's not working".

Ignoring that, Lord turned in his chair to look at the dome overhead. His eyes flashed into blazing white as his thoughts directed the imagery forming on the domed viewing screen before him. Andy sat back in his chair so his eyes could focus on as much of the image as possible.

Above them, the blank whiteness covered with clouds - clouds of mist and fog that flew past their field of vision. Green trees and brown patches of ground and underbrush moved swiftly by them like the view from a helicopter at low altitude. They flew across ice-capped mountains and craggy valleys of broken rock. The images flashed by - as real-looking to Andy as if he were there to touch them. He saw and smelled the icy pine-forest as they flew on past it into a snowscape. The chilly blasts of wind in his ears whistled as he struggled to take in the whole view. The snow was broken into ice flows as far as the eye could see, then stretches of broken ground. Caribou herded across a frozen tundra; their shaggy coats dusted with snow, their antlers fuzzy with new growth.

"Here under the permafrost of the Arctic Circle of northern Canada is my terrestrial transmission station" the Doctor told him.

Suddenly the view on the screen ran underground, revealing miles and miles of subterranean concrete tunnels. There Andy saw the leviathan flywheel he'd seen briefly on the video screen in the the Doctor's laboratory; an immense disk slowly rotating on a central spindle that endlessly pulsed with red light like a heart beating. Andy remembered Lord's having mentioned that it was a perpetual motion machine and wondered how it worked.

"The flywheel is in perpetual motion", Lord mentioned, "It's five thousand, three hundred feet across. Fully automated and totally isolated. Any habitation is at least five hundred miles away, so there's no chance of anyone being endangered by it."

"Let's hope the Eskimos don't mind" Andy remarked as he cautiously reached out to try and touch the seemingly 3-D image before him.

Lord glanced at the fox attempting to grasp the simulation and chuckled to himself.

"It's a thousand feet underground, so they'll never be bothered by it", he said, "But you needn't worry about going there - the controls are all located here."

"All right - so how does it work? What's the power source?"

(Spider-Man #7 "City Montage")

Lord's answer came in the form of his mysterious smile as he concentrated again on the viewing screen. As Andy watched, the view wheeled skyward and began to ascend into the heavens. The clouds parted as their vision went higher and higher, the blue sky growing darker till it was replaced by the star-studded blackness of outer space. The fox's puzzlement grew as the imagery swung and focused outward, away from their toony Earth and across the vast gulf of the Solar System. Micro-meteorites and space dust passed their view like fireflies in the night as the view moved towards the center of it all. The stormy greenish-brown planet Venus drifted past them as the view moved on towards the Sun. The blinding sphere of light grew bigger and bigger until a tiny dot moved across it's corona. The viewer focused in on the dot, the image's light becoming filtered finally to a bearable level and the crater-covered, airless planet of Mercury was revealed. The view grew closer and closer, till the mountain ranges and seas of black dust could be seen clearly, then the view swung away to one side and into space again. The view blurred and then cleared as it went to a higher magnification. There - in the midst of the star field gleamed a silver asteroid - or what seemed to be a silver asteroid...

As the viewer zoomed in, Andy could see that it had no curves, no meteor damage - just a huge dish antenna covering most of one side of it's gleaming angular surface. A powerful laser beam emanated from it's antenna, aimed back at the Earth sending the power of the Sun's furnaces to the great flywheel. As the viewer withdrew, one could see the space station's immense size - compared even to Mercury's small magnitude, the shining metallic station had to be at least a mile in diameter!

"Okaaay...I'm impressed" Andy said quietly.

"I've got 'em!" shouted Dick Strong into his wrist radio as he ran across the gravel-covered roof of a skyscraper! A fleeting glimpse of a crouching dark figure had caused him to give chase when it saw him and ran. Now, beads of sweat burst from his forehead as he tore after the fleeing fugitive, the tails of his long, dark trench coat flying out behind him. He sprinted to the edge of the roof and leaped - somersaulting in mid-air to accelerate his crossing and landed on the roof of the next building! The fleeting shadow eluded him around the corner of a rooftop doorway and the anime detective chased after it! The sky over downtown Acme City was red and orange with the autumn sunset, as Dick ran at top speed after whoever it was. His feet flew over the rough surface, feeling every hard crunch under his leather-soled shoes. The creature fled behind a steel ventilator shaft and the determined policeman pulled his .45 automatic from his holster, holding it close to his body as he backed around the barrier. He reached the edge and swung his body around to train his gun on - nothing!

The space there was empty! Not a trace...then he heard running footsteps behind him and turned as the shadow raced across a neighboring building. Again he gave chase, backing up and - without thinking - jumped across the fifteen foot gap to the next rooftop! He crouched upon landing, then dashed after the figure in pursuit! Dick saw something disappearing over the side on the building and charged to the edge! Over the brink he saw a fire escape ladder and heard the ring of it's metal rungs as someone climbed down at an impossible pace! Throwing himself over, he slid down the ladder with his feet on the outside of the rungs like a fireman's pole and using only his strong hands to grip it's edges, he descended to the street level. With a spinning jump, he landed, looking everywhere for the creature, but there was no sign of it.

The boulevard was empty, except for a short, sour-looking, two-tone cat wearing overalls about half a block away. The black and white cat seemed to be calmly reading a newspaper. He was obviously not the size or shape of the missing fugitive and Dick recognized him. Whatever it was, it had eluded him.

With an efficient roar, Johnny Winters drove up alongside him in his golden Aston Martin DB5.

"Lost him!", swore the detective as he climbed in and sat in the left-hand passenger's seat, "And all I saw was a shadow!"

The snowy white owl flipped a switch on the dashboard which opened his secret control mechanisms and hit the radio microphone button.

"No sign of the fugitive down here, Racer X! Can you spot anything?" asked Johnny in his clipped British accent.

"Nothing here", replied Racer X as he stood beside his vivid yellow racing car, "I'm going up for a look."

With a sudden simultaneous clenching of both fists, an earsplitting roar and a eruption of huge clouds of white smoke - Racer X blasted off on his rocket belt! The white-suited spy rose into the sky, the nozzles of his silver rocket backpack spitting flames beneath him! With a thundering roar, he ascended between the skyscrapers and began to circle them, searching. His mirrored goggles gleamed in the sunset upon his black-masked face as he looked below. He hovered for a moment over the city, standing upright in mid-air holding his the pistol-grip controls with both fists before flying away in pursuit of an unknown.

Chapter LXXXIV

At the front door of Doctor Lord's mansion, Andy Fox turned to his host thoughtfully before leaving.

"I do hope you feel better. It wouldn't do to have you folding up on us in the middle of a time trip."

"Oh I agree completely" the skunk said tiredly with a smile.

The fox's eyes narrowed as he spoke in a confidential tone.

"...If I might be so bold...Perhaps it might be wise for you to ... see some more of Miss Mae Bear?"

The Doctor looked at him in genuine surprise. "Mae? How...?"

Andy smiled in answer and tapped his head.

The tall skunk crossed his arms with a smirk.

"Laddie...Don't ya think ya should...rephrase that?" he said slyly with a pronounced Scottish brogue.

The fox stood with an equally delicious smirk on his tight lips and tried valiantly not to laugh. He answered with a slight brogue of his own.

"Yer right - I should... I didn't mean to say that you should see more of Miss Mae - I meant to say that perhaps enjoying her company might prove more relaxing .. just possibly."

Lord laughed, his rows of sharp teeth showing, his canines as pointed as his triangular white pupils. Andy laughed as well, but made a face at seeing the skunk's deadly grin.

