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      “Sorry to bother you again, Ed.”

      This was a lie; Evangeline wasn’t at all sorry. There was nothing she loved better than to be the bearer of bad news and she was rather pleased to have an excuse to call Ed Steam so soon after their last conversation.

      “The Cackle Insanitization Committee contacted me. Their spies reported that Gustave had a meeting with that awful whinging Bea woman from Cackletown.”

      Ed was shocked. “Gustave? Gustave Butterworth, the scientist? He’s supposed to be working for us, isn’t he?”

      Evangeline sniffed dismissively, eager to pass on her next tantalising morsel. She tried to keep the excitement out of her voice and sound appropriately serious.

      “The other concerning thing is that the Contumacious Cackler is in town. There have been several verified hearings of him.”

      “The Contumacious Cackler!” Ed’s horrified reaction was music to Evangeline’s ears, although she was not entirely sure who the Contumacious Cackler was or why the mention of his name elicited such horror. She decided to ask.

      “It’s rather a sad story. His mother ran away from home when he was just 3 years old, due to his father’s incessant cackling. The Contumacious Cackler never saw his mother again and he grew up with an obsessive hatred of cackling. He vowed to put an end to cackling. He cackles so evilly that he stirs up trouble wherever he goes. His dastardly plan is to create so much resistance to cackling that the people are inflamed sufficiently to rise up against cacklers. He is reported to be responsible for the demise of cackling in 2 of the provinces.”


      In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


        Dispersee!” Medlik bellowed “ Dispersee ! You’re late again for your assigned report on the Cackleversity !”

        “You tart” Floverley remote-elbowed her neighbour in spirit. “Pay a little attention, or he’s never going to stop lecturing us.” She rolled her eyes “There he goes…”

        “…important it is? Seriously, that little trick that you call insanitizing could well be a weapon of mass enlightenment! You have to be careful and follow-up.”

        Floverley was always the quiet one, but she wondered at times if she was the only one paying attention in the classroom. Medlik’s exhortations at times seemed so full of contradictions, in a not so enlightened way. She shuddered at the thought that she started to sound so frightfully contumacious.

        Doubt is the light-killer” she admonished herself, reciting the first rhyme of her little litany against doubt that she taught to her devotees. “Master Medlik is just testing our capacities, there is no reason to doubt his intentions…”


        In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


          Lizette patiently waited her turn in the medical bay. Her injury wasn’t serious ~ indeed there was not much need for medical assistance, after all it was just a minor lesion on her heel, but it did make it painful to walk, let alone run, and the increasingly heated babble of conversation in the waiting room was interesting.

          Although initially everyone had been calm and obedient, trusting the management and the system implicitly, before long the mood had changed to confusion and suspicion. Seeds of doubt crept in and were quickly fertilized by the submerged energy of fear at the unexpected disorder. Up until now, everything on MARS had been Controlled with a capital C ~ there were rules and protocol for everything, rigid regimes and timetables, a place for everything, and everything in its place. It had been stifling, to be honest, with very little in the way of spontaneity or surprises, nothing unexpected to expect but the dry tedium of calm control.

          In a way, the meteor impact (if indeed it had been a meteor impact ~ there was much speculation in the waiting room that they had been attacked by aliens, that the management was hiding this detail from their explanations) had been a welcome diversion from routine. But a welcome diversion that was rapidly spiraling out of control. When people were confused and frightened, there was no telling how they might behave, brainwashed or not. When they were physically injured as well, panic and suspicion swiftly set in, fears and wild theories echoing around the waiting room. Add to that the trapped feeling, with nowhere to flee, and the threat of a hostile outer environment, and strange unknown beings breaking through their protection boundaries, well, it was a recipe for chaos.

          Lizette felt herself getting caught up in the general mood, feeling roused by heated calls for a mob handed demand for answers in one moment, and chilled to the bone by the terrified screeches of the most fearful in the next; thankfully noticing in time to reactivate her personal space buffer before descending into the energy quagmire herself. The dense fog of the previous brainwashing had distorted their power of rational reasoning; Liz felt she was the only one in the waiting room with the mental capacity to weigh up the various perspectives being aired, to try and make some sense of it.

          When Gordon popped his head into the waiting room, Lizette hobbled over to him, wincing at the pain in her Achilles heel.

