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Feather of Maat -- By: Oxymora

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Chapter 1: AllianzEdit

“I am awfully sorry to disturb you, sir, but here is someone who would like to talk to you.”, said a very deep bowing fiordland penguin. “What is it, Tawaki?”, asked a deep voice behind the big, black back of a pad executive chair in front of several middle sized flat screens. They were the only light in the gloomy room and showed different places all over the world, “I’m very busy here as you can see.” “That’s why I’m here.”, next to his guide appeared a Humboldt penguin out of the shadows. There was a short pause due to the impudence of the new comer who just sneaked into the chamber. One could feel the anger of the leading penguin, but then he had to admit to himself, that that penguin used to be very good. He didn’t notice him until he had spoken up. “And you are?”, asked the voice still not visible to anyone. “Call me a friend. We have the same enemy.” The pad executive chair turned. The ‘eyebrows’ of the new comer rose a little bit, when he could see the silhouette of the dangerous and feared head. “Do not judge a book by its cover.”, he reprehended in his deep voice, “So, please explain yourself. I really don’t have much time. You see, as far as I’m informed you’re…” “Indeed. But I… we are birds of justice. We want to bring that filthy betrayer to court martial. His crime must be punished!”, his eyes showed deep hatred, “They don’t believe your word, but we also saw him. And we are the ones who know him best. We CAN find him.” It was not visible for his subordinates or his quest, but first the eyes of the leader stare in incomprehension until his mind could connect the pieces. Then they changed into a sinister gleam. He smiled. This was going to be better than his best daydreams. His blood flew faster while the first contours of a plan crossed his mind. “Of course.”, he said, more to himself, than to his new companion. But the Humboldt penguin thought it referred to him. Therefore he nodded. The mind of the leader turned back to the present. This could also be a trap. “So, if it is that easy for you to find him, why do you want to become ally?”, he asked tongue-in-cheek. “To follow a trace, you first need one. He could be anywhere around the world and we neither have equipment nor the time to search everything. And you have the possibility to find a trace but you are not trained to hunt the dear down. We complement one another.” The bird sitting at the chair was quite. It was humiliating that a little soldier did find his little weak point, but if that was the price for bringing his enemy down he was going to pay it. He was searching that enemy of his nearly two years by now. A long time, but perhaps this Humboldt penguin and his companion could finally find and catch him. And if they were spies, he could easily get rid of them after he used them to achieve his goal. His first chuckle grew louder and louder until it became a great laughter. “Tawaki, get something to celebrate the new alliance.”, he ordered. The fiordland penguin bowed and just left to get some fresh water and overripe grapes when suddenly a siren sounded. The chair turned around and both penguins looked tensely at one of the upper flat screens. It was a broadcast of a US news channel and the anchorman commentated: “This can only be described as a hoop of heat.” “Looks like Dr. Blowhole affiliates too.”, the leader commented. --- At the same time but a very long distance away four penguins fought against their old enemy Dr. Blowhole. He already could taste sweet triumph – the plan was working marvelous, Kowalski had no idea how to anticipate the disaster and that vexatious Skipper nearly got crushed by another brilliant invention called chrome claw. One could really say Dr. Blowhole got the upper… flipper – but then this stupid little pro-simian turned against him and before the evil dolphin knew what happened he was already defeated… again. “You’ve done a good job today, ring-tail.”, said Skipper. But as usual no one in the zoo believed their story.

The day after Skipper was drinking his cup of coffee when Private waddled past him with an aggrieved expression on his face. “What’s with those sad eyes, young Private? We’ve won.” “Yes. But Marlene and the others think we are liars, Skippah. Why don’t they believe in Dr. Blowhole and about our mission as agents?”, he looked desperate. One could see he was hurt because no one believed him. Skipper knew how Private felt. His young cadet had done a good job, but civilians could never see this. They live in their common, little life, pretended save from all that cold blood fighting behind the curtain called Democracy. They did not understand that the peace they lived in was due to the brave soldiers – like them – who defend it. “It’s better they don’t.”, he finally said, “Sometimes the truth must not be said.” Suddenly a wave of reminiscence flooded his thoughts. It was the memory of Denmark, the incident which was the break of his life. There had been a lot of missions before Denmark and his team – Manfredi, Johnson and him – had done an excellent job, but nothing can prepare one to that moment when you become the monster you were always hunting. There had ended the life of the young, naïve, innocent recruit, he once was. A cold shiver let his blood ran cold. Why was he remembering this at that particular moment? Private took breath for respond when he noticed the thoughtful and absent-minded eyes of his commanding officer. “Is everything fine, Skippah?”, he asked a little worried. There was no reaction. He called him again this time a little bit louder, but with the same effect. “Skipper!”, Kowalski’s head peered down through the fishbowl entrance. Finally the addressed looked up, “What’s the matter, Kowalski?” “There are two penguins who want to see you.”

Chapter 2: ParanoiaEdit

His mouth dried. This was really no good sign. First he remembered his past and then two penguins appeared who were looking for him. “How do they look?”, he asked. Kowalski had no need to inform him due to the fact that the guests rushed past him and landed just half a meter before Skipper. Both were banded penguins. One of them had a rosy loral area which identified him being a Humboldt penguin and was marked by a scar at his belly that destroyed the contour of his plumage. The other did not have that rosy characteristic, but was a good head longer; therefore he was a Magellanic penguin. “HI!”, one of them shouted in joy, “It’s been a time, hasn’t it?” “How are you doing?”, the other one could hardly finish his sentence before Kowalski, Rico and Private attacked them. It didn’t take more than two seconds and the three relocated themselves at a three-storied penguin deck with Private at the bottom and Rico at the top. “What the…?”, Kowalski looked back at the two intruders, but he couldn’t get up. “Rico, get off.” “You haven’t trained them for long, have you, Skipper?”, asked one of the new comers. “They ain’t in shape at all.”, said the other flippers at hips, “Are they military material in the first place?”, he eyed up the three penguins that were finally standing again. Rico grunted something. “Rico’s right. Let the second round start, intruders!”, agreed Kowalski with serious expression. Rico choked up his beloved chainsaw and Private got in position. The Americans looked at each other amused and confident of their victory. “Easy men!”, Skipper shouted before the fight could begin, “They are not enemies! Calm down.” He walked between the two fronts and lifted his wings. As always his mug of coffee had disappeared without any sign. He turned towards the South American penguins with delight in his eyes, “Indeed, it has been a long time! Please don’t be too harsh with these three. They are good men. This is Kowalski, our scientist and really good with options for challenging situations, Rico, an expert when it comes to weapons, and Private, our… well… private. He has a brave heart.” “You know them?”, asked Kowalski looking confused like his comrades. Never had Skipper given away that much information to an unknown to them. Rico swallowed his weapon again, disappointed that he had not had any chance to proof his military training. “Affirmative! May I introduce you to Manfredi”, he pointed towards the Humboldt penguin than turned at the Magellanic penguin, “and Johnson.” “You are Manfredi and Johnson?”, Private asked impressed, “Skippah told us a lot about you!” “But wait. I thought you were dead?”, the scientist looked skeptical. Rico nodded in agreement. “Something about flying piranhas at Ecuador.” “They were quite a pain in the ass.”, Johnson approved, “But no match to our elite squad.” He sneered when he remembered. “We are way too good to get killed by any carnivore fish.” “Indeed, at least you need two chinstrap penguins.”, Skipper joked and pointed towards Manfredi’s scar. He looked down and remarked: “It’s a good warning not to put my beak into any romance anymore.” “You just have to be more careful with your choice. You always had a strange taste for women.” “Hear mister I-have-everywhere-a-girlfriend.”, countered the Humboldt penguin, “If there is any penguin that does not act penguin-like when it comes to romance it’s you! You won’t be hitched in this life anymore.” Kowalski and Rico looked at each other chuckling what caused Skipper to look at them in a dunning glance. “But Skip…”, Private wanted to comment but Kowalski hustled him. However both American penguins looked at them interested. Luckily for them Kowalski came up with an excuse that took them to another subject, “Private was just wondering why Skipper always says you were dead when you aren’t.” “Ah… yes?”, the young penguin was confused but decided that it was a subject he did not understand at his age. “You don’t know Skipper for a very long time, do you? This is his usual way to motivate his team comrades.”, Manfredi boxed amicably at his former leader’s wing, “So… what are you doing at a place like this. Living a peaceful life isn’t what anyone would expect from you.” “Nah… this is an undercover mission. I’m still at business. You heard about that incident in the Arctic?”, he was relieved that Manfredi and Johnson were not going to know about the bobble head. “Yesterday? Someone wanted to meld it. A strange story. Who would want to meld the Arctic?” “A diabolic dolphin.”, replied Private confident that there was finally someone who would believe in their story. “A bottlenose, to be precisely.”, inserted Kowalski. “Hates humans.”, was all Rico could manage to say. “He answers to the name of Dr. Blowhole.” “Wow, wow, wow. A diabolic dolphin? Dolphin that hates human?”, Manfredi didn’t looked convinced neither did Johnson. Johnson explained: “Normally Dolphins like humans. And especially humans like dolphins. Why would… Blowhole hates them?” “I also don’t believe in their story.”, suddenly Marlene stood in the HQ. Alarmed all penguins performed a defensive stance. “Oh, Marlene.”, Skipper and his team lowered their wings, “How often do I have to tell you not to sneak into our HQ!” “I did not sneak in! If there is someone who always enters without invitation or knocking it is you!”, she looked at the new penguins, who glanced at Skipper and relaxed then too, “But I heard sounds of a battle and was a little worried about you hence I just wanted to see whether everything is okay here.” “There was just a little misunderstanding. Everything is fine. Now please, go back to your habitat.” But Marlene had other plans. She was too curious about those newcomers: “So who are you. ‘Military’ like the others?” “Indeed. I’m Manfredi and this is Johnson. We are old companions in arms of Skipper.”, the Humboldt penguin introduced without noticing her sarcastic undertone, “Nice to meet you…?” “Marlene. I’m one of the neighbours. Nice to meet you, too.” They shook paw and wing. She glanced at Skipper: “Than that were two other Manfredi and Johnson who were killed in Ecuador by ‘flying’ piranhas?” “I wonder. I always thought Skipper hates mammals. Why does he accept you entering the headquarter?”, they both looked amused. “You three had your fun. First of all, flying piranhas do exist – well piranhas that jump out of the water. Second, it’s not like I do appreciate her entering the HQ. She is just continually doing it!” Immediately he knew that his last sentences were a big mistake. He received a death glare from Marlene, especially because she knew he just wanted to cover their friendship due to showing off. It did not work though. Manfredi and Johnson were still smiling. To change the subject the leader penguin asked: “So, why are you here? And – more importantly – how did you find me?” “Finding you was indeed a difficult thing. We were seeking for you quite a while. After every mission we scanned the area to find a sign of you. The ADM did not want to tell us anything, saying you were on a very VERY tip top classified mission.” “Just when we wanted to give up finding you again it occurred that we were near a human watching a film on the internet. It was about the Central Park Zoo and there we saw you.” “First we didn’t want to trust our eyes but to check on this possibility wasn’t a bad idea after all.” “Question?”, interfered Marlene, “What is ‘ADM’?” “That’s classi…”, Skipper started just to be interrupted. “The Antarctic Defensive Military.”, explained Manfredi, “At least that’s the term for Skipper, because he’s from Antarctica. We – from South America – call it ‘American DM’, the African penguins ‘African DM’ and the Australian ‘Australian DM’. Well, the penguins from New Zealand are the losers, because they have to work with the Australian DM and you know Kiwis and Aussies do not very much like each other.” “Wait.”, the otter lifted her paws, “This military thing is… you know… REAL?” “Of course it is!”, asserted Johnson, “We’re all working for a high goal. Saving the world and saving the beloved ones back in South America… or other places over the world like Antarctica.” “You can’t give information away to civilians!”, Skipper was in a rage. “You seem to trust her. Therefore she can’t be a spy and then it’s okay.”, the South American penguins turned towards the rest of the team and looked for approval. But it appeared the others did not want to pick a fight with Skipper so that they kept silence. Johnson just shrugged and turned back at Marlene. “Did he ever tell you about our former missions?”, he asked and his eyes glared in enthusiasm. “I don’t think we have to reveal everything here.”, Skipper did not know how to stop those two penguins from telling more than the others needed to now. “Well Skipper, is there something that you don’t want us to know?”, asked Kowalski in a provocative but still playful tone. Luckily for the cornered leader the bell of the zoo announced that they opened. “What a shame. No time for stories. All at your places!”, he shooed all of them until he was alone with Manfredi and Johnson, “And you. You stay down here. We talk later!” And with this he disappeared through the fishbowl opening. “Interesting isn’t it?”, asked Johnson. “He faces mortal danger but when it comes to his personal problems he always runs away.” They looked at each other and laughed: “NEEDLES!”