"Good night, Andy.. and thank you", said Lord as the fox waved and walked off to dinner, "...And say good night to Slappy for me."

At the end of the walk, Andy spun to stand there with his mouth hanging open in amused shock. Lord smiled in his mysterious way and tapped his own head in reply. With a chuckle,the vulpine scientist shrugged his shoulders and went on his way.

Lord retired inside and closed the door - immediately leaning all his weight against it as he slumped from exhaustion. With a sigh, his form faded and grew to the smaller, paler human figure of Kirrik.

His head drooping and his arms hanging loosely, the man shuffled to his kitchen to eat something. Despite the day he'd had, the gloom was overwhelming him. His plate of real food looked rather lackluster amidst the bright toony surroundings. He quickly devoured a sandwich and a whole box of Hostess' 'HO HO's'. Usually the amount of chocolate made him feel better, but not tonight. He lay his head down on the cold tabletop and tried to relax, but the oppressive misery refused to leave him.

Kirrik was startled as his black cat, Pyewacket, suddenly leaped onto the table and playfully bumped her forehead against his nose.

["Master feel bad again?"] she thought to him.

["I'm afraid so, Pye...my mind is...too old... and alone."]

Kirrik sat toying with the ripped cellophane wrappers of the HO HO's, while staring blankly into the cat's yellow eyes and began to speak in a hoarse whisper.

"Too much to remember... but I can never forget...Too many faces, too many words. They come to me in the darkness.. speaking dust from their dead mouths, dry and arid as the deserts around Carthage. A long slow funeral march of the great and the small - all proceeding in the same direction...into the grave..."

["Master!"], begged the cat,["Do not remember! ..Please?"]

Kirrik petted the feline's back absently, his voice flat and morose.

"You know, Aristotle knew of me as I am. He said to me, "Alexander! You will be the great scroll of the world! You shall see and form all of history!" ...And after twenty-three hundred years, I'm still trying to figure out if he was right."

The black cat tried to sweetly distract him by climbing into his arms, but Kirrik continued his morbid reverie.

"Do you remember? - No of course you don't...Ruth...Mi'Lady Greensleeves...How her brown eyes sparkled! ..Just to see her smile once more - to hear that perfect voice again!...What a fool I was to have loved her!...And a greater fool to have written her praises in song. The world recalls the song, but they'll never know Ruth...and she is dead now...dead...and buried. ...Her smile and eyes are only dust."

["Master..Please! Remember not - please.. call Mistress!"], implored the cat, licking his nose to make him look at her, ["She promise to help!"]

"What?" Kirrik blinked.

["You went to sad place...left thoughts going..I thought to Mistress."]

"Oh no...", he said realizing, "I left my thought transferal going..?".

Slumping back in his chair, he put his hands over his face.

["Mistress promise to help you"], Pye insisted, ["Call her! Make lights! Make hurting stop!"]

Kirrik let his hands drop from his face - revealing that his eyes were changing from blue-grey to pink, to red and back again!

"I think you're right this time, kitty" Kirrik sighed,shutting his eyes with pain.

The old being sat back, calmed his mind and thought out across the gulf to Fifi.

Fifi snapped back out of kissing Hamton as Lord's thoughts echoed in her head, ["Petite?...I'm sorry to intrude..but I need your help...please...come to me?"]

"Que?!" said the skunkette aloud, suddenly realizing she must think to answer him.

The pig still in her arms was confused and looked into her eyes.

"Wha - what's wrong, Fifi?"

"Grandpere!", the skunkette gasped, then looking at her boyfriend, she blushed and stammered frantically, "Uh, Ah forgot!... Ah waz.. going to call Grandpere ..on zee telephone! Ah must go home. -And do zat!"

"Oh, well - I'll go with you".

"Non... stay and feeneesh your deenaire, mon cherie`. ..Tu ave not eaten seence zee beeginning ov zee Civil War, remembair?" she joked. Hamton glanced down at his barely-touched truffle burger and took a mouthful. Suddenly he was very hungry.

"Gee, this is good after all! I'll just eat it and come along with you."

"No, non eet eez not neccesaree!", Fifi said hastily, "After zee phone call, ah'll be writing mon reports pour tomorrow - and zen go right to sleep! Ah just realized we ave experienced practiclee a whole day and a half today, no?"

They looked over to see Furball and Calamity drooping on each other. Gogo was already asleep, laying in his lemon pudding.

["Que est que c'est, Grandpere?"] Fifi thought.

["I need your Purple Light, little one...the darkness is drawing about me..Pyewacket said I should call you.."], said Lord's ghostly voice in her mind, ["The beast is after my soul.."]

["Oh, can't zee beast wait teel after mah date?... Oh alright. Ah'll be right 'ome. But zere's sometheeng we'll ave to discuss."]

The skunkette rose quickly, handing Hamton some money for her dinner. The apology on her face told Hamton that it wasn't his fault.

"Ah'm sorry Hammy, but ah must go - Ah'll call you.."

"I understand", he said patiently with a sweet little smile, "Don't stay up too late, darling."

"Merci mon conniechon, Bon Soire" she said softly kissing him goodnight before slipping out the door.

Hamton sighed deeply as he watched her go, but a loud shriek of noise suddenly drew his attention to the window outside Winnie Burgers. The eardrum-tearing blast grew louder and something small appeared in the sky. It was Racer X flying between the buildings of the city, his feet looking as though he were standing on tiptoe, as the twin rocket nozzles in his rocket belt spat flame and white smoke straight down beneath his flying body! Buster, Plucky and Hamton raced to press their faces against the window glass to see.

"Sweet! It's Racer X!" Buster exclaimed with excitement.

"I wonder what he's doing here?" wondered Hamton.

"I wonder where I can get me a rocket belt?", Plucky said greedily, "The chicks really go for a mucho macho rocket man!"

Buster and Hamton turned a deadpan look sideways at the envious Pluckster and rolled their eyes.

"Nothing to report" shouted Racer X into his wrist radio receiver.

The super spy flew down to street level and landed noisily beside Johnny Winters' car as it pulled to the curb. Dick Strong got out and helped X out of the rocket belt, stowing it in the trunk of the car.

"It was my fault we lost him', Dick admitted, "I should have moved faster and seen him."

"Nonsense! This chap leaves no traces anywhere", the owl replied from his right-hand driver's seat, "All we've got is a residual dimensional displacement and a mere glimpse of the bounder. He's moving too fast for us!"

"Didn't you see anyone on the roof?" asked Racer X.

"Just a glimpse of a dark humanoid shape and a brown shoe", I should have asked Beans if he'd seen anyone."

"Beans?" asked Racer X.

"Yeah, when I got to the bottom of the fire escape, the only person there was Beans the cat", Dick told them, "And he obviously wasn't the same size as our escapee."

"Beans??" cried Johnny incredulously, "But that's impossible!"

"Impossible? Why?" demanded Dick, his sideburns wrinkling with his scowl.

"Because Beans is gone", the owl told him, "After he left Warner Brothers to try working in MGM's Quimbyville, he became a witch's cat."

"Right!", said Racer X, "And Tom Cat reported finding his grave some years later behind the witch's house."

"Rather a sticky case as I recall. Beans had used up the last of his nine lives and had been so forgotten that he received no laughter - and finally passed away - or was.. destroyed by the witch!"

The others looked at the owl with dread on their faces, for to be "destroyed" in the Tooniverse meant death. Another realization hit them.

"Then what I saw ...was not Beans! It must've been the intruder!" said Dick with excitement.

"That creates a very unpleasant prospect" Winters concluded.

Racer X immediately made a call on his wrist radio.

"Doctor! We've just discovered that the intruder is a shape-shifter!"

