Episode the Twenty-First: And There Were Also Guinea Pigs

By: Mr. E. S. Stranger

Funny Bunny Sighed and looked over at Toona. “So, here we are again.”

Toona tried once more to move the tape holding him and was still again. “Yep. Here we are. I can see why our enemies like this tape. It’s amazingly strong.”

“We should buy some.”

“Yes, definitely. It could come in handy. For instance, when a villain’s henchmen started to tie us up, I could pull out my tape and say, ‘Hold it. I’ve got this.’”

“Exactly! Wait—why are we helping them tie us up?”

“If they’re going to tape us to something anyway,” Toona explained, “we may as well use our own tape. At least we know where our tape has been.”

“Oh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. Now I’m a little worried about the cleanliness of this tape. Hey! Villain! Is this used tape?”

The villain stopped fiddling with the console and turned around to face them. He wore jeans and a tee shirt on which a large letter “M” was boldly emblazoned.

“Silence!” he commanded. “And I insist you get my name right! I am Monologue Man!”

“Oh,” Funny Bunny said. “I thought you were an M&M.”

“The rapper?” asked Toona.

“No, the candy,” replied Funny Bunny.

“The candy has a wrapper as well,” Toona pointed out.

Monologue Man shouted at them. “I am not a rapper!”

“Oh,” said Toona, turning to Funny Bunny. “You were right. He’s the candy.”

Monologue Man let out an exasperated groan and turned back around. He punched a few more buttons.

“There!” he exclaimed. “That should do it. We’re mere minutes away, now.”

“Minutes away from what?” Funny Bunny asked.

Monologue Man glared at the shoestring bunny. “Weren’t you listening at all?”

“To what? Your speech? I tuned out of that. Did you pay attention to his plan, Toona?”

“No,” Toona admitted. “I fell mentally asleep after minute six. Could you explain it again?”

Monologue Man groaned again. “Why doesn’t anyone listen?! Very well. I shall explain it again. But pay attention this time. Now, since ages ago, humankind has enjoyed binge watching. In ancient Athens, citizens periodically watched a whole trilogy of plays in a single day.”

“That’s actually true,” Toona said to Funny Bunny.

Monologue Man continued. “Not all Greeks, nor all other non-Greek societies, are as devoted to the art of Thespis as the ancient Athenians, but we nonetheless see many indications that people of a variety of cultures could be persuaded to sit still for a spectacle of some length. Let us consider, for example, what is known of the ceremonies of the Mayans and the Aztecs…”

The history lesson went on for several minutes before Funny Bunny interrupted. “You know, a lot of this is coming back to me. I do remember paying attention to most of your lecture. I think I missed the part where you explained what you’re doing right now.”

“Actually,” Toona said to Funny Bunny, “I was a little intrigued by the history lesson.”

“I’ll take you to the Internet later,” said Funny Bunny to Toona. “Just let me handle this.”

Monologue Man looked at the clock. “Well, seeing as we are short on time,” he said, “I suppose we can consider the first few portions covered. Proceeding now to my plan. Our having found ourselves now at a moment in history at which control of our media rests in the hands of just a few, it has never been easier to influence the masses. With one press of a button—“

A voice came, then, from within the layers of tape restraining Funny Bunny. “Hello? Agent Knott? Are you there?”

“Who is that?!” Monologue Man demanded. “Probably the boss,” said Funny Bunny. “Hey, Director! I actually didn’t mean to call you just now. Might have been a butt dial.”

“Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, quite copacetic,” Funny Bunny replied. “Sorry for the accidental call. Talk to you later.”

The call ended, and Funny Bunny turned his attention back to Monologue Man. “Sorry about that. You were saying?”

“Yes,” Monologue Man continued, “as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, I—oh, balderdash, where was I? Oh, yes. With the press of a button, I can grab the attention of billions. Which brings us to…THIS!”

The screen behind him suddenly showed a wildly vibrant title screen. It showed an assortment of characters frozen in the midst of all sorts of little scenes, from battles with dragons to amusing conversations. The title was in bold letters across the center: THE INTERMINABLE STORY.

“This is revolutionary!” Monologue Man continued. “It is the world’s first automated television series. I’ve created a computer program that automatically creates new episodes. The content will never run out! Years of research have yielded the formula for the perfect show. Viewers around the world will be drawn in and lose the will to leave their seats. The world will be mine!”

“Hmm,” Toona said, “I don’t know. How will you get everyone to watch it?”

“I’ll hack everyone’s feeds and simulcast through every medium!”

“Not everyone has access to streaming video,” Funny Bunny pointed out. “And people will have to get up eventually, right? To eat, or pee, or something?”

Monologue Man patted his pockets. “I…um…hold one one second.”

“I eagerly await your explanation,” Funny Bunny said.

“Yes, thank you. I just…I had notes about this…”

“Oh, is that what those index cards were about? I’ve got those here.”


“Here. Under the tape. I can’t go over there to hand them to you, so you’ll have to get them from me here.”

Monologue Man started toward Funny Bunny but stopped halfway. “Wait,” he said. “How do I know you won’t just take the opportunity to escape?”

“I’m insulted!” Funny Bunny said. “Do I look like the kind of shoestring rabbit who would intentionally steal your notecards and hide them and then let himself get tied up with tape and then sit through multiple lectures on your plan, which I still have some questions about, and then ask you questions that require you to refer to those notes so that you would have to cut this tape to get them because you can’t resist the urge to explain things, and then jump at you and do all sorts of karate and kung fu on you and break your machine and steal your pen and escape? Is that what you really think of me!?”

“Well…” Monologue Man started, flustered.

“That’s what I thought!” said Funny Bunny. “Well, if it’s like that, then never mind. I’m not interested in hearing about how you’re going to appeal to such a wide range of ages and cultures and get the attention of people with no access to wi-fi! You can just go lecture someone else, buster.”

“No, that’s not necessary,” Monologue Man said. “I’ll just grab my notes from you real quick.”