It was Monday and Monday appeared to be fun-day because there were just few people at the zoo. In addition the sky looked rainy and every little hatchling knew humans were afraid of rain – or at least it looked just that way. The zoo was always empty when it rained. Skipper was in his thoughts about how he could convince Manfredi and Johnson to leave when he heard laughter followed by admiring “Oh”s and “Ah”s. “What’s that noise?”, he asked but nobody answered. He turned around and noticed he was alone. “Fish and Chips!” He scanned the area and spotted the source of the sounds. In front of the empty cafeteria around one of the tables sat five penguins, an otter, the lemurs and the chimpanzees. “I have a bad feeling about this.”, Skipper hopped over the barrier of the penguin habitat and slit over to the group. “I tell you, it was worth seeing. And then we had to drive down the Amazonas. Behind us the angry humans, underneath us crocodiles ready to have their first try on penguins, above us the glutton mosquito and ahead the ‘flying’ piranhas. Those were serrasalmuses. We could see their red gills shining in the sun. You need to know they can reach a length of 20 inches! Nearly as big as we are!” “And then they jumped out of the water and tried to bite us.”, Johnson thrust with his beak at the group but did not hit anyone. Still everyone moved backwards in horror assuming that was a huge carnivore fish, “But we fought back with everything we had – which was not very much. Two sticks of dynamite, which we knew we would need downstream, three teaspoons and a cactus.” “A cactus?”, Rico repeated. “Indeed.”, Manfredi lowered his voice while moving his head forward and looking cautious, “That cactus wasn’t just any ordinary cactus.” He waited until everyone got close to him awaiting the ultimate secret, then he spoke up in a cheerful and loud tone: “They couldn’t get one single feather from us.” The others winced during the South American penguins high fived with a battle cry. Then they noticed Skipper. “That was something you can call an adventure, wasn’t it Skipper?”, Manfredi asked. The group turned around to meet the displeased face of the leader. He stood there with crossed wings and raised eyebrow. But the group did not let him distract them. “Yes, yes… thrilling adventure. But how could you escape your enemy now. Back at Madagascar when the fossas attacked my very kingly place zome of my subjects got killed. But you are all here. Dis all is lie.”, Julien was still not convinced. “Indeed, how could you escape?”, Kowalski asked thinking of own options. “Kaboom.”, suggested Rico remembering two sticks of dynamite. “The mosquito were eaten by the piranhas – the normal diet actually – and the crocodiles stopped the humans.”, affirmed Skipper without any elaboration. “He never was a good story-teller.”, explained Manfredi. “’Kingly’? You are a king?”, Johnson was surprised, “I never knew there were kings or queens in the animal word. I always thought there were just leaders or… for mammals alpha animals.” “Silly penguins. Why do you think I’m wearing this crown?”, he pointed at his headdress of leaves. “What actually is he?”, whispered Manfredi to Kowalski. “A lemur. To be more precisely, he’s a katta. Crazy animals. I think it’s because they just live on that island and… you know… incest.” “Yes… we’re in zest. In zest for life.”, the self-proclaimed king shouted. “How did you three get to know each other?”, asked Marlene curious taken away by the enthralling stories and to change the subject again back to the thrilling stories of their military life. “That was back at the headquarter at… well that is really something I’m not allowed to tell you. At the beginning we were a two men team but a mission awaited us on which our colonel did not want to send us until we had another member. That was when they introduced Skipper to us.” “We all thought ‘Oh Gosh, he is from Antarctica. He won’t last a day!’. You can understand how shocked I was when the colonel told me I was no longer in charge but Skipper.”, told Manfredi, “But he surprised us.” “Are you finished? I’ve just done my job. That’s all. Now, tell me how long do you want to stay here?”, interrupted Skipper. “That depends.” “Depends on what?” “By the time we will receive our next mission. You wanna join us?” “Until then you can tell us a lot more stories of your life!”, shrieked Private in joy. “I like stories.”, joined Mort in. “Come on. What could be terrible about your past?”, asked Maurice, “You should be more proud of it.” Julien laid his arm around Skippers shoulder just to receive a skeptical look: “Did you commit a crime you don’t want anyone to know?” “WHAT?”, he hustled the katta away, “Did you finally get totally insane? If you need to listen to the stories do it.” Skipper jumped down from the table and waddled back to the penguin habitat. “He’s got somezing to hide.”, Julien told Maurice as an affirmation. “I’m going to speak with him. Wait here.”, Marlene said and hopped down too.

He was already at the artificial floe when Marlene caught up with him. “Skipper, wait.” He turned around while set the fishbowl aside: “What’s the matter?” “Why are you so grumpy?”, she really was caring. He sighed: “The things I’ve done for the military were all just part of my job. I don’t want to brag with it. That’s all.” “Is this everything?”, Marlene asked. “Well… I also… I don’t know.”, he beat around the bush. He looked over at the group which was watching them. Then back at Marlene’s inquiring face. “Come down. I don’t want them to read my beak.” He led her go first then entered to. From far away he could hear someone whistled at them. He knew immediately it was Johnson, but he did not care. “Now we are alone. Where’s the problem.” He still wasn’t sure how to say it then he began: “This morning I was happy to see them again. But now I have a bad feeling about them. Something’s odd.” “No… no no no. Not your raving paranoia again.”, she exclaimed. He looked annoyed: “I knew you were going to say that.” “What else! You don’t even trust your former colleges. Be honest do you have any trust in Kowalski, Rico and Private?”, she was in rage. “Of course I have!” “Well I’m not sure!” “I trust you. Otherwise I would not have told you. AND I trust my team!” She could not argue with that point. “You know them very well. You fought a lot of battles together. See… I changed my point of view. I believe in your story about you being a military penguin. Now you have to trust at least your old friends.” “This is no psycho-social care. I’m fine. Precisely because I do know them I’m pretty sure there’s something cooking. The last time I saw them was in Denmark.” “Denmark? Private once told me you said you can’t set foot in Denmark. What happened there?” “Never mind. It’s private.” “Don’t tell me again, it’s classified information.” “No, it’s private.” “Then tell me… us. Perhaps we can help you.” “No.” “SKIPPER!” “NO!” Both were on a dangerous level of anger. “You see… no trust! Not a little bit of it.” “It’s not about trust! Perhaps it was a mistake to tell you about it!”, he turned around to look for his coffee mug. “So live with our ‘privacy’ and have fun seeing everywhere enemies.”, she wanted to leave and was already at the first rung. But there was no response which appeared to her to be very unordinary. “Skipper?”, she looked back. Skipper stood there petrified. “What’s the matter?”, she jumped down again and looked past the commanding officer penguin. At the table behind some of Rico’s equipment – most of it weapons – was the mug and in it an ostrich feather.

Chapter 3: NightmareEdit

A loud crack woke him up. Alarmed he jumped out of his bunk into an accurate defensive stance and checked his room. He turned slowly and eyed every single angle of the space. Apart from his bunk and the table with his mug – in which was a cold, brownish liquid – it was empty. In the army you learn to live without much of a comfort. But still he felt odd. Something was not how it should have been. But he couldn’t put his flipper on it. He listened carefully for any strange noises from outside his room. His blood pounded against his head and aroused the illusion of heavy footsteps walking towards him. With all his willpower he managed to calm down. There was a sound behind him. He about-faced. The intensive wind rattled at the window to burst into his room. The weather had changed and it looked like a storm surge was going to hit their place. He lowered his wings. “It’s just you. It is just you!”, he tried to ease, without any effect. Soundless he opened the door of his room. The corridor lay ahead of him, just illuminated by the shallow light of the moon, still and deserted. He breathed hardly. His sixth sense – the soldier’s sense – told him there was something terribly wrong, but his mind could not figured out what it was and therefore encouraged him everything was fine. He closed the door and walked back at his bunk. He had just lifted himself when his thoughts finally could catch up with his dim feeling. Indeed the corridor had been still but definitively not deserted. There had been a shadow which he had not seen before. He swore and rushed back, pushed open the door and observed the passage. The shadow was gone. “Darn it!”, quite he locked his room again, this time behind him. Slowly and quite he moved. He was alerted. He knew danger and this was just another one. There was nothing to worry about as long as he could find the enemy and take him down. And he was a professional. That was his daily routine. He sat one foot before the other eyeing every part of his surroundings. He had no idea where to go and therefore he just kept going. He thought his feet would be able to find their path. Then a deep dark shadow moved in his direction. He looked out of the window and saw a big cloud sliding in front of the moon. Now it was pitch-dark and in addition to that it also began to rain. With this, not only the wind, but also the heavy rain drops pounded against the window glass. “Looks like I can’t trust my eyes and I can’t rely on my ears either.”, a smile appeared on his beak. This was a challenge and he wanted to take it down. After all he had worked for a situation like this in his combat training. He kept going, quite and alerted. There was one thing he could still listen to: His guts. And it told him that there was danger ahead and he needed to trace it down. Just when it occurred to him who might be the person in help, he heard a scream. His mind realized who shouted and in an instant he waddled as fast as his feet could take him leaded by the wall – the carpet mad it unable to slide – abandoning his security. Just before he entered the room he remembered his training on safety actions... …and ignored it. Inside the room was a single candle but the rest of the room was empty. Not a single piece of furniture and definitively no victim let alone a villain were in there. He walked two footsteps into the warm light, but right in the moment he had laid his flipper on the candle-holder wind gust arose and the flame died down. He was back in plank nothingness. “Wa…? What the mackerel.” He just wanted to turn around to leave the room as a lightning followed by a deep thunder enlightened the room. For a four thousandth of a second he saw a red gleam in front of him. “What was that?” As if the weather wanted to answer the windows broke open, the storm entered the room and another bolt ignited the wooden window frame. In the flair of the flames he could see a body lying in front of him. It was a young Adelie penguin with a sustained scar at its head sprawled from one side of his head to the other and a missing toe. But the thing that caught one’s eyes was it covered in crimson blood. In its chest was a narrow hole and out of it ran more of the scarlet water of life. The moving flames cast shades which could give the feeling the corpse was moving. He moved backwards in shock. He didn’t felt the blowing wind nor the pouring rain, but still everything turned could inside of him. Someone had killed a penguin just right in front of him without him noticing it before it had been too late. Hectically he turned. The murderer hadn’t had enough time to escape the crime scene therefore he was in danger. It was when he wanted to scan every angle of the room that he noticed a knife in his flipper. He looked at the sharp, greyish metal and suddenly blood began to drip out of its blade. He looked down just to see that his normally white feathers were bloodstained. His blood ran cold as he realized: “I’m the murderer!” The sentence echoed through his head until the knife hit the ground with a clear sound. His mind became the reflection of the storm outside. There was no notion he could hold on. They slipped away like a wet fish in ones untrained flippers. But though the chaos of thoughts he heard a sobbing sound from the edge. Concentrating on that whining he came back to the dark room. He winced when he realized who had watched him. There sat the girl penguin he had worried about. Young, naïve and adored by all the cadets she always smiled at him. But now there was no cheerful joy in her eyes but frightened incomprehension. He looked back at the corpse just to notice that its eyes gazed at him. He moved backwards in fright. Suddenly its wing grabbed his leg.