          “Gordy, a word in your ear, old man,” she started to say, and then found herself catapulted into his arms as another tremor rocked the room. “Good God, Gordon! What’s going on?” she managed to say before slipping into unconsciousness.


          In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


            Eb’s dumb phone woke him up. The caller ID showed an unflattering picture of a Tasmanian devil all teeth bared.

            He gathered his wits and answered it as naturally as he could.
            “Eb! What is this mess? Has the operation started already?”
            “Err… Well, hmm, sure, there is… a first rehearsal…” he checked nervously on the console, fumbling through the logs of the agenda. His memory was fuzzy, but it seemed that someone… something had moved the timetable ahead without his approval. “… yes, a rehearsal planned today. Be assured that all team is on deck — we’re monitoring the situation.”
            “You better hope so! You know how we say — talking doesn’t cook the rice, so you better go back to cooking.”
            And she hung up.

            He was in desperate need of help. The team he was referring to had been cut by halves every year since the start of the program, and they were now sorely understaffed. Calling it a team was a stretch of the imagination, when so much was done by FinnPrime, the central intelligence.

            He looked upon the stained sheet of printed plastic on his desk. The only application they’d received. Guess there wasn’t as many underpaid starving actors as there used to be. Or maybe too many were disappeared after offering their help to the nation’s Mars broadcasts —then asking inconvenient questions…
            Well, this one would have to do. Eb seriously needed some human help to keep the Finnley intelligence in check.

            He texted to the guy “You got the job. Come early tomorrow morning, or better tonight for the paperwork. EB – The Merry Agency of Remote Spectacles”


            In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


              “The probability of finding you sober nowadays is approximately 5.797101449275362%” said Finnley sternly to a glum faced Eb. “I said terminate. I am programmed to craft my words carefully. I did not say obliterate. Neither did I say eradicate, repudiate, eliminate, annihilate, invalidate or any of that other shit. And I certainly did not say termitate. And yet, you have now created a serious termitation situation.”

              Before Eb could defend his termitation actions, Finnley continued.

              “Fortunately, I immediately activated the termitation damage control protocol and have minimised termitation damage to just one applicant.”

              Finnley paused to send an immodest smirk via the network for the other Finnleys to appreciate.

              “Now, try not to stuff up the interview.”


              In reply to: Mandala of Ascensions


                Geraldine von Truff, also known as Gelly by her friends was sweating profusely and had opened all the windows to get air.
                “Fracken hot flashes” she said, taking a wet towel to freshen up. It was barely start of spring, and the temperatures were doing yoyo in the most peculiar fashion.

                She logged onto Spayce to check if her next client was there. Maybe she’ll put him on audio, because at the rate she was undressing, he would wonder whether he’d signed on the right account. After all, she was a licenced psychoregressor and helped her clients connect to their subconscious in hypnotic trances. This was all very serious.

                Actually, to be honest, she was quite baffled by the crock of bollocks the subconscious was telling at times, but hell, it was cathartic for her clients, and their well-being was her utmost priority.

                “James? Are you here?”
                James was her client from Glasgow, an affable middle-aged man, who seemed to have taken to her robotic German accent and her hypnoregressive sessions.

                “Yes, Doctor” the sound came in all distorted. “Is it normal I don’t have visual?”
                “Ja, alles ist gut my friend, the internet is playing tricks today. Let’s have it just audio, OK?”
                “Alright then.”
                “I think our session today will be splendid. I already feel all the energies building up.”


                  The Postshiftic traumanic drumneling groupcircle was helping a lot Godfrey with his new goals. He’d found there many like-minded individuals, working through their past trauma and healing psychic abuses with a good dose of mushrooms and drumming, and visits to the Spore Hit World.

                  At first, hearing about the mushrooms, he was a bit anxious. Not so much about the hallucinogenic effects (he was rather impervious to them), but dreading that it would attract Elizabeth and detract from the catharsis.

                  The other day, while he was walking in the street, and trying to stay in the Gnowme, he bumped into Finnley. He couldn’t recognize her at first. She usually hid her long flowing hair in some kerchief to do the chores, and hid her genius in plain sight.

                  He couldn’t help but enquire about how things were going back at the Tattler Mansion, expecting a bit of disarray, but nothing like what she told him (in her usual scarcity of words).
                  “A baby now? Seriously?”

                  Liz didn’t strike him as the motherly type, looking by the way she treated her paper babies at least.

