Antipodean Antics #1 A Very Net.Zealand Christmas part 1 of 2 Starring: Bladed Lad Fan.Boy Kiwis Mouse Retcon Lad Written by Saxon Brenton --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows a scene looking out through a door onto a back yard. In the foreground, inside the house and to the right side of the door, is a small potted tree. Six kiwis are swarming around or over the tree, laying tinsel and Christmas decorations, which look rather tatty compared to the tree's own masses of vibrant scarlet flowers. One of the kiwis is glancing over his shoulder and out the door, where other kiwis - one of them wearing an All Blacks jernsey - are playing touch football with four humans. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Mouse sighed and adjusted her sunhat. She was in the small fishing town of Bellinjuk visiting her aunt. It was Christmas Eve. And it was Too Bloody Hot; 28 degrees C in the shade. She was beginning to regret not going for paddle with the kiwis down at the beach. But she'd already gone for one swim so far today, and now, at high noon, the UV rays would be just too much. Better to wait until later in the afternoon. Actually, later in the afternoon would probably be deliciously cool. Already there were signs of afternoon thunderstorms building up in the east out to sea. A spot of rain would cool things down nicely. Well, maybe not nicely; a bit. Summer rains tended to be humid and muggy in this part of Net.Zealand's North Is.LAN.d. So now Mouse sat in the dappled shade underneath one of the breadfruit trees out the front of her Aunty Gina's house. Beyond the shelter of the shade the heat haze of summer reigned supreme, and the background roar of cicadas was a white noise that one eventually got used to and ignored. Mouse was staying with her aunt because her father, Jonathan Connery, was working far too hard at his company, Conspiracy Corp (Yes, They _Are_ Out To Get You) and generally being a ruthless and vaguely sinister multinational corporate executive. But they'd known that weeks in advance; there had been no getting around it. And so Mouse had been packed off to her Aunty Gina's in Bellinjuk on the Coroman.delete Peninsula. Actually, Mouse didn't really _mind_ going to staying with Gina. She hadn't seen her aunt in what seemed like ages. And besides, just being here brought back memories of happier times, when great numbers of the family would come together for Christmas dinner. And her parents had been able to speak civilly to each other without prompting. Gina's place was a mid-50s beach shack type affair. A little weatherboard house that had at one time had a veranda running fully along three of its sides, but at some time had these walled off to create three long, window-lined rooms. The interior of the house tended to be quite dark as a result. Fortunately, if you kept the windows open on the verandah rooms it stimulated delicious cross breezes. There was a bougainvillea growing across the front of the house. It's flowers were the pale yellow variety - the colour of old parchment which blended in with the peeling off-white house paint. When she had been younger Mouse had wondered why Gina had planted that particular type instead of one of the brighter ones in vibrant red or purple. Later, she had come to respect, and even envy a bit, its ability to blend its flowers into its environment. The town of Bellinjuk was small, mainly because of its isolation, stuck out on a small isthmus on the east coast of a part of Net.Zealand that wasn't known for its high population density anyway. It was a fishing village of nominally only a few hundred people that hadn't had the opportunity to grow like some of the big resort towns down the coast along the Bit of Plenty, but whose population would wax and wane depending on whether you were at the start or finish of a school holidays. It was something of a time warp. Which, really, suited people who like to come here. Its movie theatre, the Mayfair, was still standing, mainly due to a conservation order. It was no longer for showing pictures of course. The big cinema complexes at larger towns like Thames had made it uneconomical. Instead, in a twist of supreme irony, the balcony rows had been sealed off and the ground floor had been converted into a video rentals. Current release posters brashly filled the foyer, competing with the surviving plush red furnishing and intricate plasterwork and art deco architecture, where once only a few posters of this weeks' showing would have modestly kept their place. Mouse rolled over on her towel and looked around. .oO(Wonder where the guys got off too?) she mused. Probably off getting into trouble. That group were extraordinarily well-suited to getting into trouble. To say that she was mildly surprised when a group of her fellow ex-pat Net.Zealanders in the Legion of Net.Heroes had announced that they were coming to visit and keep her company over Christmas was an understatement. Dan and Barry (better know as Bladed Lad and Fan.Boy). And Barry had brought along Joe (Retcon Lad). And then there were the kiwis. A score of kiwis. Thankfully _only_ a score of kiwis. The rest of the fuzzy green birds had been too enamoured with the prospect of a White Christmas back in Net.ropolis to come back for a visit. Personally Mouse thought that they had been listening to too many old Bing Cros.bit songs. Thank god. Even so, as it was she had had to put her foot down and pointed tell the returned kiwis that they were to behave themselves while they were staying at her aunt's. They were guests, and if they even _thought_ about collapsing the roof she would personally skin the lot of them, bake them in an earth oven, and serve them up at a hangi. The kiwis had nodded gravelly, agreed not to do anything foolish, and surreptitiously continued with calculating the strength of the load bearing beams in the ceiling. The first couple of days had gone off pretty well. They'd done all of the usual holiday type things: gone swimming and bushwalking and night fishing and hunting for pipis to make into pipi soup (even the kiwis, although they'd had to scratch the little shellfish up with their claws because they didn't have the hips for burrowing their feet into the sand like humans did). They also did some driving around, seeing the sights in the little truck that Mouse had gotten on rental (the kiwis hadn't bothered to disguise their disappointment when Joe had failed to freak out the first time Mouse had driven on the left). Nights had been a bit more of a problem. There was only so much night fishing one could take if you weren't a rabid sportsman. And in a town the size of Bellinjuk the only real nightlife was having a few drinks at the bowling club (where only occasionally would there be a band playing). Apart from that there was only the weekly bingo nights at the surf lifesaving club hall. Dan, who was a bit of a party animal, had lasted four full days (or rather, nights) before he snapped. What had got him in the end was Joe and the kiwis sitting up to watch Carols By Candlelight for _all four hours_. Joe had been fascinated. He'd known, intellectually, that it was summer in the southern hemisphere in December. What he hadn't done was consider all the ramifications of this. He hadn't gotten much past taking in Barry's and Mouse's and Dan's descriptions of Christmas dinners at the beach, with some of the same meats as he'd eaten at home only served cold, and others besides. He hadn't imagined that for carolling that people would flock to the city parklands where stages were set up at one end. There they had picnic dinners on blankets laid out on the grass (and covered themselves with litres of insect repellent to keep from being eaten alive by the mossies), and as twilight fell they lit up the candles they'd brought and for several hours spend a warm summer's night singing Christmas carols; including totally inappropriate ones about dashing through the snow. The kiwis had joined Joe in watching this because they have eclectic tastes in television. Dan, however, had not been able to deal with all this. He'd combed the local papers and had found a Christmas rage with bands at one of the pubs down the coast that had sounded good, so he had signed the lot of them (even the kiwis) to spend an evening there. Mouse had initially been a bit concerned about taking the kiwis. Especially to a 'rage'. Dan had replied that the kiwis could take care of themselves. Mouse had countered that it wasn't the kiwis she was worried about. In any case, Dan had put too much effort into this to give it up now. The first day Dan had gone for the papers he'd discovered to his dismay that they didn't turn up till 10:30 AM. This far out in the bush the national dailies took that long to be transported out to the tiny local newsagent. And since there wasn't much sense in doing two trips, the local papers arrived in the same shipment, even though they could have been made available as early as 6. So Dan had hung around the paper shop like a bad smell, waiting for the local paper, tolerating the heat and the flea bitten old dogs that lay in the meagre shade of the grass tree out the front, and had eventually returned with a paper and a grin indicating the triumph of sheer bloody-mindedness. The pub in question had been in Waihi Beach. They'd driven there. Which meant someone would have to stay sober to drive back. That had ruled out any of the kiwis. While it was not quite true that kiwis can't drive, it is very much the case that they can only operate hands only controlled vehicles. In the end Barry, who had read just about every post to alt.comics.lnh ever, took Joe aside and explained to him the trick Retcon Roy had used in R.E.J.E.C.T.S. #1. Joe had nodded, made comments along the lines of 'Now why hadn't I thought of that?' and around 3 AM when even Dan had finally worn out he had retconned away the effects of the alcohol in their systems. Dan had grumbled a bit as they'd driven back to Bellinjuk. For some strange reason he seemed to think that he wouldn't be properly enjoying the night unless he suffered the hangover afterwards. Joe has vowed to himself that if he was going to make such a big deal of it then next time Dan could keep the hangover. Mouse smiled in remembrance. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy the guys' company. Even though LNH members often tended to be... eccentric (after all, it aided with characterisation and made for better sales), that wasn't necessarily any impediment to liking them. Actually, it was rather nice to get away from the madcap pace of net.heroing, and just hang out with the guys on a first name basis rather than using code names. She frowned. Well, more or less on a first name basis. There'd been an awkward moment when Dan had asked if people minded using first names, and Mouse hadn't been able to offer hers. She had kept her composure, thought fast, and blamed it all on her Writer. After all, Mouse had said, it wasn't _her_ fault that her Writer had never gotten around to giving her a real name. Then Mouse had self-depreciatingly pointed out that at least she was called something that didn't end in Lass or Girl or anything like that, and that it could pass as a nickname. This had seemed to satisfy the guys, and none of them had seemed to notice that she's used one of her own put-downs on herself. Still, Mouse had hoped like blue blazes that the incident hadn't been recorded in a story, otherwise Barry was sure to read it and realise something was up. So, where - you may ask - were all the others? Well, Dan and Joe had just dropped into the Parthenon Milk Bar for a drink. "This is a real throwback, you know," said Dan, gazing around. "Hmm? How so?" "Well, this type of milkbar. I haven't seen one like this in years," he said, continuing to gaze around at the art deco fittings and blue glass mirrors. "Their heyday was back in, what, 40s and 50s I suppose. Hey, they even have their milkshakes in the old aluminium containers!" Joe frowned at the unfamiliar pronunciation. "Aluminum," he corrected reflexively. Then he bit his lip and cast a nervous sideways glance at the kiwis beside him. They grinned meaningfully and started drinking their milkshakes. Dan watched this with a mixture of amusement and pity. He recalled the first day he and the other LNHers had arrived in Net.Zealand in the flight.thingee. Mouse had met them at a prearranged site. Almost as soon as he had disembarked Joe had looked about, and made the fatal mistake of asking, "So, where are the koalas?" Whereupon the kiwis, in a frenzy of patriotic indignation, had pecked him to death. It hadn't lasted long. His death that is, not the dying itself. The execution had been long and extremely bloody, and for a moment Barry had been moved by the bloodcurdling screams of his friend to beg for leniency for him. But that impulse had only lasted a second, and besides, Joe would get over it. Which he did. A few minutes later he'd retconned himself back to life and the event was downgraded from a mortal wounding by SharpAndNasty kiwi beaks to a painful but essentially harmless series of bites. Still, the point had been made. Just because the events had been revised to never have happened, it didn't mean that none of them remembered them. They had all been close enough to be subject to the Bootstrap Effect of Joe's power, and so recalled both versions of events quite clearly. This was the second time that Joe had been done in by kiwis, and his appreciation of the experience had not improved with time. [See _Kid Kiwis Kommandoes_ #5 for the first occurrence - Footnote Girl] Now Joe was a bit antsy that he might inadvertently make some little mistake, the type anyone could make, which the kiwis would take wrongly and blow out of all proportion into a major diplomatic incident, or at least into an excuse to sit on him until he died again. The kiwis knew this. The three green birds beside him grinned with mischievous amusement in their eyes, although outwardly they just continued to sit and drink their milkshakes, making slurpy noises with their straws once they reached the bottom of the containers. Meanwhile, out on the headland, Barry was sitting with his back against a tree, looking out to sea and listening to the regular susurration of the waves. He was feeling dreadfully homesick. He had thought that this would be a good idea. A visit to the old stomping grounds. Well, more or less. But it was all wrong. It was like... It was like the time Sidewinder got pulled into Real Life -1 by the machinations of Acton Lord, only in reverse. The Looniverse was a text based reality, which resonated in sympathy with a computer newsgroup. There was only so much bandwidth that could be spared for minor details like sensations that are experienced all the time and taken for granted because of their ubiquitousness, and which in any case would normally be