Skipper woke up. As a penguin he was not able to sweet and therefore he felt horrible hot. He got out of his bunk, scaled the ladder and jumped into the cool water of their pool. That was a relief and a proof he was finally awake. Only now he noticed his body shivered. “It was a dream. It all was just a dream.”, but he knew better. To calm down he swam and dived. First round… second round… he stopped counting and devoted himself to swimming until his lung ached due to lack of oxygen. The water tried to slow him down but his thick and smooth plumage detained it. He felt free again – as free as someone could be in a small pool swimming circles. When he finally got out of the water he thought about the ostrich feather which had been in his mug the evening before. He wanted Marlene to believe there was no deeper meaning to it but he was sure she did not buy it. First thinks first, and before he could get to sleep, he had to think about a very good excuse for that. Probably she was going to tell his team and that was nothing to take light. He shook the few water drops off his water-repelling feathers and turned. And froze. Manfredi and Johnson stood in front of him. “You’re not looking very good.” “Did something happen?” “Don’t play friendly with me.”, Skipper answered, “I think I know why you’re here. And I can assure you things are different than you might think.” “I think you hide something.” “And it eats you.” “I tell you how things will get better: Surrender and admit your crime!” “Did ‘he’ tell you about it?”, Skipper got on alert. “He? No… we saw you bloodstained. But you did not notice us. You was too busy to escape!”

Chapter 4: Fight against friendsEdit

Even it was night the bright lights of Manhattan illumined the Central Park, and the zoo located in it, to a status where there was no difficulty to view ones surrounding. Three penguins stood on an artificial ice floe in the middle of the zoo. The water from midnight swimming was still dropping off the feather of the smallest one, who was cornered by the South American penguins. The three were ready to fight their tough battle. Once they had been comrades – and friends – who had rescued one another and knew the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Now they were foes trying to use their knowledge as an advantage. “There is no other way than this, for you. Did I get that right?”, Skipper asked a little disappointed. Manfredi and Johnson nodded. “I don’t know how you could fool the high ups at penguin military. It’s a mystery why they didn’t hand you over to the Danes but when you’ll touch Danish ground they can’t do anything to save you anymore!” “So, you wanna catch me?” The tall penguins nodded. “Well then… come and try!” The South American penguins knew, even though there were two of them, it was going to be a difficult fight. On their old missions both of them had seen how Skipper had been able to beat more and greater fiends. Their only advantage was that they had kept fighting over the last years while he had lived in the zoo. Daily training was not the same as putting his life on the line during a mission. The serene of a fire engine sounded through the Central Park and turned into an unsaid agreement. When it was gone all three penguins started their fight. Johnson attacked with a strong blow at Skipper’s neck. He knew that he was not able to reach him but out of Skipper’s evasive movement he could read how much he has weakened during the last years. To his surprise his former leader did not only elude his hit by a fluent motion, but also suddenly he stood behind him ready to knock him down with one single blow. If this had been a one versus one match Skipper would already had won, but Manfredi immediately interfered. Skipper jumped and landed at the edge of the concrete. He didn’t have much time until Manfredi was next to him. They exchanged blows that would remind one of material arts. Skipper could see the moves coming: One at his head, one at his waist and then a kick to lose balance; and avoided them. But there was something else. Just in time he noticed Johnson sliding directly at him. The leader dodged the Humboldt penguin’s hit and vaulted the Magellan with leapfrog. Manfredi and Johnson, though, weren’t tricked that easy. They turned and caught Skippers flippers. “We’ve got you!”, Johnson cheered. “It’s just you who think so, isn’t that right Manfredi?”, as a standing jump he back flipped and dragged them along. They tumbled and hit the concrete painfully but didn’t lose the grip on Skipper. Therefore he felt right on top of them. For the next minutes the three birds conflate to a black and white, wrestling mass. “We will win!” “Give up!” “Is this all you’ve got?” and other sentences interrupted by whooping, when someone got hit, rang through the air around them. After a while one penguin separated from the group and landed at the railing of the habitat. He breathed heavily. His feathers once soft and neat now stood messy in different directions. The American penguins looked the same whereas Johnson had a swollen eye. They were in a stand-off. “I can’t take them down one by one. I have to think of a plan. Perhaps I can use their majority as an advantage.”, the commanding officer of the Central Park Zoo penguin habitat thought while preening his plumage alert. The South American penguins knew they had to attack him before he was able to come up with a plan. They underestimated him once, they wouldn’t do it twice. “Let’s do this.”, Manfredi whispered to Johnson, “This is an important mission. We mustn’t lose.” They peered up at Skipper. He had a stern look on his face. Before his opponent could move he jumped and drove into the water. They followed. Penguins are aquatic birds and skilled swimmers therefore this arena was suiting for their battle. But the light was dim and they could not see very far. Manfredi wanted to take position at the ice floe and coordinate Johnson expecting that the black back wouldn’t be as effective as a camouflage in a pool as it is in wild life. But that meant to separate and that would play in Skipper’s hand. They swam quietly and smooth to avoid strong water streams that could alarm Skipper and reveal their whereabouts. Manfredi was on point and tried to figure their surroundings. “Come on, Skipper. Where are you? I can feel your present, so just give me one single clue where to find you.”, the Humboldt penguin thought. Like an answer a sudden shadow appeared in front of them. Both penguins slowed down while a lot of adrenaline was pumped into their blood. With a strong flap Manfredi was next to the shadow instantly. He gave it a hit. To late he noticed it was not Skipper but the very wall of the HQ. In a silent cry he released his anger, pain and the rest of his oxygen. Johnson looked at his companion. He pointed towards the surface. Manfredi nodded. There was a chance that Skipper was already awaiting them outside; consequently they were on guard when they left the water. The floe was deserted. “He’s not here.” “He has to emerge from the water soon.” After Manfredi examined his wing and had the assurance that it was not broken, they waited back-to-back. Meanwhile Skipper was down in water meditating. Normally small penguins like him were not able to dive very long but once a friendly Emperor Penguins had shown him a trick to minimize ones heartbeat to a lowest possible before dying he could stay in water longer than any other penguin his size he knew. It gave him some time to think clearly and calmness about his prospects. He was certain Manfredi and Johnson awaited him back at the floe. Surely they were attacking him right away when he emerged. He could not avoid that attack but perhaps he was able to use it against them. “Looks like he is no longer in water.”, suggested Johnson. “I don’t know. I can’t believe he would run away from any battle.” It was an unsaid rule not to leave the penguin habitat. “I never imagine him doing THAT either.” Just as they wanted to ease Skipper jumped out of the water. Johnson was faster than Manfredi and tried to catch his former commander in air. Instead he was grabbed at his wing and realized Skipper wanted to through him against his companion. He turned and held on tight to the flipper using his movement and Skipper’s strength to roll over at his back. The small penguin was completely off guard when Manfredi hit him right in the waist. “Hoover D…”, they felt down like stones and there was a loud splash when they hit the water surface. They both hold onto Skipper to make it impossible for him to escape this time. He struggled but soon he noticed someone restrained his flippers. He was unable to move. They rose slowly until the cold air of the night had them back. “Hurry up Johnson. This is not easy!” “I’m already here.”, the Magellanic penguin answered and hold a rope. “Where did you…?”, Skipper was able to say before Johnson gagged him. But his former companions knew what he wanted to know: “We prepared it in first place. It was hanging at the fence over there. Always think one step ahead – don’t you remember?” A moment later Skipper was totally in bonds. “We are careful. We know you are able to unleash yourself to a certain degree.” “Although your strength did decrease. It seems your new life made you mollycoddled.” The South American penguins nodded to each other. “Time to sleep, Skipper!”