"Full security alert!", came Lord's tired voice in answer, "Watch for anything out of the ordinary! This means that it could be anything: you- me - anyone! Clear? Watch your backs now. Comb the area again - we must find it! I'll do a psychic search of all of Acme Acres if I have to. Fan out! Report anything suspicious."

"I'll take the city! called Dick Strong, dashing off.

"I'll take the countryside" said Racer X, climbing into his racing car.

" Right-o, I'll monitor the airwaves and sensors at H.Q. Perhaps we can spot him again. Good luck, chaps!" agreed Johnny as he hit the gas pedal and roared off down the street.

Chapter LXXXV

Fifi hurried home as the twilight grew in Acme Acres. The orange sunset gave way to red and deep purple clouds covering the horizon. From a distance, she saw Doctor Lord leaning against her pink Cadillac. He stood up straight as she rushed over to greet him. It was then that his form began to shift, like a staticy image on a television screen. His eyes were changing colors; silver to pink to red and back again as his energy ebbed and flowed.

"Good evening..." he said wearily leaning against the car's roof.

"Sacrebleu! Come eenside queeckly!" she told him.

It was a bit of a squeeze, but Lord managed to get his large frame into the back seat of the Caddy. He leaned back heavily into the red seat cushions. His eyes stabilized momentarily, but his body phased in and out, looking very odd indeed.

"Nice place you have here..." Lord said, blinking as he tried to center himself. "

Fifi rushed about, pulling down the window shades.

"Please Grandpere! Relax! How you say? - Be yourself!"

Lord's eyes kept changing as they rolled back in his head.

"..I..got the impression you didn't care for...my real form..don't you like this one better?...uuuh ooo...I feel strange..."

"Do not argue weeth moi - change back now! Ah must 'elp you and ah can't do zat weeth you falleeng apart" she insisted.

The skunk's form seemed to collapse, shimmer and slowly formed into the human figure of Kirrik. The man looked at her with a haggard face.

"Zat's bettaire! Now make zee Purple Light come so ah can 'elp tu" she said sitting next to him on the seat.

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

Kirrik blinked and nodded, his head wavering. Then he raised his open hand and concentrated in perfect silence for a moment, his eyes closing. Lord's gentle music box-like waltz played, seemingly filling the air with wondrous beauty. His five fingers were spread and he pointed to them. His thoughts came to her.

["Among many--we are alone..."]

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

["But we who are alone--are One."]

The Purple Light sprang from his hand as though it were a match sparking into flame! Fifi felt it's marvelous warmth as Kirrik's eyes opened again. They were still phasing. Boldly, she took his human hand in her purple paw and felt the sweet jolt as the light penetrated her body like an electrical charge. A flood of warmth and energy poured through them both, filling them with blissful joy. The Purple Light covered both of them, like a lightening-filled storm cloud. Amidst it's lavender corona, Fifi smiled as Kirrik's eyes calmed and became normal. The man's spirit was renewed, his strength returned and for the first time - Fifi saw the strange human's cold features soften, as a heartwarming smile graced his features. The Purple Light filled the small house with it's tender touch like a blazing fireplace heats a home in the winter.

Aglow with the very power of Love, Fifi looked upon Kirrik - no longer as a stranger, but as he truly was - her Grandfather who she had loved all her life. Her own smile widened like his and the two drew into an embrace that ignited the purple energy to it's very heights, the rich color beginning to glow and glimmer with multitudes of tiny electrical sparkles.

Fifi and Kirrik's visions became the same - their lost family members and loved ones were standing round about them. Fifi beamed at the vision of her parents' faces as they held her in their arms and soon she saw her aged Grandmother and even the apple-cheeked face of her friend Mariette, the piglette. Her amazement grew as she saw the heavenly figure of Red Hot, Lord's lost love reaching out a dainty hand to him. There was also a tall young human, dressed in a World War One flyer's uniform, with a small mustache and a twinkle in his eye. Fifi recognized him as Lothar Von Richtofen from the picture in Hamton's book. Many other shadowy figures stood watching beyond them. The specters appeared everywhere, the multitude stretching as far as the eye could see. Fifi was puzzled as she saw Mae Bear there and all her own friends: Babs, Shirley, Buster and the rest. Pepe Le Pew and the other Looney Tunes were there as well, all smiling joyfully.

Suddenly one of the figures came from behind Fifi and took hold of her arm. She turned in shock to see the face of Hamton - his eyes pleading as he plaintively called her name!

The vision abruptly ended and Fifi found herself in her car in Kirrik's arms. She drew away in shock a moment before clutching him with fear. Kirrik looked just as puzzled.

"Deed tu see zat?!"

"Yes indeed", he said seriously, "It seems we have much to discuss."

With a sigh, Kirrik changed his form to the slightly smaller person of Grandpere Putois, the old dark gray skunk Fifi had grown up with. He adjusted his spectacles on his wizened features and draped his tail across the car seat. Fifi brightened a bit, but turned away to begin pacing the floor pensively.

"When Hamtone and ah were on ze beach at Normandy zis summer, we told each ozzer how we felt...and we realized zat keeping secretz from each ozzer waz what 'ad kept us apart....We both promeesed not to keep secretz from each ozzer again. And now - zis secret eez doeeng joost zat!"

The old skunk nodded empathically and Fifi softened her tone.

"We ave talked about our being togezzer...getting married... Oh Grandpere, ah must tell heem ze truth! Ah cannot bear lying to him! Ah'm aving to break mah promeese to heem."

"Yes I know" Putois agreed regretably.

"'Ee must ave seen us togezzer today unawares", the skunkette insisted, "Why else would ee be acteeng jealous? Ah must tell eem ze truth!"

Her grandfather leaned forward to speak to her earnestly.

"Petite - please try to understand...I'm thinking not just of your feelings, but of Hamton's too", he told her gently, "There's no other fellow in the world that I'd like better to have marry my favorite granddaughter...But marriage is a serious step. It literally means: for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health - till death do you part! And in our case - it really means forever... He will age - and you will not. You'll both change - and unless you work at your relationship each and every day - communicating and taking time for each other - you could grow apart, instead of together."

Fifi sat beside him once again.

"But we love each ozzer so much! Eez zat not enough?"

"To maintain a solid union, you must always communicate. Know each other's needs and desires and dreams. You must have the same thoughts... but even that can sometimes not be enough..." he said sadly.

"Tu mean like how tu lost Red?... ", the purple teenager asked, "Ah saw her een your memories...she waz tres` beautiful.."

Putois sighed deeply and hung his head.

"I thought I had solved all my problems. By marrying a toon who might last forever - but I lost touch...", the old being remarked poignantly before turning to her again, "I've lost all my mates, every last one..and I don't think I can stand to lose anyone anymore. You won't be marrying a human with a short lifespan, but then again - many of my spouses died unnaturally. Many were because of me and my secrets. Since they had to keep the secret as well, they shared my danger. ...Only they paid the ultimate price for it - and I paid by suffering their loss. I lost all my children too.. except you and Moufette. Someday we may lose her too. Now... do you really want to endure losing Hamton someday?"

"Ah can't theenk ov zat!", Fifi cried, turning away, "Ah couldn't live mah life weethout heem!"

"It's something you may have to face.."

"But 'ee eez a toon too! Weeth love and enough laughter, 'ee weel remain young too, no?" she exclaimed.

"Possibly, but that's something you'll have to work at and maintain. The same would go for your children too."

Fifi was a little taken aback and blushed at the thought, but shyly asked "Um...Tu theenk we will ave children? Ah wondered - ah thought zat maybe because we are deefrant species -"

Her Grandfather chuckled and said "Toons are toons. They're all pretty much alike - inside. You haven't forgotten I'm a doctor, have you?"