He undid Funny Bunny’s tape, and Funny Bunny immediately leaped at the villain and jabbed him in the eyes with his plastic lace caps. Monologue Man yelled with rage and pain. Toona looked on as the two fought. He strained at the tape.

“I’ll, uh…I’ll just offer encouragement from here,” he said. “Yeah! Get him, Agent Knott! Slap him! Punch! You can do it! Kick now! Wet willy! You can do it! Oh! The button! The button!”

Funny Bunny looked over at the console nearby and saw the button Toona was talking about. It was bright red and larger than the rest. It read “DO NOT PUSH” in great big letters.

“There’s always a button,” Funny Bunny said, and he leaped over to it and pushed it before Monologue Man could stop him.

“No!” Monologue Man shouted. “You fools! This building will explode around us!”

“Oh,” said Toona. “Gosh. You should really make sure people know not to push that button.”

Monologue Man yelled in rage and ran to his escape vehicle. Funny Bunny began to give chase, but Toona’s voice stopped him.

“So…” said Toona, “if it’s not too much trouble, mind helping me with the tape situation?”

Funny Bunny looked around, found a knife, leaped into the air, and sliced the tape right next to Toona. Toona took a moment to consider how close the knife had come to slicing into him and then ripped himself free of the post. He struggled to get the last bit of the tape off of his right arm and examined the tape with a sigh when he was done.

“I lose more fur this way,” he said.

“It’ll grow back,” Funny Bunny said. “Come one!”

“Okay!” Toona shouted, and he ran with Funny Bunny toward the exit. “Wait, really? Can it grow back?”

“I don’t know! Keep moving!”

They ran as fast as their small legs could carry them, which wasn’t very fast. Toona glanced about as they went.

“Wait!” he shouted.

Funny Bunny stopped. “What?”

Toona pointed to a couple segways parked along the corridor. Soon they were flying along. They made it to the elevator, which thankfully still worked.

“How long do we have?” Toona asked.

“I don’t know,” said Funny Bunny. “I didn’t see a clock or hear any announcements. Very poorly thought-out self-destruct.”

Just then, as if on cue, a chime dinged, and a gentle voice spoke.

“Attention, everyone,” it said. “Attention. There is a very urgent matter of which you need to be made aware. As you may or may not remember from your training, there is a self-destruct system installed in this facility. This self-destruct system is state-of-the-art. Combining powerful explosives with precision triggers and our proprietary Nefarious Deeds Management System, or NDMS, it—“

“I think MM programmed this himself,” Toona said.

“I’m thinkin’,” Funny Bunny replied.

They never did get to the part of the announcement that told them the state of the countdown. The elevator doors opened, and they rode out on their segways, making for the exit. As they neared it, they heard a muffled thud followed by a growing rumble, and then fireballs started erupting in the hall behind them, getting closer. They screamed as they neared the door, which they slammed into and pushed through. They kept riding through the dark parking lot, still screaming, as fireballs erupted from below the asphalt, and at last they reached the edge of the moonlit desert beyond. They stopped and turned, staring at the ruins.

“So…” Toona began, “maybe we should call for our extraction now.”

“Oh, yeah,” Funny Bunny said. He pulled out a red phone. “Nope, that’s my gaming phone.” He pulled out a green one. “Nope, business phone.” He pulled out a purple one and dialed. “Hey, Director? Yeah, I know we were just talking a little bit ago. Funny, huh? Hey, we’re ready for extraction. What’s that? Oh, it went okay. Foiled the evil scheme. No, he got away. Always next time, right? Huh? Oh. Toona, where are we?”

“Umm,” Toona said, squinting into the demolished lot. “I think this is the north side, section twenty-six.”

“Is that a two or a three?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s a two.”

“Either section twenty-six or section thirty-six. Ok. Later.” He put the phone away. “ETA twenty-five minutes.”

“Ah. So…Twenty Questions?”


They played Twenty Questions until their mini-chopper arrived. It took them to HQ for a quick debrief and then dropped them off at home. They crept into Dot’s room and settled down on the nightstand to catch a wink.

An hour later, the alarm went off, and Dot’s frog began to sing. Ten minutes later, Dot groggily turned off the alarm, fell into a doze for a few minutes, and then dragged herself out of bed. She saw Toona and Funny Bunny sleeping soundly and scratched their heads.

“Morning, Sleepyheads,” she said.

“Morning,” said Toona between snores. Funny Bunny murmured incoherently.

Dot laughed. “You two sure do love your sleep.”

She got ready for her day, and at last it was time for her to leave. Toona and Funny Bunny slept.

While the two of them slept, the day passed around them. Frog did his daily calisthenics and vocal warmups and went out to check on the garden. Jimi went in and out of the room a few times, just seeing what was going on. The angle of the light through the window shifted as the sun climbed in the sky. A bit before noon, Funny Bunny woke up. He looked around the room, sizing up the situation, and then poked Toona.

“Eh?” Toona said.

“I’m awake. You awake?”

“Um…I will get back to you on that.”

“Cool. Let’s do something in the meantime.”

“Okay. What did you have in mind?”

Funny Bunny considered. “How about tissue wars?”

“You’re on.”

They grabbed tissues from the box in the room, crumpled them up as best they could, and tossed them at each other. Thanks to air resistance, they rarely hit each other, but they did end up with quite a pile of tissues on the floor. When the box ran out, they recycled the ones on the floor for a bit. Funny Bunny stopped.

“What now?”

“Um…hide and seek?”

“Yeah!” Funny Bunny shouted. “I’ll go hide,” he said as he raced off.

“So will I!” Toona hollered back.

An hour later, Funny Bunny found Toona hiding behind a cookie jar. “So,” he said, “I think we weren’t both supposed to hide.”

“Ah, yes,” Toona replied. “I think you are right. That explains why this game is so slow.”

“Yeah,” Funny Bunny replied, and then his phone was ringing. It was his Mission Impossible tone; this must be the director calling. Funny Bunny had to pull a few of his phones out to get to the one he needed. “Hello?” he said.

