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Episode five: Pointy teeth
"I take it that being screwed is a bad thing," the Wraith said, when they had finally reached the safety of the flowers. They had been forced to wait until the people came home, and then make a run for it through the open front door. It had been a close thing – far closer than Sheppard wanted to experience again for a very long time.
"Yes," he agreed. "Very bad."
"Then who is screwing us?" George demanded.
"I wouldn't put it quite like that." Sheppard thought for a while; wondered how much to tell him. "We need to get to a place called Canada. Trouble is, we're currently on the far side of the world, in a place called England. Worse, we appear to be on… uh…" He tried to scratch his ear, but his arm wouldn't bend that way, and instead vaguely swatted somewhere in the vicinity of his nose. "We're on an off-shore island called the Isle of Wight. I don't know exactly where that is. I only got to know war zones."
"Then we get off it."
"Yes, yes. Of course we get off, but action figures aren't famous for their swimming abilities. I've never seen them winning medals at the Olympics."
"There must be another way off," George said.
"Yes." He sat down, pulling his legs up as far as they would go, which was far more uncomfortable than he was ever going to let on. "We fly. Trouble is, small islands don't usually have international airports."
As if on cue, a plane appeared in the sky, slowly passing across the blue. It had not yet reached its full height, but was far higher than it would have been if it had taken off from anywhere nearby. Sheppard watched it. It was strange, the yearning he felt for it, even though he had never flown a plane like that, or wanted to.
"That is a large vessel," George said, when the plane was almost gone, "and we are small."
"I can fly anything." His yearning made his voice harsh. The Wraith made an incredulous sound, clearly calculating the distance between Sheppard's plastic hands and the likely lay-out of the plane's controls. It would just need a bit of jumping. Or maybe Rodney could rig up some trolley mechanism that would allow him to slide quickly from one end of the control panel to another. If only Rodney was here with him, not a Wraith! It was an alliance of necessity, but, still… a Wraith! They were stuck in the same situation, but there would never be true understanding there, or any sort of comfort when things got bad.
"So we need to get off this island," the Wraith said.
"Yeah." Sheppard stood up. "Follow our nose. Go to the sea."
"What's that?" the Wraith asked, the following morning. "It looks like a fearsome beast." He had clearly not recovered from the adventure with the cat. He had babbled in his sleep, raving about furry tails and whiskers and pink triangular noses. If they lived through this, Sheppard thought, the Wraith would have a new bogeyman in its mythology. Be good, Wraith children would be told, or the fluffy kitten will get you.
Sheppard looked where the Wraith was pointing. "Oh." His body totally failed to manifest the amused relief that he felt. "It's only a rabbit."
"It looks dangerous." The Wraith was still not moving.
"It isn't. It's a rabbit. A cute bunny. It's nothing like the Kitten of Doom," he couldn't resist adding. "They hop and eat carrots and twitch their cute little noses." His step faltered just a little bit. "Of course, things might be different when we're seven inches high and the bunny is taller than us. But it won't savage us, not unless we paint ourselves orange and pretend to be a carrot, and I don't think my acting skills are up to that. A parsnip, maybe…"
"Well, if you are sure." The Wraith started walking again, clearly edgy.
"It could be useful," Sheppard said. The rabbit hadn't moved. "Our trusty steed. I had a horse when I was a kid. Time to put all those lessons to good use. Rabbits move fast." He remembered his one and only trip to England, driving along unnervingly small country roads, and seeing them littered with squashed wild rabbits. "As long as we're ready to eject," he added.
The rabbit remained still. Sheppard reached it, and touched it. "Help me up," he said. It required a bit of clambering, and he was hampered by the fact that his legs wouldn't part at all – didn't even appear to possess the joints that made such movement capable – but he managed it. "Hi ho, Silver!" he cried.
"I am not called Silver," the rabbit replied.
"Crap." Sheppard tried to dismount, but was hampered by not having properly moveable knees. "Does everything talk around here? Do we have talking silverware to look forward to in the future."
"I talk." The rabbit's voice was strangely muffled, as if it was keeping its mouth shut.
"Yeah. I can tell." He managed to slither off the rabbit's back, but his legs were still set in his mounted position, and he fell flat on his face, sinking slightly into the soft earth. At least his hair was set in place, and couldn't get mussed. Got to be grateful for small mercies. There was no need to spend money on hair-care products, either.
"I told you it was a beast," the Wraith said.
"It's still a bunny," Sheppard said, as he struggled upright. "It's not going to eat us. It hasn't got the body parts." Upright at last, he turned back to the rabbit just in time to see it opening its mouth. "Uh… Scratch that."
The teeth closed around his body, just above the waist. He turned his head desperately, and smashed with his pistol at whatever he could reach, deep inside the rabbit's throat. Teeth dug into his shoulder and his back and his waist, and it hurt, oh God, it hurt, but he kept on struggling, striking out with his fist and his pistol, and was dimly aware of the Wraith shouting, somewhere far away.
Just as he thought he was going to die, the rabbit spat him out again. "What was that about?" Sheppard gasped, as soon as he was able. "You're a rabbit."