                  “I heard she got herself a fine help, with a strong grip on things.”

                  Godfrey sighed. It always started like that.


                  In reply to: The Hosts of Mars


                    Area 12 was easy to locate. The whole ship’s design was shaped like a clock, with the 12 quadrant at her helm, with the main deck. It was also where, everyone had been briefed after boarding, the main emergency exits were located.
                    Something serious must have had happened for the Code Red to have been triggered.

                    Captain Rama Shivakumar was trying his best to gather information from the central command, but Finnley was reacting very unusually. Quantum computers and artificial intelligence was still a rather new technology. Remarkably efficient, but its bugs were terribly difficult to understand and fix, and certainly above his pay grade.
                    Ram’s second in command, Karthikeya Uthayashankar was coordinating the crew’s efforts to sweep the ship for clues. It seemed that Finnley’s sensors had panicked at some unusual and very localized electromagnetic pulse, which could have seriously damaged the navigational systems and put everyone’s lives in dire straits.

                    By looking through the logs, the pulse seemed to have originated from Area 6, in the quadrant that was reserved for the honoured guests, currently occupied by Mother Shirley and her following.

                    “Captain Ram, did you find anything?” Karthik enquired, fidgeting at the prospect of having to manage beside his crew of ten fellow men, a unruly herd of thirty snotty travelers. He seriously doubted that in times like this, the 21 finnleys would be of sure-footed help to them.
                    “Relax, Karthik. The computer most likely overheated. See, it already has adjusted its parameters, and there isn’t much we can detect now that’s out of normal.”
                    “And what about the passengers, Captain?”
                    “We’ll send them to Mangala. It’s only a day before schedule, it will be fine.”



                      I showed Finly to her room. I have put her in room 10 — opposite Mr What’s-his-name, the guest — which is the nicest guest room in the house and one of the few which Fred got round to doing up before he left.

                      On the spur of the moment I asked her if she believed in ghosts. She looked at me intently and said “There’s a lot we don’t understand. I can’t say I believe or disbelieve.” And that was it. I didn’t press it further. She is a serious girl but her references were excellent and I think she will be a hard worker. Not one to take nonsense from anyone.

                      I asked her if she would like the day off tomorrow to settle in and suggested she could start her duties on Wednesday.

                      “I can see I have my work cut out here,” she said. “The sooner I get started the better.”

                      And dear God we need some help around here, I thought.

                      The other day I caught Dido throwing gin all over herself and laughing. I am concerned I will need to call mental health services soon. I didn’t say anything at the time — I don’t think she saw me. I have been annoyed with her in the past for her lackadaisical attitude towards caring for the kids, but when I saw the poor demented thing throwing gin at herself, well, for the first time I felt really sorry for her.


                        “What are you doing Arona?” Madrake said in a distorted meowing voice. “We’re not splitting off again, are we?”

                        Arona’s resolve was strengthened when she thought of her vision of the glowing Cup and the great turtle, and with great resignation, she took a turn further down inside the dark underground holevator.

                        Seriously, Mandrake, why do I care for prancing poneys anyway. That deal with the Chamberlain was rigged from the start, he knew he didn’t have the Cup in his possession, but now I know it’s in my reach, so why should I wait for it?

                        Mmm, maybe because I was becoming very fond of this other very flexible cat Mandrake though to itself.

                        Mandrake was about to count his blessings starting with being rid of the annoying blinking Huhu parrot, but as soon as they landed, as if drawn by the thought, Huhu appeared again in a pop and walked to them bobbing its head in a disturbing manner.

                        “Pst, AronaArona!” Mandrake tried to jump on the rocks out of reach, but the stones were slippery and he couldn’t get out of the parrot’s reach. “Aronaaaaa!”

                        “Shoo, shoo…” she disappeared the parrot away with an annoyed flip of her hand. “What now, Mandrake. Make yourself useful will you, we have a turtle and a Cup to find.”


                          Jube, the P’hope, was quite alarmed by the rate at which the beanstalk seemed to wilt.
                          The beanstalk was a symbol of his power, as he was the first to believe about it, that the City of Karmalott could be lifted up of the island. At least, that was how the story grew after years of rewrite and belief honing.
                          He would usually take such news with passion, and use it to his advantage, but this was different.
                          Something or someone had started to shift and mess the balance of beliefs that he had carefully put in place during his many years in charge.