“Hello, Agent Knott,” said a voice coming from both the phone and Dot’s room. “Is Agent Furry there with you?”

“Here!” Toona answered.

“Excellent,” said the director. “I need to meet with you both immediately. I’m in a remote location off-base; I’m sending you the coordinates now.”

“Is that you in Dot’s room?” asked Toona. This was followed by several seconds of silence. “I was pretty sure I heard you there.”

The director’s voice came next as a whisper. “Can you hear me now?”

“No—wait, yes—wait, do you mean by phone, or—“

Funny Bunny opened the bedroom door. Dot’s room had transformed into HQ. Funny Bunny waved for Toona to follow and walked in. Toona glanced at the phone and ran into the room. Director Ayloz sat across the meeting table from them.

“Shut the door, if you don’t mind,” Ayloz said. Toona obliged. “Please, take a seat. My other associates will join us shortly.”

Toona and Funny Bunny sat. They sat still for a few minutes, and then they amused each other by making weird noises. Director Ayloz casually flipped an anvil as she waited. Finally the door opened again, and several guinea pigs ran in. They jumped up to their seats and sat there, glancing anxiously around the room. Ayloz did a silent head count and then cleared her throat.

“Now that we’re all here,” she said, “let’s begin.”

Funny Bunny raised his arm. “Um, before we do that, I don’t think we’ve all been introduced. I’m noticing quite a few new side characters here.”

Ayloz looked around. “Oh. Yes. Okay. I guess I could move up the exposition a little. For today’s mission, I called in some extra help. Meet the Guinea Squad. The leader, sitting right over there, is Smokey.”

Smokey, sitting tall in his chair, gave a curt nod.

“Ralph and Chad over there lead our alpha and bravo tactical teams. Ralph excels in hand-to-hand combat, and under him are Deloris and Alice, weapons experts. Chad is more of a techie. Under him are Gloria and Christina, experts in weapons and explosives. The B team usually handles demolitions.”

Ralph, the largest of that group, just sat there during his introduction. Christina and Gloria grinned as they were mentioned. Christina held up an apple and tossed it into the air. Gloria pulled out a pistol and shot a few times. The apple fell, cored and quartered, and Christina skewered the quarters mid-air with a knife she suddenly held.

“Our technical experts,” Ayloz continued, “are Harold and Rusty. Rusty is our field tech. Harold is afraid of everything, so he assists from base.”

Rusty nodded politely. Harold gave a timid wave.

“And finally, we have Jolene, our field medic, and Butterscotch, her trainee.” Jolene waved. Butterscotch, who sat nearby wearing a stethoscope backwards, waved with one of the two tongue depressors he had been gently using on the table as drumsticks. Funny Bunny nodded.

“This is really starting to feel like a crossover episode,” he said. “So…some concerns. I like the whole Gloria/Christina duo thing with the weapons and the crazy and so on, but will there be real serious violence on this mission? I worry this may not be family-friendly enough.”

“Yes,” agreed Toona, “that is my concern as well. Do we need to adjust the maturity rating for this mission?”

“Not to worry,” replied Ayloz. “I’ve taken care of everything. All weaponry has been given a cartoonish mechanism. I personally oversaw construction of the anvil launcher.”

Toona nodded. “Very good. So, what is our mission?”

“Should you choose to accept it,” the director replied, “your mission is to infiltrate the inner reaches of my bag and discover the truth behind a nefarious plot currently underway. Then you will do whatever is necessary to resolve the issue and make your escape. Any questions?”

“In your bag?” Funny Bunny asked.

“Yes,” Ayloz answered. She set her bag on the table. “I have it right here. Getting in is the easy part. Finding your way around is the hard part. It’s easy to get lost in there.”

“I remember,” Toona said, gravely. There was a moment’s pause.

“Anyway,” Ayloz continued, “I gave a map of my bag to Smokey. He and Ralph double as accountants at D and Z, so they’re pretty good at document analysis. Smokey, you can take it from here.”

Smokey pulled a Rubik’s cube, a 3-D rendering of a Mobius strip, a pair of maracas, and a metal compass from somewhere and placed them on the table. He picked up the Rubik’s cube, cleared his throat, and addressed the others.

“Week week week week week—“ he started, and Funny Bunny held up his arm.

“Hold it! I can’t help but think I’m missing something here!”

“What part of that was unclear?” Ayloz asked.

“All of it!”

“I think I understand so far,” Toona offered, “and I agree with Smokey that entering the bag will require teamwork.”

Funny Bunny stared at Toona, imagining his mouth to be agape if the bundle of knots that formed his head had had one. “You speak Guinea Pig?”

“I took some courses on zoolinguistics from D&Z University,” Toona replied. “They’ve been very useful.”

“Well, I didn’t!” Funny Bunny objected. “I’m going to need a translator or subtitles or something. Is there a dubbed version of this meeting?”

“Sort of,” Director Ayloz replied. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a couple of objects that looked like a Funny Bunny-sized pair of earbuds. She set them down in front of the shoestring rabbit. “I forgot to give these to you earlier. They should help.”

Funny Bunny took them, looked at them, sniffed them suspiciously, and clipped them to his ear loops. Smokey looked on.

“All right, then,” the guinea pig commander said. “If we’re quite through mucking about, I’d like to get on with the plan. Our best access point is here.” Using the sharp point of the metal compass, he indicated a green face on the cube. Toona and Funny Bunny nodded.

With the help of their props, they planned their descent into the director’s bag. The maracas portion was particularly lively. An argument did erupt regarding which face of the Mobius strip was the right one to use. Chad and Ralph clearly were rivals for the role of second-in-command and tried over and over to one-up one another. Christina and Gloria cackled randomly here and there. Harold fidgeted and mostly sat quietly. At last they had a plan. Smokey pocketed the pieces of the map, and they assembled around Ayloz’s bag.