Chapter 5: GoneEdit

Kowalski was the first penguin to wake up and peered through the room to read the time on the clock. It was nine a.m.. Relieved he turned back to sleep, and to turn back to his wonderful dream about a gigantic brain that he was able to attach to his own, until Skipper woke them up at 0600 hours. It took ten seconds – the time he needed to connect to the gigantic cerebral cortex – before he jumped out of his bunk and checked the clock again. This time it showed one past nine. Why were they still sleeping? His first reaction was to look for his friends. Rico and Private lay in their bunks and were still listening to Morpheus’ dreams. The fourth berth was empty though. He eyed the room, but Skipper wasn’t there. Kowalski didn’t want to frighten his friends for nothing therefore he went to see Manfredi and Johnson first. Their blankets on the floor next to the table were neatly folded but empty. “Surely there is an easy explanation for this. Perhaps Skipper is on a walk with his former comrades and forgot about time.” So much he wanted to talk into believing it, a little voice whispered to him, that at least Skipper would have told him before he had left. Leaving without telling anyone was unusual for his team leader. To assure himself he climbed the ladder and jumped out of the HQ. It was a nice, warm morning and everyone else seemed to be awake and enjoyed the last hour before the zoo opened. With his binoculars he scanned the zoo. Burt was stealing peanuts from the zookeeper, the spider monkeys had stolen Alice hat and she was chasing them to get it back, the lemur habitat was empty, Joey treated the only tree in his habitat and the chimpanzees were playing chess – Kowalski got a glance how Phil cheated. Suddenly he had the feeling he had already known the monkey business of the chimpanzee although he could not remember when he had found out. He dispelled the unimportant thought and continued his observation. But Skipper and the South American Penguins were nowhere to see. “Kowalski?” He about-faced with one 180 degree jump. He was too nervous to recognize the familiar voice and posed in this defensive position, ready to attack an opponent. “Oh… it’s just you, Marlene.”, he eased and tried to cover his fright. “What do you mean by “just”?”, she asked angry. “Well… I’m looking for Skipper or Manfredi and Johnson. Have you seen them today?” “No. You’re the first penguin that came out of the hatch today. I was a little worried. Normally you’re the first ones to get up and perform your training before everyone else is ready to have breakfast.”, she remembered Skipper’s strange behaviour from the day before, “Did something happen?” “I don’t know yet. But I think it’s time to wake the others first. They should be informed.”, followed by the female otter he entered the HQ again. “Wake up, men!”, Kowalski ordered while sliding down the ladder. Rico and Private jumped out of their bunks and landed directly before Kowalski as they were used to. They were surprised to see him accompanied by Marlene and not Skipper. “Where’s Skippah?”, asked the youngest of the penguins. “I don’t know. When I woke up, him, Manfredi and Johnson were gone. I’m a little puzzled about this. First I wanted to check whether they are outside, but Marlene told me, that no penguin had left the HQ this morning.” “Don’t you think you’re worried too much? Perhaps they are on a walk talking about their old days and left by one of the escape routes?”, suggested Private. Rico nodded in agreement. “Wouldn’t he tell us about it? And look, it’s already twenty past nine. Was there ever a day that he woke us up that late?” The young penguin tried to remember, but Skipper’s accurate training schedule had never contained oversleeping: “Oh dear. This is unusual.” Their attentions were drawn by Rico who pointed towards the table spluttering something which seemed to be understood by the penguins but not by Marlene. Still she could see the two things lying on the table top: A described sheet of paper and… an ostrich feather. Meantime latter was examined by Kowalski. “The ostrich feather!”, she exclaimed and walked next to the tall penguin, “Yesterday it was in Skipper’s mug. He froze in horror when seeing it.” “Are you sure it was due to the feather?”, asked Private, “Why would he…”, he stopped and thought for a moment. He didn’t want to use the word “fear”, because their leader was fearless – well except for needles. He continued: “…attach any special meaning to an ostrich feather? It’s just… decorative.” “Indeed it is. That’s why a lot of people used ostrich feathers as ornaments.”, confirmed Kowalski, “But there is also a deeper meaning to an ostrich feather.” “There is?”, asked the other, Rico, though, could only grunt. The tall penguin turned the feather in his flipper deliberately: “Do you know anything about gods of Ancient Egypt?” Everyone shook their head. Marlene told: “I know something about kami, Japanese gods.” “Sorry, those are two completely different kind of mythology… or religion. Both cultures have a lot of deities, but the Japanese worship nature – hehe… which is ironic when you see how they cover their land with concrete.” “Yep.”, Rico nodded in agreement. “But back to the topic. The Egypt had more abstract deities and most of them are attributed to the afterlife. The religion contained the idea of a life after death, which you surely are aware due to the pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Goza is one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World.” “Ehm… Kowalski. There are seven.”, interjected Private. “No! They replaced Ishtar Gate with the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Therefore there are eight!” Private, Rico and Marlene looked at each other and shrugged. “Where does he get all that information from?”, Marlene whispered, “And more important: Where does he save them?” “We don’t know.”, responded Rico mumbling but still understandable. The tall penguin ignored the whisper of his friends and continued: “The Egyptians believed that in afterlife the dead had to passage the court of death. And this is where this little feather plays its role.”, demonstrative he showed it to them, “I don’t want to bore you with irrelevant details, therefore I’ll make it short. In tribunal the heart of deceased was weighted against the feather of Maat, the Goddess of truth and right living. And this feather was an ostrich feather.” “And what is the conclusion?”, the group was breathless due to eagerness. “If the heart was light enough, the person would gain eternal life. If it was too heavy and fraught with crime, the heart – and therefore the dead person – was eaten by the female demon Ammit.” “To say it easy: An ostrich feather symbolizes the burden of one’s heart?”, asked Marlene. “Affirmative.” “But Skipper hasn’t done anything bad in his life!”, exclaimed Private, “He is helping others! Animals in need! Why should he fear a tribunal that weights one’s sins?” They remained still because they all had no answer to that question. Kowalski broke one’s silence, “Perhaps this letter can shed light on the matter.”, and reached for the sheet of paper and went through the lines, “But I can’t read it. Just fragmentary.” “Let’s ask the chimps to read it to us.”, recommended the female otter.

On top of the ice floe Kowalski paused. His eyes catch a glimpse of little traces of a fibrous, brown material. “Kowalski?”, the others turned and looked at him questioning. “Here is something, that wasn’t there yesterday.”, he picked it up. He measured its length, felt its composition and finally tasted it: “Unquestionably it’s hemp fiber. Probably from a rope.” “Do you think?” The four eyed each other. They knew what everyone was thinking, but it took some time before Kowalski could answer: “Yes. I think after a careful consideration I may say now, something DID happen to Skipper and probably also to Manfredi and Johnson. Someone unfettered and kidnapped them. Let’s hurry and ask the chimpanzees about this letter!:

"We excuse for the trouble we caused. But you were tricked just like we were. The truth is hard to bear, we understand, especially when one can’t learn about the matter. It’s a domestic affair and therefore classified. But be assured, that this is all to arrange justice again. Manfredi and Johnson"

"That’s everything.", translated Mason. Phil turned the paper to make sure that he didn’t miss anything. “This is a mistake. They’re friends!” Marlene looked at the young penguin: “I thought Skipper was paranoid again, but he told me, that there was something strange about them.” “That’s what you talked about yesterday?”, Kowalski asked. “Yes. But I had no time to tell you and thought… thought… it was alright to tell you today.”, her eyes filled with tears, “It’s my fault. If I would have told you yesterday…” “No… it’s not.”, comforted Private and rested his flipper on Marlene’s shoulder, “Why would you have known anything about this?” “Did Skipper tell you anything else?”, Kowalski was a step ahead already. There was no time for blaming. The South American penguins had a lead over them and he had no idea in which direction they were moving. She tried to remember. What had they talked about? Trust… Paranoia… “Denmark! The last time he had seen them was in Denmark!” “Denmark?”, not just Kowalski was surprised with a hint of worry. “Oh dear…”, moaned Private. The chimpanzees looked puzzled: “What is the matter with Denmark?” “Skipper can’t go there. But we don’t know why.”, explained the youngest penguin. Kowalski nodded: “Hence we don’t have any information. In fact Denmark isn’t a huge country – around 16,640 square miles when you don’t count Greenland – but it’s too big to search him without another clue. He could be anywhere.” The silence that arose was heavy and thoughtful. Suddenly they heard a loud explosion followed by a trail of smoke that dashed out of their head quarter’s entrance and routed first flying high up in the air at their location at the chimpanzees’ habitat. “Nice reversed parabola shape”, remarked Kowalski. Coming nearer the missile sounded like a scream. Mason and Phil just watched the approaching subject, while Marlene gazed in horror and the penguins got ready for fight. Rico had his chain saw ready between his flippers. With a loud crack the object impacted and the scream died away. Curious the animals observed the grey mass before them. The dust disappeared finally. “Julien?”, asked Marlene, who was the first to notice the ring tail. “YOUR MAJESTY!”, Maurice jumped over the fence of the habitat, “Are you okay?” The lemur moved until the head appeared: “Stupid. How should I be fine? Note: We have to do something against those booby traps!”, and collapsed again. “WHAT were you doing in our HQ?”, shouted Kowalski upset. “You’re still here?”, asked Maurice, “We thought you wanted to leave! And wanted to take some of your possessions.” The last sentence he added more to himself than for the others. “TEEEE-VEEEE!”, shouted Mort and appeared next to Julien’s feet and eyed them appetizingly. “Leave? Who told you this?”, the young penguin was as irritated as his older companions. Julien jumped on his royal feet just when the little mouse lemur wanted to touch them and smoothed his fur: “You ask? Don’t you remember?” They inquiring and ignorant miens told him wordless, that they had no idea about what he was talking. “Uff…!”, sighed the ring tail lemur as a sign, that he had to lower himself to tell them, “Last night, your king, which is me, was awakening by your noisy-noise. Maurice was too busy sleeping – ahh… I won’t forget to punish you for not following my orders – therefore I went to look for the matter by myself and I saw two penguin shadows and a bundle with them leaving the zoo. The only thing I heard was that the shadows said they had to get the plane to… Co… Cop…” He tried hardly to remember: “Copper… Copperhagn. Yes… Copperhagn!” “Copperhagn?”, repeated Marlene. Kowalski put his flipper at his beak: “Could it be that it wasn’t Copperhagn, but Copenhagen?” “What is Copenhagen?”, asked Private. “It’s the capital of Denmark.”, answered Kowalski and tap against his beak, “Which means…” “We know where we can search for Skipper!”, finished Marlene jubilantly. She had no idea where Denmark or Copenhagen were located, hence she had never had left the zoo except for Central Park, but the other penguins where trained and organized. They had already traveled around the world – if she could believe their stories. “Search?”, Julien was still puzzled, “Could someone please tell me what all this is about?” “Manfredi and Johnson. It looks like… you can’t call it kidnapping. They said that Skipper did something horrible and they have to bring him back to Denmark to fulfill justice.”, explained Private friendly, “We want to follow and rescue him.” “I told you, there is something fishy about the penguins.”, Julien whispered to his subject. “Rescue? I don’t think intervening is a wise idea, if it is a domestic affair.”, Maurice interfered and then low down, “Trust me. As the right hand man of a king I know what THAT means.” “We can’t leave Skipper alone.” “It violates the penguin Code!”, Kowalski agreed with their private. Rico also gave his comment. “Indeed Rico, a penguin never leaves a man behind!” The three penguins eyed each other in approval. “It’s a done deal. We will go to Denmark!”, Kowalski enunciated. They had to do their best to help his commander and friend to escape a terrible doom due a dreadful misunderstanding. It had to be a misunderstanding. He turned towards the chimpanzees: “I need you to find a suitable way for us to travel to Denmark. I’m afraid that we won’t have enough time by day, but as soon as Alice and the other zoo keepers are gone we have to search the internet.” He turned towards Marlene: “And with us I mean us THREE. Everyone else MUSTN’T leave the zoo. This is a rescue mission and I don’t want any untrained men – or women – on battleground.” His expression was firm and stern. He left no space for discussion and protest, therefore Marlene remained silent. “Now then. We have to prepare out departure.” Leaded by the scientist the penguins returned to their HQ. Now and as long as Skipper was missing Kowalski became the penguin in charge. A little part of his ego was delighted. He liked to be a group leader but the sad thing about this matter was Skipper being in danger. That heavy burden that lay on his shoulders was visible to everyone. “Well. We’ll wait until tomorrow to get those useful items.” concluded Maurice. “Yes, we have.”, thoughtful Julien turned toward the penguins habitat.