skipped over by the Writers for reasons of pacing or mood or occasionally sheer laziness. When Sidewinder had arrived in that other reality he had been amazed by the amount of naturally occurring and totally unregulated detail and sensation. Well, this was the exact opposite. Barry had originally come from Real Life. Or he remembered coming from it. He was only a copy, after all; albeit the most faithful to Real Life's Barry Knewbee, and so he remembered pretty much everything his template did. And that was part of the problem. _This_ was not the New Zealand he knew. But then, this wasn't New Zealand. This was Net.Zealand, universes away from the place he remembered but could never return too. There was a 'plofp' beside him, and a solicitous voice asked, "Ki-wi?" Barry looked down. "Oh, hullo Penfold." Penfold the kiwi nodded amenably, but carefully so as to not dislodge his glasses. He didn't actually _need_ glasses of course. But then he didn't need to wear the tie and blue business suit jacket either, nor affect a British accent for that matter. In fact, his name wasn't really even Penfold; it was Ralph. But all that regalia is what the real Penfold - faithful and often cringing hamster sidekick to the world's greatest secret agent, Danger Mouse - was like, so that's how Penfold (nee Ralph) dressed and acted. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Penfold's lifestyle was that none of the other kiwis believed that they were Danger Kiwi and chose to wear the eyepatch. The closest they came was the cee-gar chomping Nick Kiwi. As a self-proclaimed agent of S.C.H.M.U.C.K. Nick claimed that he was the world's greatest secret agent, although he always refused to explain what, specifically, S.C.H.M.U.C.K. was. He always fobbed off the question with the reply, "Nothing in particular." Then there was James Kiwi, licensed to kill; but while he had the proper accent he didn't wear an eyepatch, and that earned James low marks in Penfold's book. So, sans an appropriate mentor to sidekick for, Penfold often lacked the opportunities to emulate his idol at every chance. Yes, he could cringe with the best of them, and yes, he even had the "oooh crumbs" anxious tone of voice down pat. But lacking a partner to defer to he often had to handle the action/adventure parts himself, and thus he was still every bit the homicidal psychopath that any other kiwi was. Kiwis, for those of you who haven't noticed by now, can be bloody strange birds. "Ki-wi," he observed, turning his attention to the sea. Barry sighed. "I'm sorry Penfold. I don't speak Kiwi. I can't understand a word you're saying. I'll have to wait until the story's posted to get a translation," then he paused, and added, "Assuming that this is actually in a story." "Ki-wi?" Barry could guess what that meant. "I know my Writer's planning a Christmas story, and so is Retcon Lad's Writer. I think... from the title Saxon gave in previews, that this grouping _might_ be for the latter. I dunno thought, usually I can only be sure if a story's happening if there's something interesting going on." He frowned. "And anyway, it presumes he'll actually bother to give a translation." "Ki-wi?" Barry leaned down and whispered in a sombre voice, "He's an Australian, you know. They're capable of doing anything." Then he winked. Penfold grinned, showing his teeth (all the better for eating roast beef sandwiches with :-) [No! Hold up, wait. Ian said no more teeth for kiwis. I'm sure of it. Uh...] Barry leaned back against the tree, his mood somewhat lightened. "Still, whether or not there'll be a translation later, that hardly helps now." He cocked his head. "You know, Harris just writes notes. Well, tries to write notes." Penfold grinned again - a smug, self-satisfied grin - and drew from his breast pocket a note pad and pencil. Barry smiled. "I see you've been reading _Thesaurus Lass_ too, haven't you?" he accused. Penfold nodded and scribbled something. Barry took the note that was handed to him. It read: 'Ki-wi'. He looked at Penfold. Penfold returned his stare. "I don't think I'd appreciated before how difficult it must be for Harris to write in English," Barry hazarded carefully. It made sense, he supposed. Kid Kiwis' power was communicating with the birds, and their attraction to him had to be based on _something_. Penfold just stared at him in bemusement. What was wrong? It was a perfectly good note. Hmmf. Humans. Never satisfied. Oh well, that was their problem. He patted Barry on the hand. "Oh, don't mind me, I'm just feeling a bit out of it." The business suited bird nodded, encouragingly. Best to get him to talk it out. Barry sighed. "This isn't home." The kiwi nodded again. He was familiar with Barry's origin as Fan.Boy. "It's all... flat" Barry continued. He snorted. "You'd think that in a superhero universe that'd be the last thing you'd have to worry about, right? Well, what it has in world-devouring aliens, flamboyant Evil masterminds, or green kiwis it lacks in detail... Huh?" Penfold was writing furiously, and then tore off the note. 