“Well,” Funny Bunny said, “I guess this is where someone would normally say something clever or dramatic.”

“Yes, normally,” Toona said. They all stood there uncomfortably for another ten seconds. Smokey spoke up.

“Right. Well, if that’s all, then—“

Just then the door opened, and Jimi walked in. He saw the guinea pigs, and his eyes widened.

“Friends! Play!” he shouted, and he ran at Harold, who froze and squealed. Ralph knocked into him to get him moving, slapped the gape-mouthed canid, and dodged aside. Jimi, confused at the turn this game had taken, surveyed the field and chose this time to run at Chad, who slid under the dog at the last second. Jimi turned to try to find him again and blinked in surprise as Christina and Gloria pelted him with spit wads using straws. Smokey called to them all.

“Everyone in the bag!”

“What about the plan?” Rusty shouted.

“Forget the plan! In!”

The guinea pigs, Toona, and Funny Bunny raced toward the bag. Deloris and Alice distracted Jimi at first and then dashed to the bag with Jimi on their heels. They and Smokey were the last pigs through.

Funny Bunny and Toona were enthralled at first at the scenery as they fell into the depths of the bag. Colors and geometric forms swirled past them, speckled with the occasional ghostly face or mathematical equation. When this lost its novelty, they pulled out a deck of cards and started a round of Go Fish. The winner of that game was unclear when they landed.

They looked around. Some of the guinea pigs had already landed, and the others landed shortly after. Smokey immediately took charge, directing the other guinea pigs to secure their landing site in various ways. Chad and Ralph both gathered their teams and sent them out on various sorts of short-range reconnaissance errands, each team leader trying to outdo the other at being authoritative. Rusty had a tiny computer out and was doing some sort of calculation using a holographic screen. Jolene, with her trainee, went from one team member to the next, checking for injuries from the fall. Butterscotch kept pulling out a needle to deliver anesthetic, and Jolene would gently push his hand away and shake her head. Harold held a computer much like Rusty’s but just sat there muttering “I’m not supposed to be here” over and over.

“Hey!” Smokey barked at Toona and Funny Bunny. “You two! Make yourselves useful and help secure the perimeter! I need to figure out where we are.”

“We don’t work for you!” Funny Bunny shouted back. He and Toona stood around for a bit. Toona coughed.

“So,” said Toona, “what do you want to do?”

Funny Bunny gave it some thought. “Let’s go secure the perimeter.”

“Sounds good.”

They strolled away from Smokey, casting their eyes about. Various objects floated in the air in the near and far distance. They could not see the sides of the bag; instead, there appeared to be a sky of sorts that glowed with various colors. They stopped suddenly at the edge of a great drop. A rugged brown cliff fell away into a glowing multicolored abyss.

“Looks secure,” Toona said.

“Hey,” said a voice behind them, and Funny Bunny jumped so high he nearly fell over the edge, but he caught Toona’s head to steady himself. They turned and saw Jimi standing there.

“Jimi!” said Funny Bunny. “What are you doing here?”

“I jumped through when my new squirrel friends decided to play tag in here. Then I fell, and then I saw you.”

“They are not squirrels, but guinea pigs,” Toona corrected. “Cavia Porcellus, if I am not mistaken.”

Funny Bunny glanced sidelong at Toona. “Show-off.” He stared at Jimi. “Hey, you’re…uh…”

“Handsome?” Jimi offered. “Strong? Sleek? Swift? Smart?”

“Smaller,” Funny Bunny finished.

They all looked at each other and themselves. They were much closer in size.

“Oh, yeah,” said Jimi. “You’re right. I guess everything’s size is weird here. I’ve been smelling this plateau. I’m pretty sure we’re on a half-eaten graham cracker.”

A galaxy gloated gently by just then. They were admiring its spiral arms when a fish swam by and swallowed it before disappearing into a wormhole.

“We should probably get moving,” Jimi said.

“Agreed,” said Funny Bunny. He stood still, though, staring at Jimi. “There’s something else different about you. Hmmm…I don’t know. I can’t put my lace cap on it.”

“Okay,” Jimi said. “Well, I feel the same, but if you figure out what the difference is, let me know. Anyway, I’ll go find the others. Race you there.”

He reared up, whinnied loudly, and galloped away, his hooves stirring up cracker dust.

“I think I figured out what it is,” Funny Bunny said.

When they reached Smokey, they found Ralph’s and Chad’s teams warily brandishing a variety of weapons at him. Deloris and Alice held a huge wooden mallet and an oversized pair of safety scissors. Christina and Gloria held the anvil launcher and a giant stick of dynamite. Chad was in a karate pose. Ralph glowered menacingly. Harold quivered. Jimi stood there, confused. He and the guinea pigs were roughly the same size, now.

“Hey guys,” he said.

“Stay back, beast!” Smokey shouted. “Leave now. This is your first warning!”

“It’s all right,” Funny Bunny said from behind Jimi. “The horsedogbeast comes in peace. He might help us out.”

Smokey looked over at Funny Bunny. “You vouch for the creature, Agent Knott?”

“Absolutely! You’ll behave yourself and not grab any of them with your teeth, right?”

Jimi sized up the guinea pigs. “I don’t think that’s feasible now, anyway.”

“Perfect. All right, then, agents. Let’s move out! We’re running out of time!”

“You don’t give orders to my team!” Smokey shot back. He stood there. All waited for his orders. Chad finally spoke up.

“What should we do, boss?”

Smokey looked one by one at the faces of his team and at Toona and Funny Bunny. “All right,” he said at last. “Let’s move out! We’re running out of time!”

“I guess you’re with us, now,” Funny Bunny said to Jimi.

“Excellent,” said Jimi. “I have some thoughts on my secret agent name. I’m thinking ‘Agent Bronco,’ or perhaps ‘Agent Thunder.’ Or maybe ‘Dark Stallion’—“

“We’ll work on that later,” Funny Bunny cut in. “Just don’t bite anyone unless we’re attacked. Then you can bite. The ones attacking us, that is. No one else.”