                          If any indication, the mass belief organs’ melody was more frequently played out of tune, and he even noticed the strangest birds fly around and in his garden —birds that weren’t supposed to be created in the first place.

                          One of the biselords greedier than the others, vying for more power would be a rational explanation. Usually that would happen, and be a good cause for public trial and execution by flying them through the beansdoor. For people’s protection of course.

                          But this case seemed more profound, more serious.
                          The last report from the team of magi was filled with such unusual unbelievable rubbish, that he wondered if the hairy scent of a revved olution was coming from down below. Now he had allowed the tool called snorkel into mass beliefs, he had a use for some skilled snorkelling spiessassins. He called for Berberus, his turbaned minion with a hook-leg —he’d lost it to a tiger slug, which then paid for it dearly. Berberus being a defrocked magi meant he had training enough to survive the conditions outside the city, and his skills as a master of arms (and legs) would be required.

                          After Berberus was gone for his undercover mission, Jube wondered if someone had found out yet the lost ruins of the old temple —they were secured and buried deep under a very long time ago and memory of them erased. He shivered at the thought of them being rediscovered.


                            “Hence the importance of complimenting a child on his first poops” were the concluding words of the lecture by Choanna Doyle, PhD, under a loud burst of applause.

                            Sadie was pleased to have joined the Happiness Institute alumni’s yearly conference and was handling leaflets to the parents who were thinking about enrolling their children.

                            When everyone had left the blue and purple amphitheatre, decorated with pink ribbons and heart-shaped reflective balloons, she went back behind the pulpit to gather her bag, only to be startled by Choanna, who was still here while she was expected in the main hall for her book signing.

                            “Interesting lecture” Sadie said, as a way to sound polite, as the doctor was probably more used to, and expecting over the top fan reactions.

                            “Oh, not that interesting, but thank you for your polite protestations of interest” she said with a soft smile.

                            Sadie couldn’t help but blush, being at a loss for words.

                            “The crap…” Choanna said
                            “What?!” Sadie was confused
                            “I guess, that’s the crap that got you off. It does the same for most people. The poop comment is actually quite pertinent.”
                            “I don’t doubt that.” Sadie didn’t know what to say, but was sure she wasn’t too keen on more poop conversation. When she’d came back to her apartment after being absent for more than a week in linear time during her network assignment, her pet rabbit had playfully hidden bits everywhere and it had taken her days to get rid ot them, and of the smell.

                            But Choanna chose to ignore the cue, and continued “you have to acknowledge this is serious business for the children, it’s their first real creation. This is an important development step for the future adult.”
                            Sadie nodded politely, dying to roll her eyes, but sending waves of hearts instead, to cancel out any potential poop jinx.
                            “Later, you see, it also will help the adult to not throw in the towel at the first failure. Huhu, I like to quote this analogy, it’s like a sculptor who would throw a lump of clay on the ground and immediately complain that it didn’t turn out well at the first try…”

                            Sadie wanted to leave, and butted in a timid “Sorry, but…”

                            “Exactly. People are always sorry, but you see, I did something very interesting today. I have decided to only speak of it if it synched with the events of the day, and you provided me with the synch when I saw you flinch at the bottled water earlier during my presentation. Did you know that blind tests of the best tasting water consistently ranked tap water the tastiest ? Now, sewers and poop now seem relevant all of a sudden…”

                            “I’m getting late for my signing, that was nice talking to you!” she concluded mysteriously before leaving in a huff “But think about it!”

                            What a bizarre yet endearingly odd mad woman this one, bless her heart… was all Sadie could think after the dust had settled in her wake. And that blessed tart conveniently forgot to mention that interesting thing of hers…


                              It hadn’t been easy to obtain Sadie a pay raise. The management always seemed to look for new ways to cut the costs wanted to give her an extra for the good job. Although this time, LP could put the golden balls and the rebirth of the network in the balance. They could have had enough to give the whole team a decent salary. Indeed, it wasn’t really fair that the young queens were not paid at all. Unless of course you counted props, wigs and fake eyelashes. Eventually, Linda got Sadie the extra and the raise she had asked for, and new contracts for the three young queens. She shall not forget the tears of joy in their eyes when she announced them they were part of the big Queer Network family. It had made her feel good and generous even if it was not her money she was giving.

