These Penguins Have the Right StufIllustration 5
3-2-1 Holiday Savings!
The party had stretched into a wonderful vacation as the penguins relaxed and recovered from their ordeal. Some of that recovery had already started on the Steelbeak, but even then they'd had worries hanging over their heads. All things considered, if something had to go wrong, botched landing coordinates were certainly not the worst that could have happened on the long trip from Europa back to Earth.
Swimming and fishing in the ocean whenever they liked, they'd also spent time soaking in the sun, playing limbo - Bubbles was an unexpected master - and singing traditional penguin carols. On one swim, Snow had made a surprising discovery: there were native colonies of penguins already living on the islands, though not on the one they'd landed on. The small Galapagos penguins had been enthralled by the "space" penguins' tale, and Blaze didn't think they'd have believed it at all if not for the spaceship parked on the beach.
For all that they had everything they could need to make themselves comfortable on the island, however, as the days turned to weeks thoughts of home - Antarctica, not just Earth - loomed ever larger. Many of the penguins had loved ones who'd probably long-since given them up for dead, and while the warm sand was nice, Blaze missed the stark beauty of the Antarctic ice shelves. Plus, no one complained if you set fire to things there
The rumbling started out low, and it was a while before the penguins even noticed it; longer still before they identified where it was coming from: on the horizon were nine helicopters, eight black and one red in the lead. Blaze tensed, ready for whatever evasive maneuvers he could make on the beach, until he realized following closely behind was Santa Kleckner's black jet.
"What in the world...?" Tess had put down her tanning reflector and come over to join him on the bluff, squinting up at the sky. As the other penguins heard the noise, they too ceased their party activities and came over to see what was going on.
While the helicopters hovered in the sky, the jet neatly landed on a flat patch of sand, which Blaze was certain was not a usual property of jets. It powered down, and with a jump lively and quick out leapt Santa Kleckner - at least, Blaze was pretty sure it was Santa Kleckner. He'd traded in his red coat and hat for a... penguin cowl?
"Santa Kleckner!" called Snow, who ran up to greet him. "It's good to see you again! Did you manage to take care of those 'savings' you were so excited about?"
"Ho ho!" he cackled. "I did indeed, but I'm not Santa Kleckner today. Today, I'm the Dark Penguin Lord." He turned to open up a hatch in the jet's side and pulled out a large red sack. "I just couldn't stop thinking about you guys, and now that I've wrapped up my 12 Days of Savings I've left the minions to manage things while I see you guys home."
"Home?" Blue asked.
"Antarctica, right? I've brought my fleet of helicopters with me. We'll run cables from each to the Steelbeak, and together they'll be able to lift it up and fly you and the ship home in a jiff. That is," he paused to acknowledge Tess, "if your Commander agrees?"
"One moment, 'Dark Penguin Lord,'" Tess said with a wry smile. She turned to the group. "Everyone okay with that plan?"
There was a resounding chorus of "YES!" from everyone, or nearly everyone. Bubbles asked anxiously "Right now
? I've still got to say goodbye to my new friends, and we were going to have the limbo championships tonight."
Tess rolled her eyes, but said "Ensign Bubbles has a point. Dark Penguin Lord, we'll need a little time to get everyone and everything ready to go. I believe Lt. Lucky promised you a tour of the Steelbeak? He can show you around while we pack, and you can join us for a last feast and some limbo here on the island."
"Perfect!" the DPL proclaimed. "And while you're packing, make sure you include these." He began to pull boxes out of his sack. "I know it can get dark and dull in the winter at the South Pole, so I brought along some gifts for you." He winked. "The minions insisted on helping pick them out after that video." Blaze didn't know what video the DPL was talking about, but the boxes were titled things like Disgaea
, Azumanga Daioh
, and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia
. "And you'll need something to watch them on, so I also got you a complete entertainment center!"
The penguins stared. "How did you fit that in the sack?" asked Bubbles, his flippers still full of the DVDs and Blu-rays just handed to him.
"Is this cabinet walnut?" Blazed rapped on the wood appreciatively. He peered around the back. "Hey, solar panels! We'll need a generator in the winter though. Could probably repurpose one of the Steelbeak engines..."
"How did you even lift
it out of the sack?" asked Bubbles. The pile in his flippers was growing as the Dark Penguin Lord added The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
"No penguins in that one," DPL said, "but your Commander will either love it or hate it."
"Why was it already assembled
in the sack-"
"Dark Penguin Lord, why don't I take you on that tour now?" Lucky cut in.
As Lucky showed their honored guest around, the other penguins packed up the decorations, bid farewell to their new friends from the other islands, and assembled a great feast (if mostly sardines) next to a roaring bonfire. DPL, of course, provided margaritas for all, and participated in the limbo finals with as much gusto as any penguin.
When the last fish was eaten and the cables properly secured to the Steelbeak, the Dark Penguin Lord took charge, calling up to the helicopters: "Now! Tylor, now! Akari, now! Boogiepop and Emma! On! Muryou, on! Utena, on! Shinobu and Kimba! Astro Boy, with your taillights so bright! Let's get this ship in the air and home tonight!"
He sprang to his jet, to his team gave a whistle, and up went the Steelbeak, like the down of a thistle. But the penguins heard, as they left the sand bluff: "Anime savings to all, with love from the Right Stuf!"