'Ki-wi!!!'. Barry stared at the note, and wondered what had upset Penfold so much that it warranted multiple explanation marks. He could think of a few possibilities off the top of his head, and decided to start at the most extreme prospect and work inwards. "There are kiwis all right. They're just a different colour. Brown, actually." This seemed to mollify Penfold a bit. Ah, that seemed to be it. "I know it sounds drab," Barry continued, "but..." And then a mischievous smile lit upon his face. "Well, once upon a time all kiwis were green. But one day a kiwi called Okapulko tried to play a trick on Maui the Trickster. When Maui found out he was _very_ angry, and to escape Okapulko had to hide under a dung heap. And from that day onward... Okay! Okay!" Barry laughed, holding up his hands to shield himself from Penfold's baleful glare. "I don't know why the kiwis back home are brown," he admitted. "Defensive colouration, I guess. Back home kiwis aren't the kings of the jungle they are here; they don't know karate, they don't use traps against bigger animals, and they don't have BigGuns to blow their enemies away." Barry shrugged. "I guess it's easiest to hide from predators if you're a drab brown colour that matches the dirt and forest undergrowth. Besides, they're nocturnal and have poor eyesight; bright plumage would be redundant." Barry smiled and stood up. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think I've had just about enough of moping around out here. You want to come back?" Penfold shook his head and indicated with his beak the hiking trail that went on down south around the headland and presumably returned back along the inlet that backed the town. Barry nodded. "Okay, have a good walk." The kiwi watched Barry head back towards town. His beak curled ever so slightly in amusement. Honestly, these humans. It took just the littlest thing to ruin their whole day. Turning, he proceeded with his hike. He made a moderate pace while he was crossing the headland out in the sun; he didn't want to push himself and get sunstroke, but neither did he want to stay in the sun too long. However, once he was over the hill and reached the gullys that flowed into the inlet on the leeward side of the headland, he lingered. The canopy of the bush closed over, and though it was still somewhat hot the leafy green shade made a considerable difference. Penfold considered taking his jacket off and loosening his tie, but decided against it. It was important to keep a stiff upper beak. Still, he did allow himself the luxury of sitting on a rock by the edge of a tiny pool fed by a stream as it tricked downhill to the inlet, and then dangling his feet in. Oooo. Bliss. Penfold looked around, examining the surrounding bushland with its trees in full flower, palms, mosses, and - of course - ferns. He was intrigued, as he always was when he visited the beach. He had grown up around Rot-13rua (also called Rottenrua by visitors, to the great displeasure of the locals, because of the pong of the sulphurous fumes from the geysers and volcanic vents) and the beach had always intrigued him. The fact that the beach had never been very far away, and that he had made any number of visits to it on personal sabbaticals, made no difference to this. It was around 70 kilometres or so; far enough to be a different environment, but not so far as to be unreachable. There was footfalls further back in the bush. Penfold recognised them as kiwi claws. Half turning he said, "<Who is it?>". And then he saw her. She was the loveliest thing Penfold had ever seen. The lustre of her eyes, the curve of her beak, the purple of her plumage... Oh yes. The purple colour of her plumage... "<What about the purple colour of her plumage?>" Penfold demanded. Well, uh, you see... Penfold frowned in irritation. "<You thought that just because she's a different colour to me that there'd be instant antagonism, right? Well I've got news for you mister, that sort of disgusting racism is the type of nonsense we leave for you _humans_ to sully yourselves with.>" Oh, uh, you read my comments about _Writers Block Woman_ #20 on a.c.lnh I see... "<Uh-huh. Surprise surprise, we're computer literate,>" and then Penfold adopted a look of wide-eyed earnestness, "<And we can count without taking our socks off too!>" May the Wombat preserve me from kiwi sarcasm. "<Get on with the story,>" he ordered shortly. Okay okay. I'm getting on with the story. Yeesh. Where was I? Oh yeah... The very sight of her took Penfold's breath away. He realised he was staring, and attempted to master himself. "<Uh, hello,>" he managed to say weakly. "<Hello. I'm Candice...>" .oO(<What a lovely name,>) he thought dreamily. "<... and I'm here to warn you of a dreadful threat to both out worlds.>" This snapped though his warm fuzzy glow. Danger! Oh crumbs! "<What type of dreadful threat?