“Not sure what you’re implying there,” Jimi said. They walked the rest of the way in silence. Smokey stopped when he reached the edge of the cracker, and the others milled about nearby.

Smokey studied the Rubik’s cube through the middle of the Mobius strip. He seemed uncertain. Rusty looked up from his device.

“Sir?” he said. “If I may?”

Smokey handed Rusty the cube, the strip, and the compass. “Be my guest.”

“Thank you, Sir. I’ve been doing some calculations on our position. Now, at this moment, we’re on the edge of a graham cracker Director Ayloz ate a piece of two months ago and intended to finish later that day but forgot about. We’ve been referring to it as Object 3011-C. That’s roughly here.”

He held the Mobius strip to the cube’s red side and pointed to one of the red squares with the point of the compass.

“Our objective is here,” he continued, and he twisted the sides of the cube a bit, holding one of the corners, then, just above the strip. Smokey and Chad nodded silently. Ralph grunted. “To get there, we have to pass by several other of the lost objects in the bag and then traverse much of the Lost Continent of Naus.”

“Yes,” said Smokey, “but the question now is how to get from here to there.”

“If my calculations are correct,” Rusty went on, “we should be in the vicinity of Object 2984-B03, the Phantom Train. We may be able to hitch a ride on it.”

“And just exactly where is this phantom train?”

A giant locomotive suddenly appeared in the air a few dozen yards away, headed toward them, and they all yelled and ran. It caught up to Smokey first, and he turned and held onto the bars of the cowcatcher.

“Grab onto it!” he shouted to the others, who similarly grabbed and held onto whatever part of it they could as it reached each one of them. They all kept yelling for a bit, and then it seemed most of them had run out of breath. A wormhole opened in front of them, then, and the yelling began again. In they went, and all things seemed to stretch and contort around them. Toona gazed about at the ribbons of color swirling around them.

“This is kinda cool!” he shouted.

“What?!” Funny Bunny shouted back.

Then they emerged from the wormhole into a forest. Trees whipped past them. Then the engine stopped, and all the creatures clinging to it were thrown forward. Toona bounced once before landing, stood, and brushed leaves, dirt and sticks from his fur. Then he cast his eyes around for Funny Bunny, whom he saw standing unhurt not far away.

“So,” said Toona, “that was fun.”

“Agreed,” said the shoestring bunny. He gazed about. “Hey, do you happen to see Jimi?”

They all heard a door sliding open, then, and Jimi stepped calmly out of one of the passenger cars. He closed the door behind him.

“Nice ride,” Jimi said, looking at the others with some curiosity. “What happened to you guys?”

Funny Bunny again imagined himself gape-jawed. “How did you get in there?”

“I jumped in the open door as the train went by. What car were you in?”

Funny Bunny sighed, then, and then he and the others gave a shout and leaped aside as the locomotive started again. It chugged past them and disappeared into the trees.

“Well,” said Toona, sniffing, “we’re in the Outdoors again.”

Jolene was going from one pig to the next administering first aid. Butterscotch continued to offer anesthesia. Jolene at last took the needle from him, at which point he took out the little hammer used for testing reflexes and went about, systematically tapping everyone’s knees in turn. He looked puzzled when he reached Funny Bunny.

“I don’t have any of those,” the bunny said. “Move it along.”

Toona was staring at the forest around them. “This is starting to feel familiar.” He wandered a bit along the trail the train had dropped them onto. Just up ahead, he saw a post littered with wooden arrow-shaped signs with the names of places written on them. “The Endless Desert of Djorrh,” he read out lout. “The Dire Swamp of Krankinaus. Missouri. Toonatopia. Oh! I know that place!”

Funny Bunny rushed over and stared at the sign. “Huh,” he said.

“I forgot,” Toona went on. “The Kingdom of Stuffed Bears is around here. They made me king or something. I wonder how they’re doing.”

Rusty, who had been recalculating their position on his machine, looked up. “Our objective is just past there.” He turned to Smokey. “Sir, suggest the bear guide us from here.”

“Affirmative,” Smokey replied. “Agent Furry, lead on.”

Toona lifted an arm and then pointed forward with it. “Onward!”

They followed Toona through the woods. They had only been going a short while when a howl rose into the air off to the right.

“What’s that?!” Harold screamed.

More howls rose in reply to the first. Smokey frowned and grunted.

“Wolves,” he said. “Stay sharp, soldiers.”

Ralph cracked his knuckles and loosened his shoulders. Chad tried to determine the distance to the source of the howling. Gloria, Christina, Deloris, and Alice glanced about, ready to draw their weapons. Forward they went, one anxious step at a time, and the howls drew nearer.

Deloris drew her giant mallet as a wolf stepped out of the shadows on the right. Then there was a snarl on the left as a wolf appeared from between the trees on that side. Others followed ahead, behind, and to the sides until the agents were all surrounded.

“Steady!” Smokey hissed at the others. Everyone stood frozen, the wolves staring into the eyes of the pigs, Funny Bunny, Toona, and Jimi. Then there was the sound of a great footstep, and the largest wolf any of them had ever seen emerged from the trees in front of them and stopped at the edge of the circle of wolves. While the fur of the others bristled, he was calm, and his eyes seemed to burn just a little.

“I am Ayloz,” the great wolf said, “lord of these woods.”

“Um…” Funny Bunny started, confused. “You can’t be Ayloz. The Director is Ayloz.”

“No,” said the wolf, “I am Ayloz.”

“Um…not to be overly contrary or anything, but I think Ayloz is waiting for us outside. You must be someone else.”

“There could be more than one Ayloz,” Toona suggested.

“I am the only Ayloz!” boomed the wolf’s voice, and there was a moment of silence. “I know of your director, and she is a liar and a thief. She thinks because my name has the same letters as hers, it belongs to her. But I am the true Ayloz!”