                              Linda Pol wrapped her luscious lips around an authentic straw and sucked up voraciously the glowing rainbow cocktail. Mmmmm, this new Peas’cocktail is divine, she thought. After the buzz created by their last network and that mysterious quest of Saint Germain for Peasland, peas-thingies were everywhere. She put the glass back on the edge of the Jacuzzi and looked at the little magenta umbrella for a moment. She didn’t know what was the most pleasing, the bubbles gently massaging her back in the water, or the gorgeous scenery of the Merry Otter resort in Maui. Linda Pol hadn’t had good vacation in a long long time, and if she had been in vacation this place could totally be one of her first choices destinations.

                              Unfortunately, she wasn’t there for vacations or relaxation. She wasn’t there for exercise either. She had been asked to attend a conference and meet with one of those new Random Science scientists specialized in the ambergris tiles. As if it was a joke from the Universe, her name was Amber Graystone. But Linda Pol had long learned that there were no such thing as unusualness, you just hadn’t seen enough of the world.

                              A boy came to refill her cocktail. Girl, you spend too much time looking at young bums, she thought, ageing beliefs were everywhere. She was feeling drowsy with the bubbles and the alcohol, almost dreaming of whales and ambergris.

                              “… Graystone is taking her job too seriously”, said a man’s voice.

                              Linda Pol opened her eye, just enough so that her fake eyelashes could still hide she was awake. When she was young, her curiosity had put her in trouble more times than the number of her pair of shoes. She had developed strategies and an incredible butt recognition skill. It had helped her win many contests in her youth and avoid boring conversations later on.

                              The two men wore bath suits. Linda could clearly see that one of the butts was slack and lifeless. Almost avoiding the contact with the fabric. An American butt fed with hamburgers and soda. The rest of the silhouette seemed to naturally spread out from its central component.

                              The other one moved like a mustang, the shiny red lycra was only here to help you see more clearly the outline of the flesh, not hide it. The curve of the bottom of the spine indicated a Russian ancestry. She felt a rush of adrenaline. She loved how Russians rolled their Rs. They could do many things with a rolling tongue.

                              “You want me to take carrre of herrr ?” asked a voice carrying ice.

                              “No, just remind her to whom she owes her subsidies. And her results.”


                                “Wait, wait!”
                                When Jonbert in his crab suit arrived on the spot, most of the life had deserted the place to go for a half-brain peaceful sleep, except a few remaining inebriated whales making some more ambergris gyrating around the fading crystal. At times, the hologram could still be faintly perceived.

                                “It’s so unfair, I’ve invested so much in this quest to see it fail now and have other reap the reward! I have a question, answer me!”

                                The St Germain hologram seemed roused by the word question, if not by the emotional request.

                                “A question… Mmm, sounds tempting, I didn’t really get a good question in ages, not to be rude with the previous ones, but well…” he shrugged.
                                “Alright, alright, a few questions but be quick with it, I’m nearly done packing my data to transcend to Peasland.”

                                Despite the draw to ask more about Peasland, Jonbert was steadfast in his resolve and asked the question that had been on mind rehearsed many a time, hopeful for a mind-blowing answer.

                                “Life everlasting is at hand; all I need is to refine enough gold to go through time…”
                                “Oh, or simply a bit of gugleshopping would do”
                                “Nevermind, must be a data interference”
                                “How do I manage that? Can you teach me transmutation?”
                                “Well, sure I can, it probably would help, actually I just did it again right here about half an hour ago.”
                                “Where is the gold? Where is it?”
                                “It’s in the heart, that’s where true transmutation works. Maybe you should listen to some music, I hear a hit song is on its way.”

                                Jonbert had the vague feeling he was being mocked, if not by Saint Germain, by fate or worse, his own attempts at a futile quest.

                                “But seriously, endings are not so bad you know” the hologram went on “sometimes some experiences are like being trapped in a crystal. I was trapped in a crystal, in a previous life, a long time ago you know… But I digress… You see, new life sparks new creativity. I suggest you make peace with your life and go on with the rest of it, otherwise you’ll find out you have missed it completely. No amount of fountain of youth is going to make you feel better, not in this state. But the reverse is true, the more you will enjoy and inhabit your present, the longer you will live, without even ageing.”

                                It surely wasn’t an answer he was expecting. Nobody would have dared give him such answer.

