Foreign and Domestic
a Bug's Life fanfic
by
C. "Sparky" Read

Chapter One

"Huvri jutti ipsanivich! Greeti killonowat!"

"Trev brittpa chandef! Latva frezzi frinka!"

Rosie put her hands to her head. "Make them stop," she groaned.

Slim grabbed Tuck, and Francis grabbed Roll. Just in time - the two pillbugs looked about ready to bite oneanother.

"That's enough," Slim told them, but was naturally ignored.

"Geez, what're they fighting about this time, anyways?" wondered Francis.

"Who knows?" said Heimlich distractedly from where he was sorting some leaves.

"Not us, that's for sure," grumbled Francis. He released Roll, who curled up with a pop and tumbled out of the tent. Slim gingerly put Tuck down, and the pillbug also curled up and followed his brother. "You know, it might be nice," the ladybug went on, mostly to himself, "if we could actually, I don't know, communicate with our own troupemates."

Gypsy smoothed her antennae and sat on a piece of artgum eraser next to her husband. "We get along," she pointed out. "We have always managed."

"Well, they don't get along," grumped Francis.

"Don't complain, Red." P.T. sprang into the tent, holding a small wad of cash. "They're the best tumbling act in town. Not that they're miracle workers - Just look at this!" he announced, waving the wad. "This is all we made last night!"

"P.T.," said Slim, "just how much of that is ours?"

The flea clutched the cash protectively. "I haven't balanced the books yet," he retorted. "Just wait until payday." P.T. strode to the middle of the tent, one hand to his chin. "Worse yet," he said at last, "I hear there's another circus, just rolled into town before dawn."

Francis groaned. "We don't need that kind of competition."

"Vat shall ve do?" Heimlich fretted.

"It doesn't matter," interjected Rosie quickly. "We've already given one show here. We have word of mouth on our side."

Slim nodded. "And if it means only our audience of last night will visit our competitors, we have nothing to worry about," he said drily. "How many did we have, P.T.? Five, maybe six?"

P.T. gritted his teeth. "I decline to answer," he responded.

"P.T.," said Gypsy before another argument could begin, "we were wondering if we might be able to gather pine needles today?"

The flea frowned. "Time to start decorating for the Solstace already, huh? Well, I suppose you guys can go. I've got the crew working on the props and the wagon. Just be here twenty minutes before showtime. I have to hit the books." And with that P.T. leapt out of the tent.

"Oh boy!" enthused Heimlich, his worry about the other circus forgotten. "I luf gathering the needles for the Vinter Solstace!"

Rosie laughed. "That's the kind of spirit the Solstace is all about," she told the butterfly. "Wish we could see more of it around here."

"Hey!" shouted Francis. "You're talkin' 'bout me, aren't ya?"

"Come along then,"said Manny, finding a cloth sack among some props. "Let us go now, before the dew dries."

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o

They returned at noon, Dim's back piled high with fragrant pine needles. Slim and Francis carried a small pinecone between them. Tuck and Roll, whom the others had found and easily persuaded to come along, followed behind the group, occasionally chucking gravel at eachother and laughing uproariously.

When they reached the tent, Rosie, who was at the front of the procession, stopped short. "That's odd," she said.

"What is?" Francis wanted to know.

Rosie nodded towards the tent. "Listen."

Everyone listened. Tuck and Roll, realising that everyone else had stopped talking, fell silent and listened as well.

Slim frowned. "Who is that in there talking to P.T.?" he wondered aloud.

Heimlich shrugged. "He does not usually talk to anyone unless it is about money," he pointed out.

Manny nodded. "Then that must be what it is about."

"Should we wait outside, do you think?" asked Gyspy.

"Maybe we should," said Rosie. Everyone walked to the side of the tentflap and sat down on the assorted toothpicks, pencil stubs, and other junk that littered the ground there.

"It's going to be quite a Solstace," said Slim in an attempt to get the conversation started up again.

"Ja, it sure is!" Heimlich found a dry leaf on the ground and began munching on it. "We have enuf pine needles for three Solstaces."

"Yeah. And maybe this year the pinecone won't get knocked into the candle and burned up in a raging inferno." Francis glared pointedly at Tuck and Roll. The oblivious pillbugs were arguing again.

Rosie nudged the ladybug. "That was an honest accident," she insisted.

Francis rolled his eyes. "Honestly dumb."

"I'm telling you, Mr. Farkas, you've got the wrong circus." P.T.'s voice drifted outside and was immediately thereafter followed by its owner. "Why don't you try the next town over, eh?" the flea called into the tent.

Instead of replying, the insect P.T. was speaking to pushed the tentflap aside and stepped out. He was a tall, dark cockroach wearing an impressive tophat and clutching an aged, silver-topped cane in one of his four hands. Another hand held a cigarrette in an expensive-looking holder, and he waved this grandly. "Nonsense," he spoke, his voice oily-smooth and thickly accented - it sounded like Eastern European. "I am certain that this is the very circus I have been searching for."

The circus performers instinctively shrank away from this sinister-looking bug, and Tuck and Roll disappeared altogether behind a nearby weed.

"Yeah?" P.T. went on defensively. "Prove it!"

"P.T.!" hissed Rosie urgently to the flea. "What is going on?"