“Okay,” Funny Bunny said, “we’ll just agree to disagree on who’s who for now. What can we do for you?”

“You are trespassing in my woods,” Ayloz the Wolf answered. “Now you must pay the price.”

The wolves crept forward slowly, and the agents clustered together. Jimi suddenly brightened.

“Phil? Is that you, Phil? And Bob? Veronica? Hey! Long time no see! So this is where you live, huh?”

The wolves stopped, confused. They looked to their leader, who looked over at Phil.

“Do you know this horsedog?”

“Um,” Phil said, “I’m not sure. He does smell kinda familiar, now you mention it.” He took a sniff. “No, that couldn’t be…Jimi?”

“That’s me!” Jimi said.

“No kiddin’! The hooves threw me off. And the mane. You definitely look more horsish than usual. How you doin’?”

“Great!” Jimi said. He turned to the pigs and his friends. “I met Phil and a couple of the others through Colin. We never met up in this forest. I had no idea they lived here.”

Veronica turned to Ayloz. “Are we still attacking?”

Ayloz considered the question. “No,” he said. “If this horsedog is a friend, then his friends shall be our guests. You shall dine with us tonight.”

“Sounds delicious,” said Jimi. “I must tell you with regret, though, that we’re on something of an urgent mission. You see…” He looked over at Smokey. “What is the mission?”

Smokey spoke up. “There’s another intruder somewhere in here. We believe he’s just past Toonatopia. We’re to find and apprehend this intruder.”

“Then we will escort you through the woods,” Ayloz the Wolf said. “Follow me, everyone.”

The agents followed the wolves through the woods. The wolves kept a brisk pace. Funny Bunny began to tire after a while and leaped onto Jimi’s back.

“Hyah! Onward!” Funny Bunny shouted. Jimi strolled along as before.

Toona peered ahead for landmarks he recognized. At last he called back to the others.

“I think we’re nearing the city!”

“What makes you say so?” Funny Bunny asked. Toona pointed, and Funny Bunny followed Toona’s pointed arm to a Starbucks some distance ahead. “Oh.”

The wolves stopped at the edge of town.

“We will go no farther,” Ayloz said. “Best of luck from here on. Jimi the Horsedog, you are welcome here any time. Goodbye!”

Ayloz ran into the woods, then, followed by his pack. Toona was again in the lead. They were all on a paved road now, and as they walked they saw more and more buildings. It seemed safe enough, but the guinea pigs drew a little tighter together lest the inhabitants prove hostile. They began to see the occasional stuffed bear going about his or her business. Those that noticed them stopped and stared. One that they passed nearby, apparently a farmer, dropped what he was doing and ran toward what appeared to be a walled city some distance away, shouting something. Christina pulled out the anvil launcher.

“He might be alerting enemies,” she said. “I could anvil him now.”

“No anviling just yet,” said Chad. “We’re hoping they’re allies.”

Smokey caught up to Toona. “Is that the capital up ahead?”

Toona nodded. They kept walking, and as they neared the wall, a great gate leading through it opened. Toona, Funny Bunny, Jimi, and the pigs stopped a couple dozen yards shy of the gate. A group of bears in fine clothing stood on the other side, apparently there to greet them. One who wore a jeweled hat stepped forward.

“Great King Toona, we rejoice at your return!” he shouted. “All hail King Toona!”

“All hail King Toona!” the others gathered there shouted.

Funny Bunny looked over at his friend. “I don’t remember you being in the bag that long.”

“Oh, yeah,” Toona replied. “It was a while on my end. I think time is different in here or something.” He turned his head and shouted back at Jimi and the pigs. “Forward, everyone! Tonight we dine at the palace!”

Forward they went, and they were received at the gate and taken to the palace. Toona rode on a cushioned chair carried by four attendants. Funny Bunny rode on Jimi and waved gracefully at the assembled crowd of bears as flower petals fell from the balconies around them. The guinea pigs followed behind, not sure what to make of the whole thing.

They spent three days and nights pampered at the palace. Whenever anyone brought up the urgency of their mission, some excuse was made by members of the court as to why Toona and the others should stay a bit longer. Smokey, worried his agents would grow soft, ordered Chad and Ralph to use the courtyard to train their teams. Jolene found the court healers and traded medicinal information. Rusty found the scientific library and, shocked at how little the stuffed bears knew about computer technology, created several technical manuals for them. Harold, terrified at first by all of the creepy bears all around him, gradually found comfort in the luxury accommodations and the many palace spas.

Smokey at last prevailed upon Toona to leave the palace. Toona gathered his ministers together and gave instructions regarding the administration of the kingdom in his absence. The guinea pigs gathered intel on the intruder they were hunting. At last Smokey gave the order to prepare to move out. The last to heed the order was Harold, who had at last settled in and had to be dragged from the spa.

Ceremonial music was played, goodbyes were said, and the far gate of the city was opened to allow them on their way. Once it was shut behind them, Smokey consulted the map, and Rusty consulted his computer. The bears had told rumors of a fortress in the mountains a few miles from the city. The pigs attempted to calculate the best direction to head.

“Found it!” Funny Bunny said.

Smokey looked up. “What? How?”

Funny Bunny held up one of his phones. “The map app. Did no one think to check it? It’s marked here in red. And I have the list of places food can be delivered there from.”

Smokey went over to Funny Bunny and grabbed the phone. “Ridiculous. I don’t believe it.”

“Well,” Funny Bunny continued, “you didn’t think there was really a such thing as a secret fortress three miles from a metropolis, did you? How would it get built?”

Smokey grumbled a bit. “Fall in!” he shouted, handing the phone back to Funny Bunny. The other guinea pigs assembled. “This way! Let’s see what this intruder is up to!”

They marched for a while toward the mountains nearby. About an hour later, they reached a cliff with a large metal door. A brief examination revealed a camera, a card reader with a screen, a speaker, and a doorbell. Toona was about to press the button when Chad stopped him.

“Hold on,” said Chad. “We don’t know who’s in there.”