Chapter 6: Journey to DenmarkEdit

“Good morning, brothers and sisters in black and white. We are deeply sorry to wake you, but we’re lost without your help,” he spoke up. In front of Kowalski had been half a dozen penguins slumbering in a wooden animal box. They woke up, when the penguin addressed them. “I need to talk to your commanding officer.” A penguin just a little bit huger than Rico made his way to the front. He had a stern face and was unusual brawny. Kowalski ponder whether it was a genetic defect or the illegal use of anabolic steroids. “Who are you?” he asked roughly. “Antarctic DM, First Lt Kowalski.” “Kowalski? ‘Iwanowitsch‘ Kowalski?” His eyes widen. “At your disposal...” “American DM, Major Wyatt!” He saluted to his words and every other penguin including Kowalski, Rico and Private did as well. After everyone eased again, he continued, “My brother was in Russia positioned and told me about you and the project.” “I didn’t know that the project gained that much of attention. What is his name?” “Was… Chief Warrant Ethan.” The ice blue eyes filled with sorrow. “My deepest sympathy, sir. How did he…” “It was an honourable death. He died because he tried to save peace. The territory of the polar bears is contracting and they are searching for new places to live. We wanted to make a pact with them, but they killed our ambassador and his guards – one of them was my brother.” Rico complained. “Yes… they are fighting again.” The penguin touched the scar on his face. “Again?” asked Private, who had no idea about what the elder penguins were talking. Kowalski regarded the young one mournful, “That’s a long story. Unfortunately we don’t have enough time to discuss this now, but I will tell you another time.” He changed his attention. “Major, we need to ask you a favour.” “Speak up, man.” Kowalski started a brief report about their situation and explained that he needed three penguins to replace them back at the Central Park Zoo during their mission. “It was a matter of time, wasn’t it? I’m sure he was prepared for the Danes, but not to fight old friends. What a cowardly move. ” “Do you know what all of this is about?” Private’s eyes grew with hope. Was there finally a penguin, who could explain this situation? Wyatt just laughed, before he apologized, “I don’t know anything. No one does. I believe, it’s a story that no one needs to know… of course except of those few who does. Have you talked to Colonel Norrington?” “I did,” announced Kowalski. To leave their basement they needed the agreement of a superior, which was in this case Colonel Norrington. “He said that he supports us. He also told us there was a possibility to travel to Europe and where to find replacements for us.” “Which is my unit, I assume.” The brawny penguin turned towards his fife men behind him. “I need four volunteers…” “Three!” corrected the lieutenant. “I beg your pardon? What about the substitute for Skipper?” “The humans think he was stolen by a tourist. As long as there is only on penguin missing we just have to handle a little publicity, but we don’t have to fear a blown cover. And in case that the Danes spy on us, they will think we’re still in our habitat.” “Man, you know what you’re talking about.” It should take a couple of days until Rico and Private were able to understand the whole extent of this statement. “Okay… I need three volunteers then. Please make a step to the front.” All fife penguins waddled nearer to their commanding officer. “Wow… your team is very cooperative,” Kowalski commented. Wyatt rose his flipper towards his peak and told in secret, “Sorry to disillusion you, but I believe they just don’t want to go to England.” “But England is such a lovely place!” The young penguin tried to pronounce every word more British than usual. Kowalski and Wyatt gave another a look, which was more than enough answer. “Ben, Timothy and Lucy… you stay at Central Park.” All three penguins nodded and turned towards Kowalski. “Lieutenant, what is the order.” “Are you a female?” “Is there a problem with my gender?” “Wyatt, aren’t women too…” he tried to find a euphemistic synonym, “sensitive and sympathetic for this job?” He failed terribly. And before he was able to notice his mistake he was knocked out very easily – the second time during 24 hours. And this time by a female! “Uh… uhhh!” cheered Rico and winked towards the strong lady. She smiled shyly in response. “Looks like I have spent too much time in my lab recently… I’m not trained enough.” Rico and Private along with the others laughed. “Don’t underrate the ability of a woman.” Lucy gave him a flipper and helped him to stand up again. “I’m the second in command, by the way. So would you please give me my orders, Sir? And… I apologize for my reaction. It’s… well… I don’t like it, when someone judges me by my gender.” “No… I have to apologize. Now… your orders: Station at our HQ and defend it if necessary!” “Aye, Sir!” She gave him a smile and saluted. In the next moment the three turned and waddled towards the exit, not without a second look of her at Rico. Wyatt and Kowalski waited patient, while the other two penguins watched the lucky ones envy. Then they were out of sight. The Major announced, “5 seconds… 4… 3… 2… 1…” “Erm… Sir… how do we get to there?” Lucy’s head reappeared behind the entrance of the box, which Wyatt and his team wanted to use as a hiding place. Kowalski knew that if she had been a human, her face would have glowed in red colour. “You know your men, Major.” He gave her a map of New York City in which he had drawn a red line.

Eight hours later the plane landed on British soil. The penguins inside just noticed the touch down by a sudden vibration, which was nothing compared to the rough landing of Rico in the African outback. “Hello, home country!” Private was the only animal on board which was delighted by their destination. “Flying is such a fast way of traveling,” remarked Kowalski. Then he turned towards Major Wyatt, “Thank you for your help and your men… and woman. Unfortunately we have to separate now.” “I’d like to accompany you, but we have different orders.” “I know. Good luck with your mission at the Edinburgh zoo. Whenever you need help, we’re honoured to repay our dept.” “Be sure, that I will recall that some day! Good luck, boys. Free that old felly… no, now I have to call him ‘chap’!” “We’ll do our best!” As a goodbye they all saluted.

“Kowalski, where do we have to go now?” asked Private. Rico nodded. There wasn’t much time left and they didn’t want to think about what the Danes were about to do. They had escaped the box during the transfer into the bus to the plane, which was about to leave for Scotland. Their next stop, though, was the gate from which they wanted to take a plane for Copenhagen, Denmark. “Let’s have a look.” The scientist turned to find a sign that might help them. But nothing useful was in sight. Instead suddenly one of the suitcases next to them, which were prepared for the baggage conveyor, started to move. The team minus one – of cause there was a gap at Skipper’s place – posed in their fighting and defending position. “Saw?” asked Rico, not waiting for an answer. He was about to switch on the motor, when Kowalski put his flipper above the button. “No! The humans might hear that. We don’t need additional trouble. Let’s wait until we know what is in there.” Disappointed Rico changed the preferred weapon against a bowling pin and smiled evil. All three focused on the case. Possibly the Danes had indeed spied on them and sent assassins for their arrival in London. And then it burst open. “ATTACK!” commanded Kowalski. “No!” was the answer. The voiced sounded somehow familiar. Kowalski stopped and behind him Rico and Private crashed into him. “What are YOU doing here?” asked the commanding penguin. Private, who hadn’t been able to see what the inner of the suitcase was, peered around Kowalski. There were three lemurs and an otter. Rico put away his bowling pin. “What are ‘you’ doin’ here?” aped Julien and then pointed at the penguin. “You have no idea what thankfulness is!” “So… this is England?” Maurice took a closer examination of the hangar. “It’s a little… shabby and small, isn’t it?” “Things will do better when I become king!” “God saves the king… Long live the king… Kind Julien… and his feet!” cheered Mort. “That has time. First we have to rescue Skipper.” Marlene pushed the lemurs aside and gained the attention of the penguins. “We are here to help you. Skipper isn’t just your friend, he is ours too! After all he is the one who helped me to leave prison without going nuts. You didn’t want us to accompany you, therefore we followed you secretly.” “Secretly… but how?” “Marlene was surprisingly effective. Executing her plan you weren’t able to notice us,” Stated the aye-aye lemur. “It was MY – your king’s – idea.” All glared at him. “Well… that idea was also in my head. She named it first. That’s all.” “This is bad… this is really bad!” shouted Kowalski. “There are no replacements for you in New York! The humans will notice that there is something wrong.” “No problem… we modulate doppelgangers of us.” From out of nowhere Julien produced a small figure, which reminded of modern art. “They are not as lively as we are, but the people will be blinded by this beauty and won’t notice our disappearance.” “Aw… I also made a small sized lookalike of my real double.” Marlene showed another statue of clay, which wasn’t really related to an otter. “This is even worse.” Kowalski’s voice was filled with horror. Before anyone could answer, they heard footsteps and then a voice talk. “Did you here something?” “No… what should I here?” The worker had company. “Sounds like animals. One of them must be bird… a strange bird. It’s not a songbird or a pigeon.” “The only bird around here exists in your brain,” laughed the second one. He turned around and examined the luggage before him, but there was nothing unusual except for…. “Hey, why is that suitcase open?” “It’s empty anyway. Look!” “We have to inform someone. Perhaps the content was robbed.” The worker wanted to leave, but his companion stopped him. “Jack… Jack, listen… The only one around here is us. When there is something missing they will claim us. And think about all the officialism we have to go through even if they don’t notify us. Let’s just close the suitcase again.” He did while suggesting. “And put it somewhere, where they won’t find it in the next… don’t know… week… month? Sometimes luggage disappears.” “I’m not feeling fine about this.” “Don’t think about it.” They positioned the suitcase in a dark corner and fetched the rest of the luggage.

“That was close,” eased Private. “Luckily humans are lazy.” “British are strange… why do they hate publicity?” asked Julien, “It’s very nice to be in spotlight.” “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Kowalski shrugged his shoulders. “I thought we were in London,” Julien looked confused. “We ARE in London.” “Why do you call it Rome then? Silly penguin!” “Julien… that’s a figure of speech,” Maurice tried to explain, but the self proclaimed king wasn’t listening. “Did you really have to bring him along?” hissed Private towards Marlene. “There was no other way.” “So, do you know where we have to go?” Maurice asked. “Yes… meanwhile. Look, we have to get the next plane to Copenhagen. And therefore we have to find this gate.” He pointed at a symbol on his clipboard. “Then, let’s go! We already wasted too much time.” Private chivvied. It took them nearly an hour until they had found their way and another to get on the plane. 13 hours after their departure in New York they finally arrived the airport of Copenhagen.