Fifi simpered a bit at the idea of carrying her own litter of piglets and skunk kittens, but then she realized what her Grandfather was saying.

"Ah couldn't live weethout Hamtone!", she cried, "Even eef ah had to - ah'd nevair be 'appy again! Ah wouldn't want to live weethout heem!"

The old skunk leaned close and took her paws in his.

"Little one", he said lapsing into French, "I know how much your happiness means - I know how much it means to me, too. If you were to live a lonely, angry life as I did - you'd soon develop your own Berserker. I won't let that happen to you. I promise things will be alright. But we must be sure."

"But how? How grandfather?!" she pleaded.

"Well, actions speak louder than words, my dear. If you both prove worthy of each other - we'll know."

"How can we prove ourselves like that?"

"When it happens - we'll all know", he said kissing her forehead.

Fifi could see the sense of this, but turned away to think. She turned back to face him with a bargaining chip.

"Zen tu weel ave to prove yourself too", the skunkette told him firmly, slipping back to her Franco-American, "When we prove our love - we weel tell Hamton ze truth about everytheeng. Zen - ah weel join mah mind to yourz. Eef tu accept moi - tu must accept Hammy too."

"Fair enough", agreed her grandfather, "I accept. ..The only problem is, I've been out of mental contact so long that I'll need your Purple Light rather often. These 'recharges' can only sustain me for so long."

"Zat'z okay!" Fifi smiled, happy and bouncy at there being a solution at last, "Ah like ze feeleeng ov zee mageeque!"

Putois screwed up his face at this and his form flowed and darkened into that of Doctor Lord. Fifi watched the process in amazment.

"Now, my dear, you may choose to call it what you wish - but the Purple Light is not magic. At least not to my way of thinking. 'Magic' is alot of nonsense that someone uses to trick someone else with. The Light is a very real thing to me - and very neccesary... It's the only thing that can stop the Berserker."

"But eet werkz like mageeque!", the skunkette kidded him making exaggerated hand motions, "Tu summon eet weeth strange gestures and mageeque werdz, no?"

Lord rolled his eyes and smiled at her silliness, but said "I use my hands as a focal point for the energy to form on. They're easy to focus on and useful for directing the energy. I could just as easily form it on my ears if I wanted to."

"But tu do zat funny hand theeng like zees" Fifi beamed, copying the Doctor's hand sign. "Oh.. ah can't do eet right. Ah don't ave five feengers!" she said pouting.

"Here", her grandfather chuckled, folding her purple digits to the correct sign, "Use your middle finger. Bring it down to your palm."

Fifi looked at her hand and held it up for him to see.

"Eet lookz like zat naughty hand sign ah saw at zat Schnozzy Schnozzbourne concert!" she giggled.

"Now-now Petité", he admonished gently, "It's a special sign for just you and me - just like the key words are."

"You mean zee mageeque werdz?" she laughed again.

"No, it's not a 'spell' - er sum cosmic junk", Lord said imitating Shirley's voice with a smile, "It's a phrase I say while focusing on my 'key' - that is, something special I think of to make the Light arise in myself."

"Sometheeng special?" the purple paramour asked.

"A special personal thought that makes your feeling of love arise within you...A memory, a song, a situation, a special person who

makes you feel the joy of true love."

"Well, zat shouldn't be too hard" she said holding out her arm with her fingers in the correct sign.

"Try it" the Doctor said sitting back with a smirk.

Fifi concentrated, staring at her hand for a long while, but nothing happened.

"Notheeng! Ah must be doeeng eet wrong."

"You must relax first", the old being said, "Let all other thoughts leave your mind - no distractions. Calm your body.. let everything within you drop.. let all your tensions go... slow your breathing..."

As her grandfather instructed, Fifi assumed a frozen stance, her tail draped quietly across the floor as she continued to stare at her raised paw in silence.

"Now think of your key image..."

The skunkette took a breath and thought of seeing her father again. She pictured his dear wrinkled smile..but still nothing happened. She thought of her beautiful mother holding her...but still nothing happened.

"Ah can't do eet!", she complained, "And seeing Mama and Papa would make moi so 'appy!"

"Perhaps your feelings for them are clouded by their deaths", Lord said softly, "Try something else and do not tell me your key - keep it private...Try closing your eyes."

"But how can ah tell eetz 'appeneeng weeth mah eyes shut?"

"You shall know" the big skunk whispered, "..You shall feel its might."

Taking a deep breath, Fifi closed her eyes and focused herself in the stillness. Moments passed and the quiet surrounded her as she fixed her mind on one image. Lord watched as her chest hardly moved at all, her eerie stillness becoming almost as alien as his.

On the tip of her index finger, a tiny spark of purple formed, like a molecule of smoke. As it grew to the size of a tiny flame, Lord watched Fifi's breathing stop. The skunkette felt a jolt of pure power shoot down her finger tip into her palm and quickly opened her eyes! But by breaking her concentration, the Light dissolved before she could catch a glimpse of it.

"Mah feenger! Ah felt eet! What 'appened?!", she implored, then spoke in an admonishing tone, "And please don't tell moi: "That's good! You've just taken your first step into a larger world", like Obi Wan Kenobi!"

The Doctor sat back nonplused and answered "Okay, I won't say it. ... But "You made a a tiny purple spark" just doesn't sound as good."

"Ah deed?!" she said bouncing with joy.

"Yes, you did" he agreed, nearly grinning, "But you must practice."

"Oh-ho! Zat should be no problem - eet feelz so wondairful, ah'll do eet all ze time!"

A thought occurred to her and she became thoughtful again.

"Pavel...ah saw your wife, Red. And Lothar too? ..But ah saw mah friendz and Hamtone - and Mariette! But zey are not dead! Why deed ah see zem een our vision?!"

"You must first understand that they are simply our memories. They are not corporeal creatures in the vision who can interact with us anew", Lord told her, "Their memories are alive in us - and it doesn't matter weather they are alive or dead - they are alive in our minds because we love them - and because we don't forget them..That's why I spend every Sunday remembering them all. Because of my promise to keep their memory alive in me always...in that way, they can live on, forever with me."

Fifi's sweet smile was infectious.

"So zat'z what tu do on Sunday...zat'z sweet ov you!"

Her dark purple eyes shifted though her coy smile.

"Zen 'ow do tu explain why ah also saw Mae Bear een your vision, eh?"

The tall skunk shifted his feet uncomfortably and tried not to look like he was blushing. His smirk betrayed him.

"Ummmm....well... to be honest, that's the first time I've seen her in a vision like that...uh...Really. Well now I -!"

Embarrassed, Lord tried to stand up - and succeeded in bopping his head against the low ceiling! He sat back down with a thump and Fifi laughed fit to split, rolling on the car seat.

"It's a little small in here", he laughed, rubbing the top of his head, "Perhaps now that you own the place, you can have a bigger one built."

His granddaughter stopped giggling with a greedy gasp and said "Ooo! Do tu theenk? ..Hammy and ah were talking about zat."

"We can get rid of this old car...or we could have it fixed up so you could drive it. Arnold could make it go again."

"Zat might be fun!... But ah'd kindov like eet az mah entryway."

The Doctor looked around at Fifi's red cushions, pillows and fancy drapes. The posters of Bruce Stinksteen and Tom Stanks were nearly ready to peel off the walls. When he looked down under the car seat by his feet, Fifi hastily shoved a few items further under it to hide them, but he caught sight of one and pulled out a large, ten pound heart-shaped box of bonbons. The skunkette grinned sheepishly as he smirked at her.