>" he asked, warily. "<I can explain, but it would be best if I did so as we go. You'll really have to see it to believe it.>" Later in the afternoon Mouse, the guys, and several of the kiwis were talking in the shade on the back steps of Gina's place. Somewhere in the background the television could be heard. Nobody was actually _watching_ it at the moment, although there were currently four kiwis sitting on the floor in front of it playing bridge. Really, there was nothing to watch; just the usual drivel of old Christmas movies and not-so-special specials that the networks crammed on because it was a non-ratings period. But the telly was left on anyway, partly because it was traditional to do so during the day as long as there was somebody in the house, and partly because Gina's ancient set took what seemed like 15 minutes to warm up and there was going to be a cricket match broadcast later in the afternoon that the kiwis in question didn't want to miss. Then several kiwis marched past them out of the house with some bowls and hammers. Mouse threw a look at the kiwis that were sitting with her, but they expressed bafflement. Then the newcomers split up. Some headed off to the far end of the backyard and into the small orchard Gina had there. Others deftly climbed the time-hardened wooden struts of the water tank stand outside the kitchen window and climbed up into the insect-haunted darkness beneath the canopy of the grape vine that grew over it. "What are they up to?" wondered Dan. The others just shook their heads. Then, about five minutes later, Gina came out and asked, "Are those birds back yet?" Mouse looked at her aunt in surprise. "That's your doing?" "I just asked them to do a wee errand," Gina replied. She shaded her eyes to watch the kiwis climb down out of the tank stand, carefully holding bowls of grapes. The kiwis from down the back returned with bowls similarly filled with nuts scrounged from the trees in the orchard. Gina hefted one of the hammers. "Snack time," she announced, then sat down on the concrete steps that led onto the weed overgrown footpath which jutted out into the back yard to the Hills hoist. She was a raw boned women of late middle age with her hair tied back. She dragged an empty bowl to within reach, cracked two macadamia nuts, ate one, and threw the other into the bowl for someone else. "So, what have you kids got planned for tonight?" she asked. "We were planning on heading down to Waihi again," replied Dan, picked a few grapes off a bunch. "<And are you going too?>" Gina asked Gloria in kiwish. Gloria nodded, smiling at Gina's politeness at using the kiwi tongue, and swung her hammer and cracked a nut. Gloria was wearing her kiwi- sized All Blacks football jernsey. But this was unremarkable, because she always did. She was one of those people who long ago realised that the only true religion was to worship at the alter of football. "<Yes,>" she replied, then grinned. "<Wouldn't miss it.>" "Excuse me, Mrs Maxwell," said Dan. "But where did you learn kiwish?" The question had been nagging him for the past few days, but up till now the time had never seemed right to ask it. "I mean, not many people speak it. If they're going to learn a second language they usually go for Maori." Gina nodded. "My father used to be in the Forestry Commission. He used to take me out into the bush sometimes. When I was growing up I was something of a wild thing. Unlike your father, dear," she said to Mouse, "who was staid and conservative even then. I thought he'd lightened up a bit when he met your mother, but I wasn't really surprised when he began to backslide and they split up." She sighed, regretfully. "Anyway, I had friends out in the bush. Among the kiwis. Used to see them every weekend, and practically all the time during school holidays." "You know, Penfold has started writing notes," observed Barry. He looked at Harris. Harris polished his glasses. Gloria glared at Harris. Gloria tended to get very bloody-minded about mollycoddling the humans. Of _course_ kiwis could write notes, providing they set their minds to it and put in a bit of effort. Human languages weren't _that_ hard to dictate. But that wasn't the point. The point was that if kiwis went around speaking human languages all the time simply because humans were too lazy to learn to be bilingual, then there was good chance that kiwish could die out, doing possibly irreparable damage to kiwi culture in the process. Gloria new all about how humans assimilated other cultures by marginalised other ethnic groups. If they thought they could get away with doing the same thing with the kiwis, they had another thing coming. Without realising it, Gloria found that she had been flexing one of her claws in a particularly meaningful way. Flustered despite herself, she tucked her legs under herself and aggressively cracked another few nuts. Barry thought for a moment. "Mind you, writing notes takes an awful long time. Why don't we just go and get some translator.thingees