Chapter 7: An unbelievable StoryEdit

Due to a splash of water he woke up. His military trained mind instantly recalled what had happened before his sleep. Manfredi and Johnson had overwhelmed him; and due to their announcement, he was either on the way or already back in Denmark. There was no need to check on his fetters. Lying on the ground he noticed he wasn’t able to move a single feather. Luck for his opponents. “Finally you’re awake.” There was a penguin standing next to him, but all he could see were two rosy feet. The voice, though, belonged neither to Manfredi nor to Johnson but someone Skipper hoped never to meet again. “Blue.” He recognized the foreign accent, which the penguin never had been able to unlearn. A smile appeared at Skipper’s beak. “Or do you preferred to be called ‘Little Blue’?” “Shut up!” the small penguin shouted. He hated jokes which referred to him and especially to his height. Freeing his anger he kicked the defenseless prisoner in his side, whereon he was turned around. “You’re not in the position to make jokes.” Skipper didn’t wince or moan, although the claws of the foot had pierced through his feathers. He was bleeding, but he knew that the wound wasn’t deep and nature able to close it without aid. He had more interest in his tormentor, who he was able to see now. Blue was a little penguin, which is the smallest species of penguin. Their natural habitat is Australia and New Zealand and everyone knew they were unbashful and very good fighters. But he wasn’t any little penguin; he was a white-flipped penguin. They stood out as very aggressive but also as a loyal species. The head of the Danish Penguin Academy, the most renowned academy of the world, asked the Australian Defensive Military to send one of their best warriors to become the personal trainer of their children. And that warrior had been Blue, though due to his height everyone called him ‘Little Blue’. After his arrival the penguin had needed five minutes to gain respect after overwhelming the top agent that was at the academy that day: Skipper. Anyhow the cadets still called him ‘Little Blue’ when he was not around. And he hated it. “And in what position are you to treat me like this?” Skipper tried to move although it was impossible. “I care about the security of the academy now. And you present a serious danger.” Blue smiled. “I promised the lady that I will find you.” “Did she command you to find me for revenge?” “She still thinks you’re innocent. Love is blind, don’t you think?” It was a rhetoric question, because he didn’t gave Skipper the time to answer. “That’s why I have to protect her.” Skipper wanted to respond but stopped before he said one word. There was no way for him to explain himself without bringing danger on someone else. Therefore he changed the subject: “I thought you would kill me right after you caught me.” “First I wanted. You were clever and we – including you – thought there was no evidence against you. But I will grant you something you don’t deserve. We will court-martial you.” “Court-martial? Do you have any…?” He remembered what Manfredi and Johnson said. “So you think you have witnesses.” “No…” Blue drew nearer “We HAVE witnesses. And we have proof!” “Proof? What proof?” The little penguin straightened up laughing. “Be prepared for death penalty. Although that’s not equal to the sorrow you raised upon us.” The security administrator turn towards something or someone, Skipper wasn’t able to see. “Tawaki, throw him into our jail – WITHOUT releasing his fetters.” The penguin did as ordered. He bit in one of the manila ropes and dragged Skipper though the room to the door. Blue smirked fiendish. “I will never forgive you, Skipper.” And then Skipper was yanked all the way down to the basement, where he tried not to think about the pain that ran through all of his body after that torture. -- “Finally! Copenhagen!” Kowalski, Rico, Private, Julien, Maurice, Mort and Marlene set foot on Danish soil. “I’m feeling sick after all the time in those planes,” Marlene whined. They had left the airport and hid in a side road behind a rubbish container. Private watched the humans passing by. “Okay Kowalski. What’s the plan?” “Well… the plan.” The penguin admitted, “I don’t have any.” “What?” was the only understandable word of Rico. “We came all this way without a plan to find Skipper?” shouted the otter. “I’ve never been in Denmark before. How should I know where to start searching?” “Now you see how important it is to have uz with you!” announced Julien. “Do you have a plan?” asked Private, his voice filled with hope. Kowalski looked skeptical though. “Mort has relatives in Denmark,” explained Maurice to the disbelieving expressions of the penguins. “Come on, have you never asked yourself why all of us – hehe… well Julien and me – have French names but Mort is Danish?” The faces were the answer to Maurice’s question. “Mort’s father – who by the way was as annoying as his son, the tamarind never falls far from the tree – was Danish. Well he had that strange accent and told us that the human had put him in prison until the green humans rescued him and some of his friends,” Julien told. “Silly Danes. Why are they green and uncage that annoying family?” Kowalski understood the meaning of Mort’s father’s words. The family had lived in a zoo, which was indeed a prison for wild animals – well except for Julien apparently. Compared to wild life the enclosures were very small and just the intelligent animals – the penguins of course – were able to find a way to leave them. The other inhabitants of the Central Park Zoo used their ‘secret’ paths. But in the case of Mort’s relatives Greenpeace activists had freed them and were able to bring at least one animal back to its native habitat. “Do you know how to find the others?” Kowalski asked the small lemur. Mort nodded. “My father gave me a map.” Suddenly he held the item in his paws and showed it to the penguin. “Superb thinking of you!” cheered Private. All watched Kowalski while he studied the map. After some minutes he spoke up, “I know where to go. This is the sign of the airport and this red spot marks the place of your relatives. Hopefully.” Rico commented. “No. I didn’t use the wrong map when we took Randy to the farm. You can trust me!” Kowalski defended himself. But Rico and Private glared at him doubtfully. “Then let’s go. I thought we can’t waste time,” Marlene reminded them. “Where to go, Kowalski?” “That way!” he pointed along the street with his flipper. “We’ll use the underground railway. And remember, we are not allowed to be seen!” -- Twenty minutes later they left the building of the IT University running. “Kowalski, had it been really necessary to stop by?” asked Private weaving through the puzzled looking human beings, who never had imagined seeing animals in the glass building and were already watching for the hidden camera. They passed the bridge to the other side of Emil Holms canal to escape the attention. “Look at that!” Kowalski stopped and observed the Tietgen Student Hall with its conspicuous circular shape, cubic, façade facing, shifted and therefore partly sticking out rooms. “This is beauty!” Once again his scientific brain had taken over to satisfy his curiosity about the foreign city he never had visited before and contained a lot of fascinating places. “Nananana!” Rico grabbed Kowalski at his wing and pulled him. He was about to lose his patience and not far away from hitting his companion – although he was his superior. “You are right, Rico.” All eased, thinking the scientist had come to his senses again. “The University of Copenhagen is…” The hand-to-hand combat expert had no time to act. Marlene slapped Kowalski before he was even able to finish his sentence. “Have you forgotten why we are here? This is NOT sightseeing!” Not only was the large penguin shocked but the whole group. “The otter is scary.” Mort’s remark broke the silence. But Marlene hadn’t finished yet. “And you should be the penguin in charge. So act that way!” Kowalski hadn’t much time to come back to himself. He turned and noticed that students from the Student Hall formed a cluster around them. All of them spoke in a language neither of the animals understood, but they needn’t to know that they were the topic of all the conversations. The sound of two voices grew louder. “Pingviner, kattalemur og en havoddere? Det er da løgn!” ‘Penguins, ring-tailed lemurs and an otter? You’ve got to be kidding me!’ “Nej. Dér! Se for dig selv.” ‘No. There! See for yourself.’ A path shaped between the students and in the outcome stood a man whose charisma was similar to Alice’s. “Er dette en krone?” ‘Is that a crown?’ He laughed. “Hey… I think they’re talking about me. Yes… yes!! I’m your new king! This is the robot! YEAH! The robot!” Julien waved towards his audience and started to dance the robot, where on the mumbling increased to a joyful enthusiasm. “Cirkusdyr?” ‘Circus animals?’ The man wondered where the animals might have come from, because there was no circus nearby and the zoo wasn’t missing any animals. Anyway he took his blow tube. “That’s a keeper!” Kowalski whispered. “We need evading manoeuvres… wait. I take that order back.” He thought of something. “Could all of you gather around me?” “What are you up to?” Marlene asked. “I’ll tell you later.” Although they were unsure about his motives all of them approached, even if Maurice had to convince his king to stop dancing around. Covered the scientist glanced at Mort’s map again, which the humans should not see. An animal that can read a map! He didn’t have the heart to think about the chaos that might cause. “Kowalski. We’re running out of time,” Private whispered. Rico already wanted to chock up his chainsaw, when the scientist touched his wing. “No, Rico. We are not allowed to blow our cover. That’s why we are not allowed to flee. The place we need to go is near the zoo. That man will take us there.” Suddenly Private collapsed next to him. Between his feathers was a red dart. “Private?” Before Kowalski was able to say another word the keeper drugged him too. -- “Aiiii’m feeeelin’ di-izzy,” Julien announced slurring his words when he woke up in his cage. “Cra-azy stuff-ffff?” “Anesthetic,” answered Kowalski, who had been awake for nearly half an hour. “They think it’s easier to handle animals when they are sleeping. Actually it’s true.” “Ca-an I orderrr some of that?” “Your majesty, please get a hold of yourself.” Maurice helped his king to sit up. “I like him that way.” Mort nestled up against the royal feet as he did the past fifteen minutes, because the unconscious king hadn’t noticed it. But now he suddenly was fully awake. “NOT DA FEET!” Julien shock his leg until the tiny lemur fell off and kicked him against the bars of the lemur cage. “How often do I have to tell you: Do NOT touch the feet!” Sad looking eyes glanced at him, but the king was hardened. He calmed down, arranged his crown and asked then: “So? Where are we? This is definitely no palace.” “The veterinary station of the zoo,” Kowalski explained. “At least that’s the only place they could take us.” “After you exposed uz!” Julien accused. Conscious of his guilt the scientist looked at the basement of the penguin cage. “I know. And I want to apologize.” “We’ll think about whether we forgive y...” Marlene, who was in the third cage separated, broke in: “We forgive you, as long as we can leave this prison! We’re stuck at the moment.” “That’s no problem. There was no human in this room for approximately ten minutes and I haven’t seen any camera. Rico!” “Aye aye!” The locks of their cages weren’t even chick proof and after the explosive expert had opened the penguin cage without any further difficulty the other two were crackled open in an instant. “We might have a real problem now. Our enemies surely know already we are here and sent out a troop to find us,” Kowalski explained. “Whenever someone sees anything strange he has to report this to me immediately!” “Ehm… Kowalski? In which way strange?” Private bore against his superior. “Like half horse and half zebra with… oh my Gosh! It’s a unicorn!” He shrieked. “Private… there is no way a unicorn could…” Kowalski and the rest turned while the scientist was talking “A UNICORN!” In the window of the veterinary was the silhouette of something that looked like a horse with one horn in the middle of his head, while its legs, which rested on the windowsill, were shaped in black and white stripes. “I’m not a unicorn,” it spoke. “I’m an okapi. And that’s my friend, Mathis. He is a mouse lemur.” The horn jumped off the head and landed in front of the visitors. “And my strange looking friend here is Ukurugenzi Wakili.“ The newcomers started laughing due the shocked faces. „Just call me Waki. Math is proud of himself that he can memorize my full name, but otherwise everyone calls me by my nickname.” “If this isn’t Nikolaj’s little son! Just like his daddy.” “Uncle?” “Yes! I visited my friends the capybara when I saw, that they brought three cages. And then I noticed you and wanted to check, whether I was right after the zoo had closed. I met Waki on the way.” “Wait, I thought your uncle isn’t living in the zoo,” noted Julien. “Yes, but I came back because life is much easier in here than outside. I still would prefer sweet homeland Madagascar, but you can’t always get what you want. And you are his friend?” “His KING! Maurice!” “Ah… Presenting your Royal Highness, the illustrious King Julien XIII, self proclaimed Lord of the Lemurs, etc., etc., hurray everybody.“ “XIII already?“ “Yes, my father was Julien VII.“ “EH? But…“ Maurice stopped Mathis and whispered: „Don’t question the king. Trust me.“ “Even worse than his father?“ “Don’t compare them!“ The mouse lemur turned towards the rest. „And you are?“ “Marlene. Nice to meet you!“ “Private… and they are…“ he stopped and looked at Kowalski in shame. „Oh, I assume that‘s classified information.“ “Indeed it is.“ “Are you the penguins the others are searching for?” the okapi asked. “Are you the American friends of that traitor?” All of them changed glances with each other unsure what might be the best answer. Then Kowalski spoke up: “Yes we are. We want to find him before he’s killed out of revenge by his enemy, to which we think he was brought here in Denmark.” “I could tell you where he is. Where actually all penguins of Denmark are at the moment. It’s no secret – more a national festivity. But you don’t really want to fight against the whole Danish army, do you?” “Where is he?” “500 meters in that direction.” Mathis pointed toward east. “He is in Frederiksberg Palace, the Royal Danish Army Officer Academy. They court-martial him today.” “Court-marshal?” Marlene exclaimed appalled. “What on earth has he done?” “You really don’t know?” All of them shook their heads. “He killed the beloved head of the Danish Penguin Academy, including his wife and their son.”