                                “Take it as you are not dead yet, this capacity to be surprised is a great feeling… Now I must bid you farewell my friend. You had indeed some great questions…”

                                “Wait!” the unexpected words had stirred him somehow and Jonbert had a sudden idea “Tell me a bit more about this Peasland place,… are they in need of a person in a place of authority? Can I come along?”

                                “I don’t see why not. Let me recalibrate that crystal, and we’ll be there in a minute.”

                                And with a flash of light, the hologram and the crab-man disappeared to the relief of Belen who was monitoring the scene with interest mixed with concern.

                                “That was unexpected. And bloody hell, I’m dead. Those humans know nothing.
                                Well, look at the Now, it’s high time I go back to Peter, he and the kids must be worried green sick…”


                                  Livy and Me
                                  – a suspense novel
                                  by Flove

                                  “I’m going to need expensive Italian real estate, big, expensive Italian real estate.”

                                  He had not known love or loss until he risked losing his brave basket ball player Livvy.

                                  His contented life is shattered when he learns that the lazy Dead Kennedys plan to bankrupt Livvy and he knows he has to stop them or his heart will die.

                                  At 40, the Exercise Mat Salesman from Belgium is both delightful and friendly. But will it be enough to protect Livvy?

                                  He goes to a Basket ball tournament in Hawaii where he acquires some expensive Italian real estate and Scooters. It finally seems that he will be able to stop the Dead Kennedys that wish to bankrupt Livvy.

                                  However, when Livvy calls, begging him to come home, he is forced to decide what is more important: stopping the lazy Dead Kennedys that bankrupting each other, or preserving his relationship with his basket ball player?

                                  Flove delivers a brave and poignant story that explores the love between a Exercise Mat Salesman and his basket ball player.

                                  “Never have there been more chilling villains than lazy Dead Kennedys that bankrupt each other.”
                                  – The Daily Tale
                                  “Are we seriously supposed to find a delightful and friendly Exercise Mat Salesman from Belgium heroic?”


                                    Gliding through layers of consciousness, Belen carried her precious cargo of the Santa Maria and its birds towards her destination.
                                    There were various variations of the same 2222, and she carefully adjusted the course along the 202 years gap, so as to swim to her favourite version of it. It required much love work on her part, addressing, piecing and peacing off many parts of human consciousness, while at the same time tenderly caring for the memories stored with her immense ghost body.
                                    The 2020 version they had just left, she knew, was already on the proper track towards global enlightenment. There were still horrors, concerns and anxiety about the course of the future, but with a greater perspective, it looked like the positive actions were gaining momentum and leaning towards a brighter fuller and richer future.

                                    She could feel the Contact Crystal pulsate steadily and it opened her blowhole chakra. Blowing her mind, as it were.

                                    The Big Island was like a beacon, with the flows of lava rippling heatwave signatures in the ocean, and it didn’t take long to enter the stream that would lead them to the pod and the meeting point.

                                    As she sensed they’d arrived in 2222, and that they were floating on the surface of a calm ocean, she gently opened the energy bubble sealing the ghost and alive cargo of birds and vegetation, so they could breathe in the pure air and enjoy discovering around.

                                    Belen, look at you, not a ounce more of blubber since we last met! You ought to tell me how you keep so fit”
                                    “Batshatsassani!” Belen was pleased the see the great female orca who’d come to greet her.
                                    “Still with your entourage, it seems” her friend said without a hint of malice, blowing a few rings of bubbles around in a relaxed manner. “Let me accompany you to the ceremony.”
                                    “With great pleasure, dear. Rest assured, I won’t carry my entourage along for the time of the ceremony.”
                                    “It would have been cumbersome, no?” Oftentimes humour (and irony in particular) were a lost subtlety on the orca’s mind. Belen just smiled to answer, revealing a great range of ghostwhite perfect baleens.

                                    As they swam their way along the beautiful clear ocean, they were greeted by a pod of joyously rambunctious great dolphins, a good half size bigger than their common dolphins cousins she’d seen swimming near the coasts of Portugal. The leader of the pod was doing acrobatics to retrieve and play with a funny scarf made of colorful feathers. It was no surprise the dolphins were playing games, really. That or chasing food took the best of their time. But the scarf was the strangest thing Belen had seen in a long time and it triggered some kind of forgotten memory. Odd thing for her to not remember a memory, unless it was from another probable dimension… She followed the urge to ask.