“Gloria!” bellowed Ralph. “Blast it!”

Gloria immediately puled out several sticks of dynamite and struck a match.

“Wait!” Funny Bunny shouted. “Hold on! Before we blow us all up, maybe we can get in with the key.”

“What key?” challenged Ralph.

“Hear me out!” said the bunny. “Whoever’s in there must fear getting locked out, right? I mean, where do you go when you’re locked out of your secret base? There must be a spare key somewhere.”

“Ludicrous!” said Smokey. “Who would leave a key to a secret base just lying—“

“Found it!” called Toona, standing next to a fake rock with the top open. A keycard was inside.

“Good work, Agent Furry!” Funny Bunny said. He snatched up the keycard and used it on the card reader. The door opened.

They found themselves in a hallway that stretched on for some distance. Nearby, though, were two robot guards.

“Halt!” one of them shouted. “Identify yourselves.”

Deloris immediately smashed the one on the left with her mallet while Alice sliced the other in half with the giant safety scissors. Gloria spotted a nearby door labeled “Control Room,” blew it open with a stick of dynamite, and ran in with Christina, who smashed all the robots inside with launched anvils.

“Rusty!” Smokey shouted.

“On it!” Rusty said, rushing to the banks of computers. “This must be the main security room. I see camera feeds from all over. We might be able to control security of the base from here.”

“Um…” said Funny Bunny, poking at one of the smashed robots, “does the shape of this thing look familiar to anyone?”

“Guinea pigs!” Jolene said. Butterscotch gasped and rushed with the first aid kit to treat one of the robots. Jolene gently took the kit from him and patted him on the head.

“Huh,” said Smokey. “Not sure what to make of that. Harold!”

“Y-y-yes?” came a soft voice from nearby.

“Harold, do you think you can break into their system from here?”

Harold looked around, wide-eyed, still shaken from the fight. “I-I think so.”

“Good. I’m leaving you here as the rear guard. That means guard your rear. The others are pushing on. You’ll monitor us and the base from here and try to gain whatever access you can. Understood?”

“Y-y-y-yes, Sir.”

“Alright. Everyone else, let’s press on. Harold will guide us from here using the camera feeds. Right, Harold?”

Harold gave a timid nod. Smokey led the others out into the hallway, and they moved along cautiously, Chad, Deloris, and Alice taking point, and Ralph, Christina, and Gloria guarding the rear. They halted when they spotted another hallway branching off to the right.

“Harold!” Smokey whispered. “Can you see us? What’s around the corner?”

“Two guards,” Harold replied in his earbud, and Smokey gave signals to Deloris and Alice. They rushed around the corner and dispatched those robots as they had the first two.

“Which way?” Smokey whispered.

“Follow that hall,” Harold replied.

In this manner, Harold led them through the base, and there was much destruction of guinea pig robots using their cartoon weapons. They found their way to a great elevator, which Harold manipulated to take them down as far as it would go. Then there was another hall, which ended in a great metal door. Harold managed to gain access to it and opened it. The chamber beyond was dark.

“Harold!” Smokey whispered. “What’s in there?”

“I don’t know, Sir,” said Harold. “The feeds won’t show me.”

“Hm,” Smokey grunted. “Chad, scout it out.”

Chad, Deloris, and Alice put on their night-vision goggles and went carefully in.

“Quiet and empty,” Chad reported after a minute. “There are bags of something all over.”

“Let’s go,” Smokey said, and the others went in. “Let’s light it up.”

“Let me do that for you!” said a voice over a speaker, and the lights came on. The chamber was much bigger than it had appeared. It was in fact some sort of factory and warehouse. Smokey turned to the exit. It shut behind them.

Robot guards dropped from the ceiling, armed with electrified rubber band guns. The pigs were greatly outnumbered. Deloris, Alice, Christina, Gloria, Chad and Ralph sprang into action. Deloris and Alice hacked and smashed. Christina shot robots with anvils. Gloria blew them up. Chad attacked with his hands, delivering lightning-quick facial slaps that shook the robots apart. Ralph leapt through the air, destroying the robots he landed on. Yet the robots kept coming, and at last the guinea pigs tired. Their weapons were shot from their hands, and they were captured.

“A valiant effort,” said the voice.

Smokey shouted angrily. “Who is that? Show yourself!”

A circular platform descended about forty yards away, then, with a robed figure on it. As it neared the floor, the figure pushed back the hood. The guinea pigs gasped. Jimi gasped. Toona and Funny Bunny were unsure what had happened.

“What are you gasping for?” Funny Bunny said to Jimi.

“Just trying to fit in,” Jimi said.

Jolene was the first of the pigs to speak. “Arnold! You! You’re alive!”

“Yes,” said the guinea pig on the platform. “Yes, I survived. Surprised? After you abandoned me?”

Smokey answered him. “We had no choice! You know that!”

“What I know,” Arnold replied, “is that you betrayed me. But now you’ll pay for your crime. Oh yes. Now you’ll pay.”

Toona raised his arm. “If you intend to tie us up, we did bring our own tape.”

“Toona!” Funny Bunny hissed.

“What?” said Toona. “We discussed this. It’s the sanitary option.”

“We’re not surrendering,” Smokey replied.

Toona shrugged. “It’s tended to work out for us so far.”

Smokey whispered. “Harold, now would be a good time to finish hacking into the network.”

Harold didn’t hear Smokey. He had sealed the control room door when he heard approaching robots, and those robots were now attempting to batter their way in. Harold let out a nearly continuous scream, stopping only to breathe as he worked frantically on the computer.

In the factory below, Smokey spoke. “What is it you’re up to here, Arnold?”

Arnold gestured at the bags piled all around them. “Look around you and see my victory.”

“Okay. Looking around. What am I looking at?”

“Every one of those bags contains enough super itching powder to irritate a whole city! This bag contained a rare strain of timothy that is such a powerful allergen, none are immune. Make that into hay, grind it up, mix it with a little of this and that and yada yada yada and voila! Super itching powder. I have enough now to keep the whole world busy while I install myself as its leader.”