"Maybe you'd like a real skunk's den? An underground home like my complex. Then you could have it as big as you want - whatever way you want" suggested Lord.

"Zat all soundz great but 'ow can ah possibly afford all zat?" she asked.

Her grandfather smiled and took her paws in his.

"You'll never have to worry about money again - I've been putting a little aside for a long time" he bantered.

"And just 'ow long eez zat?" Fifi quipped.

"Oh, about three thousand years..give or take a few". The two relatives hugged each other and Lord peeked out the window.

"Come with me. I have much to tell you."

Chapter LXXXVI

Acme Acres was swathed in low-lying fog below and crowned by star-spangled starlight above. The air was cool and misty as the Moon soared over the city, it's pale blue moonbeams playing through the clouds and dense fog. The lights of the city made the foggy air glow in fuzzy yellow and white patches at the bases of the buildings and street lamps. The streets were quiet and empty when Lord and Fifi stood outside her old car and walked through the wrought iron gates to his mansion.

( Spider-Man #1, "Main Titles")

Lord began to play a soft, mysterious theme in his mind.

"A beautiful night!" the tall skunk marveled.

"Oui!" she agreed, looking up at him.

"A perfect time for a flight!" he grinned, his teeth showing.

"Que? At zis time ov night?!", Fifi scoffed in disbelief, "You can't go up een your airplane now!"

Lord cocked his head sideways and looked at her in an odd fashion.

"Who said anything about a plane?"

Without a word, the tall skunk crouched on the ground and began to change. The music became electrifying as Fifi stared at his morphing form, her eyes growing wider and wider with amazement! She watched as his body altered itself; the clothes becoming tan fur, the wings sprouting and shakily unfolding from between his shoulder blades! In shock, she saw his white feathers spreading, his tail thinning!

"Come!" he said in deep basso voice, as his clawed talons suddenly grasped her and put her onto his back!

With a jarring leap, the creature was at the base of the corner of the towering mansion! Scared, Fifi hung on as the great beast climbed up the side of the building, its' clawed feet gripping the corners of the windows and stones like a lizard crawling up a wall. Fifi clung to the animal's feathered shoulders, while clamping her knees and thighs around its' lithe body. She felt the monster pulling itself hard up to the roof against the tug of gravity - twenty - thirty - forty feet straight up! The huge brute reached the top and Fifi gasped at the height of the drop to the ground far below! The skunkette turned to object and at last saw the face of the beast. It's huge silver eagle-like beak was surmounted by two blazing golden eyes and the feathers covering it's wings and front half were of the purest white!

"Hold on!" the giant griffin told her as he spread his twenty-two foot wingspan and leaped off into space!

Fifi had only time to gasp again as the great mythical creature took to the air! The wind whistled past her ears as she hung on for dear life, clutching onto it's body with her eyes shut tight. The body moved beneath her, muscles undulating rapidly as it flapped its immense white wings! Gaining altitude rapidly, the griffin and his rider flew up towards the shining Moon till they were silhouetted by it, two hundred feet in the air!

When she could see that they weren't going to fall, Fifi opened her eyes to gaze in wonder at her magnificent steed. Lord was truly flying - not smoothly like an aircraft - instead in each beat of the white wings, she felt the tremendous power and effort, as they rose and fell every second! The exhilarating music in her head was driving powerfully with thrilling percussion as they galloped across the sky.

The griffin swooped down suddenly as the buildings of the city loomed into his path and banked none too gently around the closest one. To either side of her, Fifi watched the magnificent white wings beating hard and fast, not like a slow-soaring bird of prey - but quickly like the wings of a falcon. The landscape wheeled sideways as they banked hard again to the right with the rider leaning heavily, seeing the streets shoot past underneath them! The griffin pushed them upwards to climb - then they leaned forward into a power dive to skim just above the cars below! The skyscrapers shot past them on both sides as they ascended again.

The skunkette was scared but thrilled. It was as if she were on a tremendous swing that only flew forwards. They banked again to the left, just missing the brick walls by inches! Around the towers they flew, shifting every moment, rolling, pitching and climbing through the deadly obstacle course! In going round a sharp turn, the griffin rolled completely over, spinning Fifi upside down on his back! He went into a dive again, folding up his wings closely about her as the two plunged earthward, only to open his wings like a parachute, the white feathers spreading like a fan! Up and down the winged beast hurtled, literally throwing himself across space.

With a swift gasp, the skunkette saw a building looming out of the fog straight in their path! The Griffin dashed madly ahead right for it!

"We're going to hit!!" she cried.

"No we're not" he said.

The beast dove at the base of the tower's face, suddenly pulled up and skimmed the surface -literally running up the side of the building! It's clawed feet and talons dug grooves into the cement as it ran on all fours up the skyscraper, grunting with each gallop! As it reached the top, the mighty mythological leaped straight up into the sky with it's claws and paws spread wide, carrying Fifi heavenward!

The griffin flew over the tip of the tower's spire and looked down at the streets below.

"Time to learn Petité!", the creature crowed over his shoulder, "We are Immortals! We are Invincible!! We have No Fear of Death!"

With that, the huge creature folded it's wings up and dropped like a stone! Fifi screamed as they fell, the street rushing up to meet them! The Griffin grinned wildly and showed no signs of wishing to stop their fall! Suddenly there was a dreadful silence as the whistling wind ceased! Lord formed his invisible force field around them and Fifi's scream echoed inside it's sphere!

The force field met the pavement with a resounding KWANNGG! and bounced straight back up like a Superball, flying even higher than before! Within it, Fifi and the Griffin felt the impact nearly flatten them, but Fifi found herself unhurt. The Griffin released the force field, his wingspread catching the air again.

At five hundred feet, the creature rolled and spun, flinging its talons and paws wide! The Griffin threw back it's bird-like head and screamed the joyful cry of a triumphant eagle! It's sensational shriek echoed across the city as it called to her again.

"No Fear, Fifi! No Fear!!" he cried as he turned and dove again to the earth. This time Fifi watched in half-shock and half-amazement as the seemingly impossible feat was accomplished again. The ground darted at them only to see the force field ball ricochet back up to the sky again!

KWANNGG!! The skunkette's toony elasticity was tested to the maximum as again they fell and were rebounded up into the stars!

KWANNGG!! Fifi surprised herself by finding it exciting, like the world's best roller-coaster ride.

She held on tight and called back to him "No Fear! No Fear!!" Joyfully they dove and bounced again and again, laughing and screaming at the top of their lungs! Their next bounce took them high over the entire city and Fifi marveled at the sight: a thousand lights stood out in the darkness through the blurs of the clouds.

Looking down, the Griffin's eagle eyes spotted movement below atop a building. As he gazed intently downward, a wicked grin formed on his silver beak.

"Shhh!" he whispered as they swooped down to the rooftops.

"Another time displacement?", huffed Robin, as he stared out across the buildings of Acme City, "Considering it's the same area - don't you think it might be your stinky friend?"

"The signature's different", Batman told his partner, "Plus it's from a different location."

The rooftop was empty except for the two of them, and silent, but from out of nowhere came a feminine giggle. Batman and Robin turned, but still saw nothing - for a moment. Then the spherical force field keeping Fifi and the Griffin invisible dissolved before their eyes, revealing a purple skunkette giggling at them from her seat atop the magnificent winged creature.

"Good evening, Caped Crusaders!" smiled the huge beast before leaping off the roof.