Chapter 8: Disciplinary hearingEdit

Never before was the academy filled as it was that day. The higher ups arranged an exception, so that not just penguins were allowed to enter the holy halls of Frederiksberg Palace, but all other animals too. Everyone was eager to finally see the traitor and murderer who had caused the death of Soeren, their adored head, Alia, his beloved wife, and Tjark, their promising son. No one doubted Skipper’s guilt and they wanted him to be sentenced to death. The court room was already crowded when the New Yorkers entered. “Don’t speak. We don’t want the audience to notice that you are the friends of Skipper,” Mathis whispered. He feared that their wrath and anger might drive them to attack anyone who was connected to the assumed criminal. The New Yorkers had explained the situation they were faced with – not knowing what had happened, but believing in Skipper’s innocence – so that the mouse lemur had brought them to the academy. Waki had stayed at the zoo because his appearance drew too much of attention. “We won’t understand anything of this, will we?” Kowalski asked in English, as quiet as possible. “I will translate. But for this, we have to stay in the background.” It took nearly twenty minutes, in which Julien tried to proclaim that the throne looking, raised seat behind the bench was his place until Rico tied and gagged him up, before a penguin entered – Kowalski identified him as a Eudyptula minor, a Small Penguin – and cleared his throat. He started to talk in the foreign language, while Mathis translated instantly. “Good evening, Madams and Monsieurs. Please stand up for his honour, the judge, and his jury.” Immediately all the animals, that had been lucky to gain some of the rare chairs, rose. Most of the audience stood already, because the room had never contained so many listeners and therefore lacked of seating. Through the entrance on the left hand side an African Penguin entered the room, followed by a motley group of different species of flightless birds. They all positioned in front of their chairs, just the ‘thrown’ was still empty. “Sit down, please.” It sounded more like an order than a request. “Blue, please, get the prisoner,” the judge asked of the security officer. The Little Penguin bowed and waddled though a door. Although the court room was overcrowded it was so quiet one could have heard a pin drop, when Blue returned a few seconds later, pushing his prisoner in the direction of a wooden chair. Everyone gazed at the enchained penguin that had real difficulty to move properly due to his bonds. Dried blood was colouring his feathers rubiginous and he had scratches all over his body, but still Skipper’s friends were relieved when they saw him alive. Suddenly the animals in the audience started to shout at the prisoner and few shied rotten fish at him. In fact three hit him but he didn’t react or looked at the furious mob. “Stop it!” the African Penguin shouted and immediately it was quite again. A hackly looking pigeon started to clean up the rubbish that had been thrown. Blue hustled his prisoner onto the chair and stayed next to Skipper. Clumsy he sat down and finally peered at the judge. Looking into the eyes he instantly knew that this court martial was show. They had already decided the outcome of the trial. “Your nickname is Skipper. What is your true name?” the judge asked. The addressed kept silent. “I posed a question, accused!” Because still no word left Skipper’s beak, the African Penguin turned towards Blue. He shrugged his shoulders, because he also had no idea what the real name of his prisoner was. A quiet jabber arose of the audience. “’Skipper’ isn’t his real name?” Private asked Kowalski as silent as it was possible. “No. But I don’t know his real name either. Skipper had so many names.” The scientist remembered the alias map of Skipper with all his fake identities that lied in their safe in New York. Probably all of them were faked. “Silentium!” the judge shouted. “We continue. Clerk, please note that we have no name.” He turned back towards Skipper and continued to name his data, although he knew that if there was a mistake his accused wouldn’t open his beak to correct it. But rule was rule and therefore he had to read everything out loud. “You have the rank of a captain. You are ten years old which are about 26 penguin years. Your residence is New York Central Park Zoo, where you trained three penguins during various missions.” “Sir,” a Humboldt Penguin spoke up, “at the moment we’re investigating whether the accused might work together with Dr. Blowhole. Two of the missions were about stopping that crazy dolphin but in both cases he could escape. We, the intelligence corps, think that this is strange considering Skipper’s former quota, which allows just one conclusion.” “Yes, that might be, but this is not part of this trial. Public Prosecutor, please read the arraignment out.” While the agent sat down again, a stern looking African Penguin on the right hand side of the judge got up. “The investigation brings the murder of three high decorated officers of the Royal Academy, namely: Soeren, the head, Alia, who was his wife and a teacher of the academy, and their son Tjark; forward. Two former colleagues, two witnesses for the prosecution, had seen him leave the crime scene, which might have saved Freija-Solveig, who witnessed the death of her brother. Therefore we accuse Skipper of committing triple murder and attempted murder.” “Who is Freisha Solweg?” Marlene asked Mathis. “It’s FreiJa-SolVeig. She is the daughter of Soeren and Alia and therefore the only survival of that faithful day. Now she is the head of the academy and due to rumours she has to be a tough warrior. I thought she might be here today, but… oh!” While the mouse lemur explained, the door, through which the judge and his jury had entered before, opened again and a beautiful, female penguin entered the court room. Immediately everyone including the judge and his jury, stood up to honour the newcomer. Just Skipper stayed seated, because he wasn’t able to get up without help. “That is Freija,” Mathis informed. All attended animals watched her – especially the men. In an instant Blue stood next to her and whispered in her ear. “I’m fine, Blue. This is a very important trial for me.” She turned towards Skipper and a sad expression flashed over her face. He replied her glance stone-faced. “Or do you think I’m not tough enough to endure the trial?” Her face was stern and Blue knew that there was just one answer he was allowed to give. “Oh… of course you are!” He bowed and returned to Skipper’s side. Gracefully Freija-Solveig walked to the judge and bowed. “I apologize for being late. There was an urgent conversation with someone.” The inaccurate statement made clear that it was a classified matter. “We haven’t really started yet. Just the arraignment, which you already know. Please.” He showed her the chair, the very chair looking like a throne, to his right hand side and she took seat and so did the audience including judge and jury. “Let’s continue. Skipper, do you want to give your statement?” He stayed quiet. “As I thought. Well then, it isn’t making anything better, quite the contrary. We start with the hearing of evidence. The first witness is,” – he looked at his papers – “the forensic doctor.” The penguin standing next to the entrance, through which the audience had entered, opened one door and called out a name. A Royal Penguin, characterized by a crest of yellow feathers, came into the court room, sitting down on a chair two yards away of the bench. After the judge asked for the personal data, the doctor gave his statement. Mathis summed up the important facts. “The doctor is telling that Soeren, Alia and Tjark were murdered by a professional. All of them were excellent fighters but still they had just one lethal injury – no fight. And he assumes that they had known their attacker to the very point, that they had dropped their attention, which means the murderer was a friend. Still the doctor wonders about one peculiarity. There is a slight difference between the murder of the parents and their son. While Soeren and Alia were killed with a special knife killing technique – which is just trained at this academy and also only for senior students – Tjark was ‘simply’ stabbed to death.” The forensic doctor was allowed to leave and Manfredi replaced him on the chair, after bowing towards the judge and Freija. “He tells that he and Johnson had witnessed Skipper to leave the room, bloodstained. They asked him whether he is an eye-witness – seeing Skipper actually murder the victims – and he answered that he hadn’t. He saw Skipper standing with the knife in front of Freija. Now they want him to show his location on the map, the map of Tjark’s room. The red spot marks Tjark's corps, the blue one Freija. Probably you’re able to see both entrances to the room, one towards the corridor and the other towards Freija's room, in which Manfredi stood. As you can see facing Freija Skipper couldn't… wouldn’t have seen his former friend because the door was in his back. He dropped the knife and left the room through the other door, not noticing Johnson standing in front of Freija’s room, waddling into the opposite direction, obviously troubled.” “Why was Manfredi in Freija’s room?” Kowalski asked suspicious. “The judge also wondered about this point. She had asked him to bring a certain document, but he couldn’t find it. Because he heard a scream he entered the room.” “But I thought the murder occurred in the room next to the one he wanted to enter.” “You’re asking the same questions the judge is asking. Indeed, but he heard the scream in Freija’s room, which was locked, whereas he had to open it with force – Tjark’s chamber was locked too – and he assumes that Tjark wanted to help his older sister but then was killed first. Manfredi believes that Freija noticed Skipper’s aim and because their victims were alarmed he couldn’t use the technique he had used on Soeren and Alia – I mean if he would have committed the crime.” “You sound as if you believe in his guilt.” Marlene looked up to the mouse lemur, who sat on Rico’s head. “No! It’s just difficult to translate in an instant and then also use subjunctive, because they don’t,” he defended himself. “But please be honest. Why should they lie?” “We don’t know, but we are here to bring to light the truth!” Kowalski remembered. “Even the truth is that Skipper DID commit the crime.” Mathis looked at the scientist, and so did Rico, Private, Marlene, Mort, Maurice and the still enchained and gagged King Julien. “Yes!” The next was Johnson, who told Manfredi's story from his focus, which didn’t add much more information. “My fourth witness would be you, Miss Freija-Solveig.” The judge turned towards the beauty sitting next to him. “You don’t have to testify what had happened, though.” “Why?” Kowalski asked. “One doesn’t have to testify if one is related by blood or by marriage with the accused. Is it different in Denmark?” Mathis smiled and rubbed his chin. “So the rumour IS true!” “What rumour?” Private asked. “That Freija and Skipper… well… they were engaged.” “ENGAGED?!” Marlene shrieked. Kowalski was too slow to cover her mouth. “Hey, what’s that noise in the back?” the judge shouted towards them. Because it was in Danish the group didn’t understand it, but guessed what it was about. Fast Mathis answered: “I’m sorry. It was too much for her.” He tried to outlay it as if she had shrieked in wrath. The judge responded something, which Mathis didn’t translate, and then concentrated again on Freija. She looked at Skipper thoughtfully, although he didn’t return her glance, and then shook her head sorrowful. She didn’t want to give a testimony. “Okay. So we will make a break here and continue in one hour.” Kowalski looked at the clock on the wall and noticed that two hours had passed already. “Skipper is such a lady… ladies’ man,” Maurice rescued himself of an extreme bad joke. “His little wife in Africa, the falcon and now the head of the Royal Academy of Copenhagen. Though I wouldn’t have left a woman like that behind.” “I don’t think he acted due to his own intentions,” replied Kowalski. “Hmm.. hmm hmmm!” “Oh yes, Rico please free Julien.” “No problemo.” With two fast movements the lemur was able to talk again. “That is a violate way of treating your king! I will punish you when we’re back…” Marlene closed his mouth. “If we ever return to New York, which I doubt when you continue shouting in English. So please, be quite!” He pulled off her hand. “See who is talking. So, what are we doing the next hour… ouch!” The Danish animals pushed against them and repeated a word over and over again. “Leave the room,” ordered Mathis into Rico’s ear and the penguin obeyed. The rest of the group followed him before anyone addressed them in Danish.