“Oh,” said Toona. “World domination again.”

“Boooring!” Funny Bunny yelled.

“IT’S A BRILLIANT PLAN!” Arnold screamed at them.

“Whoa,” Toona said. “Someone’s touchy.”

“Tell me about it,” Funny Bunny said. “Okay Arnie. Can I call you Arnie?”

“You may not,” Arnold said.

“Nold, then,” Funny Bunny said. “Nold, to expound on my colleague’s earlier point, what were you intending to tie us to, and can we hurry that process up?”

“Oh,” said Arnold, “I’m not going to tie you to anything. I’m going to kill you all right now!”

The robots raised their weapons. In the control room, the robots managed to burst through the door. Harold, still screaming, finally gained access. His fingers flew as he looked through the menu for the controls for the robots. The robots in the room raised their rubber band guns, and then Harold pressed a button and overloaded their processors. The robots screamed as their main circuits fried. Harold screamed. The robots screamed. Harold screamed for another few seconds and then stopped, panting. Finally he spoke into his mic.”

“Got it, Boss.”

“Thanks,” Smokey said as all of the robots near them suddenly fell down, crackling and smoking.

“No!” shouted Arnold.

“It’s over, Arnold,” said Smokey.

“It will never be over!” Arnold shouted back. He pulled a whole motorbike out of his pocket and raced off on it. Suddenly an alarm blared, and a voice announced a self-destruct sequence. Toona and Funny Bunny groaned.

“Are there any villains who haven’t rigged their bases with explosives?” Funny Bunny asked.

Smokey talked into his mic. “Harold, can you override it?”

“NO!” Harold shouted. “Get out of there, you fools!”

The pigs ran for the elevator, went up, and ran down the hall. Harold rejoined them as they passed the security control room. They ran out of the base and kept running until they could run no more. Then they paused and looked back.

“Huh,” said Funny Bunny. “I guess this one has a more generous timer. A bit anticlimactic, really.”

“We could go back,” Toona offered.

“No, it’s fine. Let’s just head home.”

A bit later, they heard a blast behind them. Smokey spoke to Rusty, who was leading the way.

“Where are we headed?”

“A good landing zone is not far ahead. We might have been able to land there earlier if our entry into the bag hadn’t been forced.”

Jimi felt the eyes on him at that. “Sorry. I was just trying to play. How was I supposed to know about this mission?”

They made it to the LZ in one piece and were picked up by choppers bearing D&Z Transportation Services logos. Soon enough, they were out of the bag and in front of Director Ayloz again.

“It was the usual scenario,” Funny Bunny reported. “We lost the villain but thwarted his plan, and his base blew up.”

“I thought he might have got away,” Ayloz replied. “Shortly before you called for extraction, a small hooded character riding a rocket bike burst out of the bag and zoomed out of the room. I was too surprised to catch him.”

“It was Arnold,” said Jolene.

Toona looked over. “Who is Arnold, anyway?”

“A ghost,” Ralph grunted.

“Arnold was a legend,” Rusty said. “One of the best agents in history. Saved our lives a few times. Until one fateful day…”

Funny Bunny listened. “Yes? You can’t leave off that way.”

Smokey picked up the thread. “It’s the all-too-tragic but all-too-common story. We got separated during an especially dangerous mission. We had to leave him behind. We all knew the risks. We knew such things could happen. But it seems Arnold sees it as a betrayal. I’m certain we haven’t seen the last of him.”

There was a moment of silence, then, which quickly made Funny Bunny uncomfortable. “Oh, and we met the real Ayloz,” he said to the director.

“He’s a liar,” said Ayloz. “I’m the real Ayloz.”

“There could be more than one,” Toona offered again.

The director shook her head. “No. I had those letters first. Anyway, mission’s over, glad you came, remember to submit your reports. Bye.”

And just like that, she was out the door. Toona, Funny Bunny, Jimi, and the Guinea Squad stood around, unsure what to do. Jimi spoke first.

“I have some hanging out to do,” he said. “Um…had fun…do it again sometime…see you.”

He wandered off. Smokey looked around.

“We’d better be gone as well,” he said. “Agent Furry, Agent Knott, it was an honor.”

“Likewise,” said Toona.

“Yep,” said Funny Bunny.

Smokey headed out. The other pigs waved or mumbled a quick goodbye and left as well. Funny Bunny pulled out a phone.

“Wow,” he said. “All of that only took a few hours outside the bag.”

“Huh,” said Toona. “So…what now?”


“Sounds good.”

They climbed to the nightstand and fell asleep. Dot showed up a bit later and woke them.

“Hey!” she said. “I’m home! What did you guys do while I was gone?”

“Eh,” Toona said. “The usual.”

“I see that,” Dot said. “Well, as long as you’re well rested, we’ll play some games in a bit.”


Dot looked at the fur on one of Toona’s feet and frowned. “You got some kind of dust on you.” She brushed it off. “There. I don’t know where that came from. Anyway, I have a bit of homework, and then we’ll play.”

Dot went to her computer. She sat down, woke the computer up, and scratched her hand a bit where it had touched Toona. Funny Bunny whispered to his comrade.

“That dust looked weird. You remember all those bags of powder in the factory?”


“With all the fighting and the commotion, do you suppose maybe…I mean, do you remember stepping in any?”

“Not that I remember,” Toona said.

They looked over at Dot, who scratched her hand again in that same spot, this time harder, and then went back to her homework.

“I wonder how long that stuff lasts,” Toona mused.

“I’m sure it wears off quickly.”

“Yes, surely.”

They silently sat there for a while, then, each reflecting on the knowledge that somewhere out there, near or far, a guinea pig plotted their doom.

“Tickle attack!” Funny Bunny shouted, then, and he poked at Toona’s belly. Toona roared with laughter. Dot looked over, absently scratched her hand, and smiled.