Surprised, Batman and Robin ran to the edge as the Griffin and his rider plunged down towards the ground. Quickly they fired their grapplers to stop it's fall. The twin steel darts shot out trailing safety lines, racing to catch the falling duo, but at the last second the force field bounced them aside just before striking the pavement and rebounding Fifi and her mount up into the sky! As they flew away laughing, Robin stared open-mouthed in astonishment.

Art by Murray Mouse

"Holy Crap, Batman!"

Fifi and her Grandfather flew away to the north, across the meadows and countryside of Acme Acres to the mountains. There on the brown craggy mountain peaks, they landed and Fifi got off for a better look at the Griffin.

He was about eight feet long with a tawny lion's rear body and a white and silver-feathered eagle's body in the front. Unlike most birds, he had long, feathery ears that swept back like horns from behind his golden eyes.

"Tu make a powairful-lookeeng griffin" she told him admiringly.

"Thank you. A little something I used to do in the Middle Ages" he said in the rather basso voice of the beast.

"Tu are quite 'andsome az whatever tu choose to be - except for zat sea monstair! Les Yuck!" Fifi joked.

Art by Pepe K.

The big Griffin laughed and sat down, it's lion-like tail waving about. Fifi looked at their barren surroundings on the moonlit plateau.

"So...what are we doeeng 'ere?"

"I wanted to talk to you about something important... and I wanted to get away from the city for awhile too" he said, turning his head aside so his wide-spread eyes could see her. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to bother you with such things so soon, but... it seems as if I must."

"Mais non! Bother moi weeth more secrets?"

"With what I do. It's very important work - and I could use your talents someday, if you decide to help."

"Be une professeur at Acme Loo?"

"Surely, you don't think that's all I do?" the Griffin countered a bit haughtily.

"Like, don't call me Shirley" Fifi kidded, doing a perfect imitation of her friend's accent, "You mean like, yer mondo secret spy thing?"

The Griffin's beak managed to conform to Lord's usual mysterious smile.

Fifi was surprised that he was serious, "Tu want moi to be a spy??"

He nodded as he corrected her "Agent".

Flabbergasted, she turned away. "But ah dunno anytheeng about being a secret agent!"

"Eventually, you'll have abilities like I do...You see, because I grew up in Reality where no one has any powers, I found I could be a force for either good or evil in the world. Since I already had the Berserker and knew the danger, I've used my powers to protect others. They are a gift that I mustn't waste on trivial matters. When I came to the Tooniverse, I realized that it needed protection as well, and as time went on, I saw that cross- contamination was a problem. Each universe needs to be protected from dangers from the other and vice versa... Also, there is danger from outside..."

"Outside? What else eez zere zan our Tooniverse and Reality?" Fifi inquired.

The Griffin lowered his eyes and said "What I'm about to tell you is known to very few people...There are forces from an evil intelligence bent on disrupting the cooperation between the Toon world and Reality. They can infiltrate anywhere and use acts of terrorism to divide the two worlds. You recall the night I went off to help Admiral Chamberlin?"

"Oui, when tu left een zee helicopter? Tu went to save people?"

The beast hung it's head sadly.

"In a way", he said, "I saved innocent lives by destroying guilty ones. I had to stop an invasion by decapitating it's leadership.. The President wanted it stopped for good, so an example had to be made." He closed his eyes and told her "So the enemy witnessed the wrath of the Berserker..."

The ashamed Griffin lapsed into silence and Fifi crossed to put a sympathetic paw on his shoulder.

"So tu loosed ze Berserker on zem? No wonder tu were so miserable when tu came home."

"Yes", the mythological admitted, rising to walk over to the edge of the mountain, "And somehow a clue was left behind...Now there's been an incursion into Acme Acres by some shape-shifter. We don't know who or what it is or what it wants, but we'll find it!"

"We?" asked Fifi, cross-examining him.

"Yes, some of the agents are already scouring Acme Acres, looking for it as we speak."

He turned and looked back at her again with concern.

"I just want to be honest with you and make sure you understand the dangers involved."

His granddaughter remained pensive as the Griffin walked up beside on the cliff. She sat next to him, looking at the stars.

"Well, tu certainly ave given moi alot to theenk about" she said quietly.

Sitting on the cold rocks made Fifi shiver and the Griffin wrapped a white wing around her to shield her from the cold.

"Let's go home now. It's been a tiring day."

"Tu do feel bettair, no?"

"Thanks to you, yes."


The Griffin flew down through the fog to land before Lord's mansion and Fifi climbed from it's back in the midst of a conversation.

"So do tu theenk Hammy and ah weel ave mixed-species children or no?"

"I suppose I could conduct some tests, but it's difficult to say" her grandfather told her, his voice changing as he reformed himself back into Doctor Lord. "I do know a certain hog-nosed skunk..."

"Well would zey be half peeg and half skonk?"

"You mean like a purple-furred pig with a skunk's tail? Or a pink skunk with a curly tail?"

"Oui! Would zey be 'Skinks'? Or 'Punks'? Or 'Pinks'?"

"Most likely they'd be like the two of you - the girls would be skunks and the boys would be pigs."

Art by Thorne

"Would ah carry just one at a time or ave a whole litter?", the skunkette giggled, "What do tu theenk?"

Fifi couldn't help dreaming of what carrying their children might be like, seeing herself with a big pregnant belly and what she'd be like as a mother.

The Doctor laughed and remarked, "I think you're growing up awfully fast!"

(Spider-Man #4 "Revenge")

As they both chuckled at this, they heard the footsteps of someone walking across the street towards them through the fog. The thick mist obscured the person and Lord grew quiet. They both saw a figure coming to meet them and finally recognized him as Officer Pooch, the neighborhood constable.

"Good evening Pooch, nice to see you again" Lord smiled.

The canine cop continued to walk up to them. He waved and smiled, but didn't say anything as he drew closer.

"How's the old beat, Daniel?" asked the Doctor pleasantly.

The Keystone Kop continued to close in on them, his unchanging eyes and smile looking happily at them.

"Officer?" asked Fifi stepping up to him in front of Lord.

Lord's eyes suddenly went wide and he grabbed her arm!

"FIFI NO!!!" he shouted as he whipped her around behind himself!

At that same second, there was a sickening explosion behind him and Lord stiffened as the impact hit him square in the back! He stared at Fifi with a horrible look on his face and clutched her arm tightly for a moment - then the life on his eyes faded and he fell backwards onto the street!

In utter shock and horror, Fifi saw her grandfather's blood spattered under his fallen body - and beyond that stood the vile grinning face of someone who was obviously not Officer Pooch. In the fake toon's hands was a strange smoking plasma rifle, only now it was leveled on her!

"GRANDFATHER!!!" Fifi screamed in agony and grief as she fell to her knees over the body.

There was no life in his open eyes and gaping mouth as Fifi screamed and screamed in misery! Suddenly she looked up into the face of the assassin and witnessed his body changing. It was as if his image on a video screen faded off, leaving behind an ugly human from Reality - a man covered in weapons and body armor.

"Grandfather, eh?!" the man grunted.

The assassin abruptly grabbed Fifi with vise-like hands and thrust her into a steel mesh bag slung behind his back! Her squeals and struggling came to no avail as he turned and ran away into the fog!

As the villain ran away, the loose drops of blood began to move. They flowed over the pavement back to their owner, running like raindrops to Lord's collapsed body. Slowly his hands lifted him into a sitting position as the immortal reformed himself, his eyes closing in bitter anger!

Even before he was finished putting himself back together, Lord's thoughts called out to his agents.

["The fugitive tried to assassinate me! He is heavily armed! He has a Hostage!! He'll try to escape from his entry point! The Hostage MUST be rescued at all costs!! Converge! Code One!!"]