Skipper thought that the voice he just heard was familiar. It had sounded like a certain otter, that he believed was still back in New York. Slowly he tried to turn, but when he finally faced the entrance he just saw animals leaving the court room. The feeling that his friends had followed him all the way to Denmark stayed though.

Chapter 9: SecrecyEdit

A few minutes and a lot of struggling through the crowd later the group finally found a quiet place at the entrance hall of the building. “That was close!” Mathis, who stayed sitting on Rico’s head hanging onto his Mohawk-feathers, glanced at all the other animals which were chattering about the hearing. “We should be out of earshot now. Luckily no one is eyeing us.” “We are lucky that they believed your little story, Mathis.” Maurice looked at Marlene. “That was really risky.” “I was shocked hearing about Skipper being engaged to such a beautiful lady,” she explained herself. “Are you sure about it?” She turned towards the lemur. “I just heard that rumour.” Mathis shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know whether it’s true or not.” “You are very interested in this topic, aren’t you, Marlene?” Kowalski asked with a certain undertone. The others supported him with a: “Ehe!” “No, it’s not what you think. He’s just a friend. Honestly. But look at him, that crazy, paranoid, overacting him and then Freija… she is so beautiful. She could be a royal.” “Marlene is right,” Julien agreed and stroke a pose. “I would be a much more suitable fiancé for her.” Maurice watched him with a doubtful expression on his face. “Could we please return to a more serious discussion?” Private remembered. Kowalski nodded. “You’re right. Mathis, I would like to ask you a question.” “A bird and a mammal… that could be a little difficult but…” he smiled wicked at the scientist. “I haven’t thought you could have humor,” he replied. “What I actually wanted to ask you was from where you got your information? Although you’re no penguin… obviously… you know a lot.” “Oops… I’ve talked too much, haven’t I?” His eyes widened and he covered his mouth with his paw. Then his pupils concentrated on an invisible point on the floor and he relaxed again. “Okay, I tell you because I know I can trust you. You trust me and I trust you! I was in love with a penguin - a female penguin of course. She had the most amazing feed I’ve ever seen before,” Mathis gazed into the air as if he saw them again. “Black such as ebon. Well the story of our first encounter is very long and I don’t want to bore you…” “You don’t bore us. I’m interested in that kind of stories.” Private’s eyes started to glitter of anticipation. He was brought back down to earth when Kowalski slapped him. “You’re watching far too many daily soaps.” Disappointed and sadly looking he robbed his aching cheek. Mathis stared at the scientist with a dismayed face expression. “I never thought you really slap each other.” “Yehes… they’re a little crazy,” Julien commented. “Doesn’t that hurt?” Kowalski shrugged his shoulders. “Yes, but that aids to focus again.” “Focus!” Rico shrieked. “Well…,” the mouse lemur jumped of Rico’s head and landed on Marlene’s. “Just to be sure. So… where was I. Because the high-ups ‘don’t like’ to see a relationship between a bird and a mammal – just because mammal eat penguins it doesn’t mean all mammals are cruel killers – we hid our love. She gave me some inside information so that I won’t be caught by any other cadets. Sadly, after she finished her training at the academy, she was sent out into the world and we were forced to separate.” Mathis sniffed and then moved in a dramatic position. “It was short, but our love was as intensive as it was forbidden.” There were several sniffs coming from Private and Julien. “How sahahahad!” his kingliness cried. Kowalski’s thoughts turned and went to his own love problems. Since more than a month he knew that Doris was married to another dolphin, though he had no idea who it was. “Stop it. Stop, thinking about that!” Kowalski hit himself. “Is everything fine with you?” Marlene looked at him questioning. “Yes… everything is fine… again.” He looked at Mathis. “So in fact she broke a lot of rules,” he remarked. “And I won’t name her; even if you torture me to death!” Private patted the mouse lemur on his back. “Don’t worry. We won’t do that.” “No, because this is our luck!” affirmed Kowalski, even Rico made a face that should probably look like a smile. “So do you know where to find Skipper? I’m sure he isn’t staying in the court room, is he?” “No. Probably they’re bringing him back to his jail cell. And you’re indeed lucky. My girlfriend and I met in the catacombs once. Follow me.” “How romantic,” was Marlene’s final comment.

“Shhht! We are not allowed to be here,” Mathis whispered, trying to remind them that they had to be extremely quiet. Though the only one who needed this advice was Julien. “Isn’t there any other way? All this dirt and dust… my feet aren’t made for these environments” Julien continued moaning. “Maurice… carry mfff…” Kowalski shut the lemur king up. He had heard a sound and obviously so had Rico and Private too. The new penguin in command pointed in the direction they already had been heading and the other two nodded in agreement, while his royalty was still busy eying the flipper that had closed his mouth. Tiptoeing the three penguins continued the path until they had reached a branch. Kowalski stretched out his flipper and Rico regurgitated a periscope. Cautious he peeped around the corner. He needed some minutes before he gave the device with a stern face expression back and the three returned to the group, that they had left behind. “What did you see?” Marlene whispered. “There are two guards and they’ll notice us when we continue moving. Even if we don’t use that branch.” “The problem is they could have hide Skipper anywhere” Mathis remarked. “How do you want to find them?” “I’m sure he is well guarded. We won’t miss that place” Private suggested. “So what is your plan? How do you want to free him from a well guarded prison?” They fell silent. Then Kowalski answered: “I haven’t thought about that yet. But I’m sure when I see that place I’ll come up with some opt… wait a second.” He turned in the direction they had come from… …and looked right into the face of Manfredi. Seeing his reaction the others followed his gaze. “We’re trapped” the scientist reported with a look over his shoulder. From the other direction Johnson was already approaching. The three penguins jumped into fighting position. “What now?” Marlene asked? “Yeah… this would also be a good moment for one or two options, Kowalski” Julien pled. Manfredi smiled. “Don’t worry. At ease. We don’t want to hurt you.” He waited until they followed. “I hoped you wouldn’t come here but it seems that you’re as stubborn as your teacher. Let me give you an advice: Leave! This doesn’t concern you.” “Or course it does! Skipper is our friend!” Marlene shrieked. Only one second later the guard appeared at the entrance to the other branch. “Who is there?” “It’s just us” Johnson replied. “Dismiss.” “Yes, Sir!” The guard saluted and returned to his sentry. “A friend… he?” Manfredi smirked, though Marlene thought to have seen a slight flashing of disappointment. “Once we also believed he was our friend. But we were taught a lesson.” “You must have misunderstood something. Skipper always cares about his friends!” The rest agreed Private’s support. Kowalski thought of his error considering Jiggles. Rico recalled his causing mayhem. Private himself remembered how downhearted Skipper had been when all of them had believed their little private had been being killed by the Skorca. Julien thought of their shared adventure with Dr. Blowhole. Maurice remembered how Skipper and the others had brought him back to the zoo – though those weren’t the best memories he had – and Mort thought of Skipper’s helpfulness considering the admiration of a certain someone’s feet. He glanced at his passion next to himself – their help had been for nothing. Marlene was in thoughts too. She couldn’t remember their rescue operation when she had gone wild but Skipper’s help to gain more body control. “Do you know anything he did in his past?” Johnson asked. “Anything?” “Or course!” Private responded in rage. But when Manfredi gave him a questioning glance he noticed that he did not. Neither did the others. “I tell you something.” The Humboldt penguin fell into a conversation tone. “I DID see Skipper leave that room. I saw the blood. I saw the corpse. Skipper disappeared in that night and we never heard anything about him until the day we had found him. Tell me: Do you think an innocent person would flee? And hide?” The group didn’t reply. “And now you should really leave. Leave this city. Leave this country, before they also start to hunt you. They could think you’re his accomplices, but I know you’re not. So forget about this incident and especially forget Skipper.” Manfredi nodded in Mathis’ direction. “You can find the exit without our help.” Johnson passed the group and accompanied his friend. Both of them turned and wanted to head back into the court room. But Marlene held them up with a last question: “Can we talk with Skipper?” “You really don’t understand it, do you?” Manfredi glanced at her grimly. “I would like to make my own decision, if you don’t mind.” Both South American penguins changed glances then the Humboldt penguin answered: “Well okay. You and Kowalski are permitted to talk to him.” He gave them a signal to follow him. “The rest returns to the entrance hall and don’t even think of entering the court room again.”

Only a few minutes later three penguins and an otter stood in front of a metal door. Only a single guard stood at the wall, greeting the approaching with a nod with the head. Kowalski would have bet that there was a lot of high tech and codes to be bear down. The truth was that the prison didn’t even have a keyhole. “You look puzzled, Kowalski.” Manfredi smiled. “Did you expect something else?” “Errr… yes.” “Well… have patience.” Johnson opened the door and waited until the others had entered the room before he followed. Kowalski and Marlene froze. The view that had awaited them was unanticipated. Skipper was strapped at a metal chair not being able to move a single feather. This seating was the center of a blue gleaming weight detector circle that was additionally surrounded by web of red motion detectors. On the wall were cameras – positively there were also some non visible too – that captured all actions in the room. The New Yorkers eyed their friend who looked as if he was asleep. “You have guests. Probably your last” Johnson informed his former captain. The eyes opened. Although he looked very tired his ice-blue eyes was lively as ever. “Visitors aren’t allowed I thought.” “She was very…” He was cut off by Marlene who approached and yelled at the prisoner: “Open your mouth. What happened? You didn’t kill them right? So what else happened in there! You have to talk otherwise… otherwise….” “It’s not your business, Marlene.” “Not my business? You’re my friend. Our friend.” “Marlene is right. You know the penguin’s rule: Never swim alone.” “This is different.” “NO IT IS NOT!” Marlene ranted and made another step in Skipper’s direction. Before she could move again Manfredi grabbed her. “You aren’t allowed to approach any further” he explained. She broke free, glaring at the penguin lividly, and looked at her friend again. “It’s not different.” “Yes it is. There are things that are more important.” “What could be…” “Kowalski. I order you to leave Denmark immediately. And I also order you to take Marlene… and all the others that might have come… with you!” “I cannot.” “THIS IS AN ORDER!” Skipper’s eyes were filled with anger. The lieutenant placed a flipper on Marlene’s shoulder – he had noticed that she wanted to yell at the stubborn captain again. “I cannot take any orders from you, because as a prisoner you can’t give orders anymore.” Kowalski turned and left the room. With a last glance at Skipper Marlene followed. “You have… had a team of brave men there, Skipper” Manfredi remarked. “But that’s past. Let’s look into your short future: Are you ready for your last interrogation?”


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