"A vicious plot bunny," the rabbit said. "That was what my last owner called me. But she always made me jump to her tune, so I escaped. I went rogue. I am now a rogue plot bunny. Nobody tells me what to do."
"Plot…" He swallowed. "Bunny. This… this is crazy. Your teeth…! They're… they're soft fabric, and I'm made of hard plastic. There's no way you should be able to bite me. There's no way it should hurt like a bitch."
"Plot bunnies," the rabbit said stiffly, "do not have to follow any normal laws of logic. If we want to hurt our target, we hurt them. Mere laws of physics and other universal constants do not trouble us."
"That's cheating," Sheppard protested.
"Of course." The plot bunny looked almost flattered by the accusation. It raised one ear in a manner that reminded Sheppard of the way Rodney raised a finger. "Plot coming on," it said. "Come, my minions!"
Sheppard looked nervously around, readying himself to defend himself. Suddenly, out of a clear air, descended a flight of slightly confused looking hummingbirds. They poked at him with their serrated beaks, drawing blood. He raised his hands, tried to keep them away, but the nearest one laughed, green poison dripping from its razor sharp break. Incredibly agony speared through Sheppard's body as the beak impaled him, and…
"See?" said the plot bunny. The birds were gone as quickly as they had come. Sheppard tried to touch his chest, but his hand couldn't quite reach. The beak had gone right through! But he was plastic! And surely hummingbirds didn't carry poison…! "That was a good one." the bunny said with satisfaction.
"No it wasn't," Sheppard said firmly. The agony was only slowly abating.
"Oh, there's plenty more where that came from," the bunny said. "I was the best. My owner won prizes for the creativity of her plots. What about this one?"
Sheppard suddenly found himself collapsing to the ground. He knew he couldn't go on, knew he would die here. "Sheppard!" The Wraith couldn't kneel, of course, because his stiff plastic jacket was too long for him to bend his legs, but he looked across the place where Sheppard lay.
Should he tell him, Sheppard thought. If he was going to die here, should he tell the Wraith everything he knew about the geography of Earth in order to give him a chance to get back home? If he didn't, his team would never know what had happened to him. If he did, he could ask the Wraith to carry final messages to his team. "If you make it," he gasped, "tell them…" But, no! Then the Wraith would know that this was Earth, and would know how to find it. He didn't know what to do, and life was leaving him. To trust, or not to trust…?
"See?" The bunny's voice was bright. "That was Angst."
Sheppard pushed himself to his feet again. "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
"Plot bunnies can never be silenced," the bunny said. "They come upon you in the dead of night, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. Of course–" Its eyes glittered in the sun. "–I'm a vicious plot bunny. Would you rather have met a smutty plot bunny? I'm sure there are lots of creative ways to persuade the two of you to–"
"We're not listening," Sheppard announced. He didn't dare look at the Wraith.
"The bunny made us do it," the rabbit finished, speaking in irritating quotes. "We plot bunnies are behind everything. Didn't you see that James Bond movie – the one with the super-villain who stroked a white cat? It was a bunny, really, wearing a cat suit. Plots for world domination are nothing without a plot bunny. There is one behind your current predicament, of course."
"What?" Sheppard surged forward, heedless of the agony. "Where?"
"Oh, not like that." The rabbit flicked its ears. "There's still a nemesis out there; the bunny's just whispering in his ear. Or hers." It shrugged. "I don't know. I just dish out the whump. It's a gift. I was wasted in my first job – seen as nothing but a set of sharp teeth, just having to tear out people's throats. Where's the creativity in that?"
"Why do you have sharp teeth, anyway?" Sheppard couldn't resist asking. "I'm no zoologist, but I'm sure that bunnies normally… don't."
"Don't you recognise me?" The bunny stood a little taller, moving into a beam of sunlight. "Nasty sharp pointy teeth. 'We are the knights who say Ni!'. I'm not dead yet!'" It tilted its head. "Anything?"
Sheppard shook his head. Behind his back, he made urgent gestures with his hand.
"I'm being repressed? She's a witch? No?" It sighed stiffly. "What about this one: Nobody expect the Spanish Inquisition. The dead parrot. Oh, and the song: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
It started to sing. The whistling was not very tuneless, hampered by teeth and fabric.
Sheppard turned to the Wraith. "Run away!" he hissed. The rabbit's singing grew louder. "Run away!" Sheppard pushed George in the back, shoving him on. "Run away!"
Running was hard. The agony from the bunny's attack was slow to leave him, and Sheppard knew he wouldn't make it far before he collapsed. All he had to do was make it far enough.
From behind him, ever further away, came the sound of the bunny's singing:
"If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten, and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing."
If only it was that easy, he thought, as his legs failed, and he fell to the ground. He struggled to raise himself, but it was beyond him. He sank towards the darkness, as far away, the rabbit sang:
"For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow."
He couldn't even grin, because his face was plastic, and his points of articulation couldn't cope with bowing. He heard the Wraith call his name, but after that there was only nothing.
And now for the Blooper Real
In next week's thrilling episode: Images of Sheppard looking broken in the rain. Fast-paced images of confusion and fighting. "You're dead, Sheppard," George says. Sheppard screams.
You can read it here