Without waiting for an answer, Lord stood shakily on his feet. He tried to walk but the shaking increased as the anger welled up within him. His hands shook wildly, then his arms and his tail. He hunched over in pain, fighting the fury as the wind began to blow around him with gale force. He started to growl and shake his fists as the thunder rolled overhead! The claws on his hands grew into monstrous, deadly talons! His growl became a scream as all his muscles pumped and expanded with rage! His huge fists raised to the lightning-filled black sky as his scream became a roar! His teeth clenched hard in hate, his blazing red eyes flew open as his muzzle grew longer and his fur grew thicker and blacker! The monster grew and grew as it snarled in frenzy!

The raging Berserker was loose! It slammed it's four-foot fists down upon the street, smashing huge holes through the asphalt! The titanic beast began to stomp after the kidnapper, snapping a steel lamppost like a twig with one swipe of it's arm, breaking a mailbox off it's metal legs and sending it flying over to smash a parked car. The brick building blocking it's way enraged the beast and with it's bare hands, the terrible brute shoved the office building over, right off it's foundation! As tons of bricks came crashing down the Berserker began to run, it's clawed feet ripping holes in the cement sidewalk. The giant werewolf ran smashing through the line of buildings in it's path, leaving gaping monster-shaped holes in each one!

Still struggling in the assassin's bag, Fifi fought to aim her scent glands at the man's face. Realizing her jeans were in the way, she was just about to pull them off when she suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Her chest tightened and the horrid taste of metal came to her mouth. She doubled over, incapacitated by the pain - but then realized what it meant - and grinned nastily at the situation her kidnapper would soon find himself in!

The grimy villain sweated as he ran through the darkened city streets! If he could reach the escape point in time -

Suddenly he was bathed from overhead in the white light of a searchlight and froze, looking up.

"FREEZE!! LET THE GIRL GO!!" shouted a voice from above.

With an echoing blast of smoke and flame, Racer X flew down from around a skyscraper on his rocket belt! He held a submachine gun at his hip and pointed it at the kidnapper.

The assassin drew a machine pistol and blazed away at the flying hero, his red tracer bullets leaving laser-like streaks of flame aimed up into the air! Racer X opened up on him, firing at his feet, so as to not hit Fifi. As the fire-fight continued, bullets ricocheted around the man and Fifi shrieked and ducked as best she could. Racer X expertly flipped himself across the sky between the towers, catching himself and swinging in mid-air like a gymnast as he avoided the flying tracer-fire! The assassin swung his pistol, spitting bullets till one hit the fuel intake line on Racer X's rocket pack!

Seeing the spy spinning out of control, the villain continued his run to freedom. Racer X valiantly tried to stick the spurting fuel line back into the rocket engine without success. He was ninety feet in the air and spinning helplessly - until the fuel was gone and the engine flamed out with a pop! Racer X tried to grasp onto the skyscraper next to him, but the stanchion he was holding onto bent under his weight and snapped! He plummeted earthward towards the street below!

Suddenly down from above plunged a ghostly white form! It was Johnny Winters! As his friend was falling, the heroic snowy owl dove straight down to the rescue, grasping Racer X by his rocket belt in just the nick of time! Johnny descended slowly, flapping his silent wings to bring Racer X to a safe touchdown on the street.

"Thanks Johnny - I owe you one" said the master spy as he began to run after the villain.

"Think nothing of it, old chap! Let's get that greedy blighter!" said Winters as he took to his wings again.

From out of the shadows, a bullet slammed into the assassin's chest and bounced off his body armor. Stunned for a moment, the villain fired the rest of the bullets in his machine pistol, then threw the empty gun away. In the dark, Dick Strong blasted away with his twin .45 automatics at the kidnapper, leaping across the alleyways from wall to wall, tumbling in mid-air as he jumped to a better vantage point. Fifi held her ears as the shots rang out, while struggling to open the mouth of the kidnapper's bag to escape.

The assassin pulled out his plasma rifle again, leveled it in the direction of the detective and fired a spray of burning green plasma waves! The building in front of him was struck, causing it to crumble onto itself and form an avalanche of masonry and bricks. Dick looked ahead of him and saw his way blocked by tons of rock. The kidnapper ran on, throwing away his spent weapon!

The grimy, sweating human finally made it to his destination - the alley was barren except for a warped cardboard box. As the man ran in, there was a sudden yowl of fear as Furball streaked away in panic at the sight of him. Fifi saw her last chance for salvation zip away like blue lightning.

The assassin reached the wall at the end of the alley and crouched down to pull a device from his chest pack. He swore loudly as he found his dimensional portal opener had been ruined by that first shot fired by Dick Strong. Fifi began struggling again and he shook her off his back and plunked her beside him as he tried to repair his device.

It was then that he heard a horrid ghostly voice. Something was singing the semblance of a song. The voice rose and fell crazily, sounding intensely vicious one moment, and sentimental the next - as if the singer were insane. Fifi heard it too and froze in her tracks. The voice hissed and crooned, becoming guttural - then sickeningly sweet.

"..You used to say 'Live and let Live'....you know ya did! You know ya did! Ya know ya deeeed!"

The kidnapper shivered and struggled to repair his machine, but Fifi now realized just who that voice was..... The creepy voice echoed in and around the buildings, sending shivers up her spine!

"..But in this evah changin' world in which we live in - makes you give it a try......to LIVE AND LET DIE!!!"

A hundred yards away in the dark, Fifi and her kidnapper saw a huge flat shape fall. There was a resounding crash and a cloud of dust filled the air. Then the sight and sound was repeated again! And Again And Again! The crash and rumble grew closer and closer and louder and louder! Suddenly they saw the flat shapes clearly falling - they were buildings!

As the last one fell, Fifi saw what she'd feared most. Away in the blackness glowed two huge red eyes. Soul-less, lifeless, red eyes with no pupils at all...and they were coming nearer and nearer!

From out of the gloom, a monstrous black shape loomed. It walked heavily, the impact of it's feet caused the ground to tremble. The body of the beast became more distinct, larger and more massive than Fifi had seen before. It walked upright, but it's chest, arms and shoulders were so wide and so gargantuan that it seemed to lean forward like a knuckle-dragging caveman. The monster saw the man - it's red eyes narrowing evilly - and it marched towards them.

The Berserker looked at least fifteen feet tall and was so colossal that it must have weighed two tons.

In terror, the assassin pulled out a grenade and threw it at the creature, but the explosion didn't make a scratch. He threw all his grenades at it - the Berserker just snorted away the smoke and kept on coming! The man pulled his pistols and fired till his guns were empty, the leviathan's fur was ruffled by the shots but it had had enough and suddenly rushed forward, knocking the weapons from the man's hands and grasping one of it's huge fists around his legs!

The screaming man was lifted over twenty feet into the air over the monster's head and the fist closed! There was a horrible snapping and popping of bone, like a dog padding on plastic, as the man's legs were crushed in that giant hand. The kidnapper shrieked once, then he was tossed unceremoniously to the ground.

Meanwhile, Fifi had struggled out of the bag and now stood cornered in the dark alley by her worst nightmare come true.

The Berserker twisted it's horrible head, the glowing red eyes falling upon her and a gruesomely sweet grin appeared on it's jagged jaws. The ogre spread it's monstrous hands as if appealing to the tiny skunkette.

"Little One" it's ghastly voice said sweetly, "Come to meeee, my sweet child! You shall be my love-queen ...I've always wanted you Fifi......someday - you'll be just like ME!"

As it beckoned her, Fifi shuddered in horror and backed up slowly, till her back was against the cold brick wall.