or something out of the flight.thingee?" he suggested. "Do we keep some twenty or so translator.thingees on board?" asked Dan. Barry looked at Joe. Joe shrugged. "Yeah sure. No big deal. There are twenty or so translator.thingees that just happened to be packed on board in case of emergency." "Won't Ian get ticked off for screwing up the running gags in his series?" Mouse asked. "Oh. Yeah," said Barry. Then he shrugged. "Well, Kid Kiwi can confiscate them back off them later." "Just like he got them out of that flight.thingee they commandeered?" Mouse asked sweetly. Barry pouted at her. "Are you trying to be difficult, or what?" Gloria rolled her eyes. They were completely missing the point. Kiwis didn't particularly _want_ to use translator.thingees. Admittedly they might come in handy in a rushed situation, but still, a crutch was a crutch. Mouse smiled at Barry. "Wouldn't dream of it." Then she added. "But how do you know there's going to be an emergency?" Now it was Barry's turn to roll his eyes. "We're in an LNH net.comic. You think all this folksy Christmas nostalgia is going to last? Before the end of the story there _will_ be some supervillainous threat." "Oh. Yeah," replied Mouse, a bit put out by the thought of that. "Bloody typical." She glared at Barry. "I can't believe you. You're actually looking forward to it, aren't you?" she accused. Barry worked hard to suppress a smile, shrugged, and ate another grape. He hadn't entirely forgiven her her part in the Audition for a Sidekick, and a little bit of discomfort on her part didn't seem to be going astray. "Looks like another storm's coming up," Joe observed lightly. Both Barry and Mouse glared at him, but he was pointedly staring off towards the east, making it clear that he was referring to the weather. "About time," Dan returned. He was looking forward to the cool a storm would bring, albeit a muggy coolness. A few of the others looked out across the bay where the thunderheads continued to build. There was a smell in the air of imminent precipitation, and the air was beginning to cool off as if in anticipation. Distantly, frogs began to chirrup in the drainpipes of adjacent houses, and closer to home a r-r-r-r-up-r-r-r-r-up-r-r-r-r-up echoed from out of the huge corrugated iron watertank. "Hail too," Gina added as she recognised the green tinge to the clouds. Mouse looked at the kiwis. "Are all of you guys here?" A few of the green birds shook their heads. "Well, go round up the others and bring them inside. I don't want Kid Kiwi mad at me 'cause I let some of his kommandoes get brained." Some of the kiwis nodded and scampered off in the direction of the beach. When they reached the sand dunes the group split in two. Some of them headed north towards the mouth of the creek where other kiwis where yabby hunting in the mangrove forest at the estuary. The other group headed south, further along past the four wheel drive access to the beach and way beyond the patrolled swimming areas. There another group of kiwis had been tobogganing down the large sand hills on sheets of cardboard. The cardboard had been scrounged from old boxes, and - truth be known - the kiwis had had almost as much fun stomping the boxes doom flat as they had in using them to slide down the sand hills. An extension, no doubt, of the uniquely kiwish hobby of collapsing buildings. After the hailstorm Joe and Barry had gone for a walk down along the beach. It was still overcast, and Barry had commented that it looked and smelt a bit like continued rain. Almost but not quite. They walked on for a bit, then Joe ventured, "Are you really that keen on having an Adventure?" Then he frowned. "No, skip that. Silly question, I guess." Barry chewed his lower lip. "No, it's not that silly, really. I... Strictly speaking I shouldn't be worrying about net.heroing stuff. You know, just sit back and take it easy over the holiday. But... it's like, I thought that by coming back here I could just relax and unwind, y'know? But I started feeling kinda homesick. That's what I was doing out on the headland when Penfold found me, see? Anyway, I guess I might've been looking forward to some net.hero stuff to take my mind off things. Actually, I'm not even 100% sure we're even _in_ a story at the moment. I guess I was just kind of hoping." Joe frowned. "How could you feel homesick when you've come home to... Oh. I see." Barry nodded, watching the low rolling waves of the grey surf. .oO(Sod) Joe thought. He knew the feeling, when trying to bolster yourself up from depression was an almost constant effort. Ever since the Angst energy in his system had recently kicked into high gear, Joe had woken up most mornings feeling like sh*t. He was fine once he got up, had his cup of coffee and put on his Pollyanna face. Then he was ready to face the world; it was only a matter of psyching himself up. He'd handled it, although it had meant digging up a lot of that bubbling enthusiasm for stuff that he hadn't used