P.T. glowered. "This nutcase says that - "

"Here is proof," interrupted Mr. Farkas, pulling a rolled-up poster, yellow with age, out from under one of his long wings. "You see?" he said, unrolling the poster for all to see, "there they are."

Everyone scanned the poster. There was a representation of somone who was clearly Farkas in the center, and he was surrounded by other images: a tarantula confronting a savage-looking scorpion; a clickbeetle firebreather; a lestes tightrope walker, a paper wasp strongman; and -

"Hey!" said Slim suddenly. "Isn't that Tuck and Roll?"

Sure enough, one of the pictures was of two young pillbugs balancing on a cannon.

Gypsy frowned and looked around in time to see Tuck and Roll peeking around the weed. She remained silent.

"It is clear to your performers," said Farkas smoothly, rolling up the poster and whisking it back under his wing like a magic trick. "I shall be collecting my property...now."

"Vat?" blurted Heimlich. "Oh no, they are not - "

"I'll handle this, Heimlich," said P.T. evenly. "Look Gruesome," he addressed the serene cockroach, "those pillbugs are mine. They work for P.T. Flea's Circus now, so beat it, cappish?"

"I have their contracts," answered Farkas, pulling two sheets of paper out from under his other wing and holding them out. "These, of course, are merely copies. But as you can see, they have been signed as well."

"Yeah? So what! ...P.T.!" Francis told the flea, "just show 'em your contracts for them."

P.T. trembled. "Um...my contracts?" he repeated.

Rosie gasped. "P.T.!" she said. "Didn't you ever have them sign contracts?"

The flea was flustered. "They didn't understand anything I said!" he cried defensively. "I was lucky to get them in the ring at all!"

Farkas handed the contracts to P.T., who took them numbly. "You are a true businessman, Mr. Flea . It is decided, yes? My performers shall return to my circus?"

Everyone looked expectantly at P.T. He fidgeted for a bit, then at last simply sighed. "Oh...I guess so - Hey!" he told the others. "Don't give me that look! I can't do anything about it!"

"Well?" prompted Farkas.

"Yeah yeah," grumbled P.T. He looked around. "Where'd those two get to?"

Farkas looked over his shoulder. "Izo!" he barked.

A massive tarantula - the one from the poster - scuttled around the tent in response to the summons. Farkas nodded to Izo, and then to the weed. Izo nodded back, marched up to the weed, reached in, and yanked out the two surprised pillbugs by their antennae.

"Boyos!" said Farkas amiably, walking up to the two dangling and frightened-looking pillbugs. "Tookva! Roolna! Htse havva sarkxi lan!..Gre tula jenkli fisi."

Tuck clasped two of his hands together. "Kretla fre - " he began, but Farkas silenced him with a sharp look. "Tuja krenki forna," the cockroach told Izo. In response the tarantula tucked the pillbugs under his well-muscled arms and turned to go.

"Hey!" cried Rosie, and Dim took a menacing step towards the tarantula. "What do you think you're doing?"

Farkas took a leisurly drag on his cigarette. "I am collecting my performers," he explained a moment later, blowing smoke in Rosie's direction. "They are mine. I have their contracts; they belong to me. Izo!" He turned and walked away from the tent. The tarantula followed silently.

Rosie ran after them. "You can't take them without letting us say goodbye!" she said firmly, fury at her friends' treatment edging her voice.

Farkas stopped, but motioned Izo to continue away from the tent and into the surrounding grass. "Very well," he said, reaching under a wing and pulling out a stack of small paper scraps. "Please, attend our show. You shall see your former companions there. I promise you a performance you will never forget."

Rosie took the tickets and stared at them for a moment as Farkas turned and resumed his retreat into the grass. She threw the tickets down in anger. "Did you see what they did?" she cried, whirling on the others.

Manny put his hands to his face. "I've never seen such brutality!" he remarked.

"P.T., there must be something you can do," Gypsy implored.

P.T. just headed back into the tent, although he drooped a little. "Business is business," he said shortly, and disappeared from sight.

"How terrible." Slim sat despondantly on a foilball. "They did not look happy at all to rejoin their former ringmaster."

"That's because he is obviously a brute," said Rosie between clenched teeth.

"What about the Solstace?"

"Ya," Heimlich said, turning to Dim. "We will neffer again have a Solstace with Tuck and Roll."

"Not to mention," said Manny, "we will never have another payday celebration with them."

"We won't get to watch them confuse P.T.," sighed Gypsy.

"Yeah or place bets on which will win a fistfight - What?" demanded Francis as everyone glared at him.

"We haf to get them back!" insisted Heimlich.

Slim shook his head. "How?" he asked. "You heard P.T., they never signed contracts for this circus, and apparently their contracts with Mr. Farkas are still good."

"But how do we know that?" Rosie put her hands on her hips. "None of us can read Hungarian. What if Farkas is lying? We still don't know under what circumstances Tuck and Roll left his circus."

Manny slowly collected the tickets Rosie had discarded on the ground. "That is true," the mantis said. "But we do know what condition they were in when they joined this one."

Gypsy clasped her hands together. "The poor things. They were half starved, and so unhappy...do you remember?"

Rosie nodded. "I remember," she said. "And I think a few things have been explained." She walked over to Manny and took the tickets from him. "I think some of us should go check things out for ourselves."

Francis yawned. "Tomorrow, okay?"

The black widow agreed. "Definitely tomorrow."