"Non! Non! Go away! Go away!...Must.... concentrate!" she said in terror as she tried hard to think.

"I love youuuuuu..." said the mocking monster.

Summoning all her strength, Fifi raised her shaking hand, her purple eyes open and steady, and bravely faced the Berserker.

"Among many--we are alone..."

The monster began to laugh.

She bent her middle finger down to her palm, leaving the others up. Then she extended her open hand towards the beast...

"But we who are alone--are One!"

The Purple Light blazed forth in the darkness from Fifi's paw like fire, covering her completely with it's heavenly flame! The Berserker cowered and shrank as the Light leaped from the glowing skunkette and touched it! Quickly the monster shrunk and reformed into the black and sliver body of Lord. Fifi's Purple Light glowed about them as she ran to his kneeling figure and they embraced each other in a tearful reunion.

"Grandpere! Tu saved moi!"

"Petité..", he said gently correcting her, "You saved me."

The two skunks held each other softly a long while...


As Fifi and Lord stood amidst the wreckage, the others arrived. Racer X, Johnny Winters and Dick Strong smiled quietly as they greeted the two skunks, then went to inspect their captive. As they did, Batman and Robin swooped down from the nearest roof.

"So your organization does pretty well, huh?" Robin remarked, pointing out all the devastated buildings.

"Usually things don't get quite so uncontrollable" Lord answered coolly.

"I should hope so!", said a voice from the shadows, "I might tend to agree with the Boy Wonder."

Everyone turned to see Andy Fox entering the alley. He walked calmly up to the Doctor and said "This, I felt. I think we have alot to talk about, Doc."

"What about your prisoner here?" asked Batman, whom they suddenly noticed was standing over the wounded kidnapper.

"Don't touch him! He may be booby trapped! I'll handle this - if you'll all stand back please?" Lord insisted.

"So this is the dimensional incursion?", asked Robin, "What's he done?"

"He's wearing a shift-suit, so he can look like anybody" Dick Strong told them.

"And that's reason enough to beat him up like this?" demanded Andy.

"He also tried to kill me and kidnap Fifi" Lord said quietly. Andy and Robin's faces quickly changed and they both said "Oh..."

"He would have gotten away with it too if we hadn't tried to stop him" Racer X told them.

"What do we do with him, Doctor? We still don't know anything." inquired Winters.

Lord sighed and centered himself, "I think I'll have to find out. If you'll all step over there, please?"

(Trinity & Beyond # 3 "Trinity")

Lord began to play a slow, very ominous theme from his mind. He walked solemnly over to the wounded assassin, rubbing his fingers together slowly as he concentrated on the man's eyes. The kidnapper shivered looking into Lord's eerie silver eyes and tried to shy away. The Doctor stopped and moved no closer as he focused on the villain's mind. As the music grew frightening, the man stared up at his captor like a trapped animal. Lord's eyes blazed white and the man froze. The tall skunk's face grew stern and cold by degrees, and his eyes went back to normal. The assassin relaxed too, but flinched as Lord bent down to nearly touch him. The music became climactic and dark as Lord seemingly drew something small from the man's head. Staring at it intently, he walked away back to the others.

He carried his hand as through holding something between his fingers. As he stopped, the others could see a small object floating between Lord's claws, like a tiny liquid jewel.

Lord's face clouded and grew colder, his ominous theme becoming downright deadly. Then with a grunt, the doctor squeezed his fingers together - crushing the jewel.

Behind him, the assassin saw this and with a gulp, pressed a button on his body armor.

"LOOK OUT!" warned Racer X as a high-pitched electrical whine reached their ears!

Everyone managed to duck or run a few steps away before the was a sudden detonation! When the smoke had cleared, there was nothing left of the assassin but a greasy spot on the wall of the alley.

"What happened?" demanded Robin.

"Suicide bomb", Batman concluded, then directed his next inference at Lord, "I gather he knew too much."

"Enough...but not enough to pull this off alone. He had help." answered the Doctor pensively, blowing dust from his fingertips.

Lord turned to face them all and spoke with serious intent.

"He was in league with one of Them..."

"Them??" asked Andy

"Yes", Winters told him, "Tiny extra-universal beings. Intelligent little beggars, too."

"They attach to a host and then control it, like a brain needs arms and legs" said Racer X.

"You mean that thing you took from that man's head?" asked the Boy Wonder.

"Yes, it had been partially controlling him, but he knew what he was doing" Lord acknowledged.

"Extra-universal beings? Meaning from outside our universe" Batman queried.

"Quite. Not from our Tooniverse...or Reality" Winters said.

"But why?" wondered Andy.

"Because they wish to disrupt or destroy our universes" said Lord.

"So what you just crushed - was an intelligent being? You destroyed it?!" demanded Andy in shock.

"No", Lord said looking directly at the fox, "...I killed it. I held it in a micro-force field, beause if it had been allowed to touch anyone else - it would have taken them over instantly and now they'd be trying to kill us."

This statement silenced everyone. Fifi, who had been nervously listening, huddled closely to her grandfather.

"I think we're through here for the moment", the Doctor reported, and I need to get Miss Fifi home now."

Everyone began to leave when Andy spoke to the Doctor.

"We'll talk later" he said before going.

As Fifi was finally saying goodnight to her grandfather before climbing into her Cadillac, she asked "Ow deed tu know zat eet waz ze bad man and not Officer Pooch?"

"Anyone viewing just his old MGM cartoon wouldn't know that he could speak, instead of having an Irish accent" Lord said with a smile.

Just then, Fifi's telephone rang and with a swift goodnight kiss, she dashed inside to take the call. It was her friend Mariette the Piglette, calling from France.

"Bonjour ma cherie! And 'ow are vous doeeng? 'Ow eez Hamtone, zee love ov your life, eh?" Mariette bubbled happily.

"Oh...theengz are goeeng ...okay" Fifi replied yawning.

"Joost okay?! Eez zat all?! Well ah see ah must geeve vous some more teepz about zee cute boy peegz, non? Eetz joost like ah alwayz say!"

There was the discordant sound of a mandolin being tuned, then Mariette's voice sang joyfully: "Love makes zee werld go round! Love makes zee werld go round! Somebody soon - weell love you! Eef no one loves you now..."

(Spider-Man #8 "Alone")

Inside Lord's mansion, he was also on the phone as he sat in the empty dinning room, facing an empty chair.

"Hello?" said Mae Bear's faraway voice.

"Hello Mae.."

"Well! Hi Doc! What are you doing up so late? Ya caught me in my nightie!" she said slyly.

"Oh I'm sorry to wake you, but I have something important to tell you. I'm closing down the company for two weeks - tell everyone to take a paid vacation..."

"Oh, great! I'll come out and see you!"

"Uh, wait, there's more...make sure everyone is out of the buildings. Just keep the security on. And keep it tight."

"Oh....You expecting trouble?"

"Maybe...Mostly I'm trying to avoid it.

"Oh.....okay... Can I still come out and see you?"

"...............Mae..........I don't think we should see each other .."

"Wha?................Why? Why not?!"

"Mae.....I'm not the man you think I am......I can't... I can't...."

"But Why?!! I thought we really had something!!! ....I....Please!"

"I.....I can't tell you..... I'd like to... but..... it's not safe - not right for us."

"Please Pav!? .......I love you! Don't you know that?! Please!?"

"I love you too......that's why I can't be with you...."

There was a click and then a hollow dial tone as Mae hung up on him. Lord sat back in his cold chair and stared at the telephone receiver. He let it buzz for a long moment and then hung up. The old being sat back in his chair and sighed deeply.

Look for the next Chapters of -


coming to you soon.