since before he'd gotten his powers over half a decade ago. Others had noticed his increased fanboyishness, and some had suggested he'd been hanging around with Barry too much. But first thing in the morning - or worse yet, in the small hours of the night when depression tainted his dreams and he woke up crying for no reason that he could ever remember - those were the worst. He sat down on one of the lower rungs of the metal surf lifesaver tower that was standing lone sentinel on the pretty much deserted beach. There were a few people fishing up one end of the beach, and others walking taking their dog for a walk down the other. But for the most part it seemed that the threat of more storms was keeping everyone else indoors, humidity or no. Joe looked up at the low hanging, lead grey sky. .oO(Must be the weather that's bringing on this gloomy discussion,) he thought. "Do you miss your family?" "Yeah," Barry nodded. "Mum. Dad. Even my bratty sister who's just turned sixteen and who's only thought is for making cow's eyes at a thickhead two forms up. Oh well, at least they don't have to worry about me being missing. They've still got the original me," he said in a dead voice. "And he's still got them." "And you've got all your friends here," Joe added quietly. Barry nodded again. "Yeah." He let out a deep breath. "Yeah. I do. Thanks man." He ran his hand through his short black hair. "We'd better get back and get ready for another evening of heavy duty partying." Joe rolled his eyes. "I wouldn't mind so much, but every time it's my to get the drinks I keep getting asked how I'm enjoying my visit." "So? They're just being friendly." "I just wish I knew who hung the little neon sign saying 'Ame.rec.an tourist' over my head," he grumbled hyperbolically. "It's your accent." "What accent?" "Everybody's got an accent. Except for Net.Zealanders, of course," Barry told him, utterly straight faced. Then Joe glared at him, and Barry couldn't help but crack up. Joe smiled. "That's better." He slapped his friend on the shoulder. "Let's go. It's getting chilly out here." When they arrived back Mouse grinned at them and said, "A bit early for going out to see Santa. He won't be driving by till dusk." This puzzled Joe. "Huh?" "Maybe they don't do it anymore, but when I was younger the surf club would arrange for a Santa Claus to be driven around town just before sundown on Christmas Eve in the back of a four wheel drive," she explained. "Well, we're hardly going to be here for _that_, now are we?" Joe replied. The other two grinned. "Time to empty the sand out of the shoes," Barry commented. "Have you got anything clean to wear?" "Oh yeah. Did my laundry yesterday. Heck, I even did my own _ironing_. Just for the occasion." "Will the wonders never cease?" Mouse marvelled. "Just don't take too long in the shower." "Yeah yeah." "<Guys,>" said Harris from the window. "<You'd better have a look at this.>" He was using one of the translator.thingees, so they understood him. Gloria was still having a cow about it, but he didn't let that worry him. The three humans looked at the kiwi, perched on one of the bunk beds up against the outside walls of the verandah room. He was staring out onto the lawn, watching white stuff fall. Outside, it was starting to snow. The weather cooled off, and then continued to cool off indefinitely. Dan got back into his full LNH uniform by slipping his brown leather jacket back on over his T-shirt. The kiwis fluffed themselves up in order to keep warm and sat on the bunks watching the snowfall in wonderment. It wasn't that they'd never seen snow before. At one time or another most kiwis had gone on skiing trips to one of the snowfields. Resort managers still speak in awe and terror of The Great Kiwi Ski Holiday of '85, when fully two thirds of Net.Zealand's kiwi population had decided to visit the Southern Alts. They'd taken over the resorts, skied all day, partied all night, and left holes in the walls where they'd held their drunken head-butting competitions. There was even a species of kiwi, the Alpine Kiwi, which preferred a cold, snow-bound climates. Alpine Kiwis, which are a pale green, have no direct analogues in Real Life (unlike Greater Spotted Kiwis and Little Spotted Kiwis) and when in residence in the LNHQ deliberately set themselves up inhabiting freezers. What had the kiwis bamboozled was not the snow itself, but that it was falling now. In mid summer. At sea level. On the North Is.LAN.d. The temperature continued to drop. --------------------------------------------------------------------- To be continued in Antipodean Antics #2 Character Credits: Dan Andrews (Bladed Lad) created by Campbell 'Sasquatch' March. Barry Knewbee (Fan.Boy) created by Jamas Enright. The kiwis created by Descrii (Ian Porell). Mouse Simons/Connery created by Jaelle (Jessica Ihimaera-Smiler). Joe Forsythe (Retcon Lad) created by Saxon Brenton. All characters copyright and tm 1995 their creators.Back to the Index.