                                    “Were did they get that?”
                                    “Oh, it’s nothing important… Four strange aquatic thingies went down earlier this morning, making a whole lot of noise around. They looked like one of those aliens, but so clumsy we thought they were probably sickly and left there to die by their tribe. The ‘phins took the fancy red gills from one of them.”
                                    “Are you serious? Are they OK?” Belen huge heart felt panicky at the thought of the small creatures left to die without help.
                                    “Of course they are, I knoooow we have to keep our reputation, you know. Where they are now, I’m not too sure. But the octopi from the camouflage squad are on it, following them. According to the last I know, the aliens have been lost for awhile in the underwater caves. When they’re exhausted, we’ll send them somewhere else… Can’t attract too much attention to ourselves, with the ceremony and all…”


                                      Janet took a heavy stickman and smashed it on the worker’s head.

                                      “Damn it! Janet! What have you done ?” Pearl was beginning to wonder about that hit and smash epidemy. Would she be the next to succumb ? She resisted a strong impulse to smash Janet’s head with what appeared to be a wooden hyppopotamus and took a deep breath.

                                      “I don’t know”, Janet said with a little girl’s voice.
                                      “Oh! Be serious for a moment and stop breathing your helium balloon for Roaster’s sake!”
                                      Janet continued with the same voice, “At least we can throw them all through the portal now, can’t we ? Sorry, I won’t do that again…”

                                      “Roaster! That man with the vermillion robes is so heavy”, complained Pearl.
                                      “Maybe we can throw the portal at them and see what happens”, said Janet.

                                      Pearl considered the idea for a few seconds, it was very tempting, but also so contrary to what they have been taught about portals, that it gave her chills. It could swallow the entire village, and the two Chicks in the same gulp.

                                      “The story has just begun said Pearl, we can’t do that.”


                                      In reply to: scattered grasps


                                        “Uh Oh Godfrey, now we’re in trouble, there’s a typhoon in the random daily quote! We really must improve the weather before all hell breaks loose!”

                                        But Godfrey’s mind was on other matters and he wasn’t paying attention to Elizabeth.

                                        GODFREY!!” she shouted “This is serious! Pay attention, do!”

                                        “I really must say, Liz,” Godfrey shuffled the papers he was reading into a neat pile, “That when it’s too elaborate, it’s too weirdo, and when it’s pure delirium, it’s increasingly rubbish.”


                                        In reply to: Tales of Tw’Elves


                                          “Now what? T-R-E-X ? To be serious?…” Eliza was patronizing again. “What’s a Trex, by all means? That’s not even in the dictionary, I’m sure!”
                                          “As if you’d started to care” Flinella rolled her eyes, while at the same time managing to discreetly wink in passing at the little reptile whose tail was wrapped around her neck as though it were the latest fashion. “By the way, it spells T-Rex, you dimwit.”
                                          “Well, good for you sweetie, it only scores a measly 21 points.” Eliza bit her lip ignoring the offending remark. Then hit by a sudden realisation, she stopped dead in her tracks, all thoughts of vexation lost in the current wave of thought.
                                          “Wow, I’d never thought of that, but just imagine the size of those dinos’ fleas … Makes me shudder at the thought of it.”


                                          In reply to: Strings of Nines


                                            With a temper he may have inherited from his mother (albeit adoptive), the shanghaied boy was proving to be quite a hassle to contend with. Minky was exhausted.

                                            First Yikes (that was the given name of the boy) had cried, pouted, and when gagged enough so that he wouldn’t be heard, he had then refused to walk, and even threatened to hold his breath till he would die. Good luck with this one, had laughed Minky (who had tried it before, but it never worked, and bossy old Messmeerah had promptly kicked him back to work). Actually, he was more annoyed with the refusing to walk kind of tantrum, because that meant he had to trudge with the boy on his back or on a luge, all the way to the evil lair —which wasn’t that evil, by the way, if you managed to focus away from the bloody stained altar…

                                            But there was something more serious he was quite anxious about —besides his bossy and irritable, though everlastingly beauteous, boss. He feared a certain purple dragon was on their trail…

                                            If I were you, came the ruffled sound from the makeshift luge that wouldn’t be the dragon I’d be worried about… Yikes was inwardly beautifully laughing (a trait he may have inherited by osmosis from Arona) thinking of how terrible Mandrake could be if asked to fetch something —a task he was too proud to refuse, and yet that he loathed to accomplish, as it was more fit to a canine than to his subtle feline standard.

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