Honey, I Shrunk the Kids from C.A.P.E.R.

The secret word is: "Small"

Life was peaceful in the back room of Northeast Southweston's 927th police precinct where C.A.P.E.R. headquarters are located. It was almost noon on a Wednesday. Doc was feeding data cards into his computer in the corner. Bugs was doing some light sweeping around the office. And I had decided the file cabinets needed dusting. Seymour doesn't like it when things get too dusty . . . dust plays havoc with his sinus passages. Oh, I should explain that I'm P.T. and Seymour is my nose.

"There!" I said as I finished. "Much better. Now all Seymour has to contend with is that cologne you chose to wear today, Bugs."

"I only put on a drop!" Bugs defended himself.

"You know that any extrinsic scents can interfere with P.T.'s abilities," Doc reminded him.

"Well, it doesn't look like it will matter much today since we don't seem to be getting any cases," I pointed out.

"I hope Doomsday gets here with the lunch soon," Bugs complained. "I'm getting hungry."

"He certainly isn't missing out on anything," Doc commented. "Even the computer is bored."

"Maybe the computer would like to do some of the sweeping?" Bugs suggested.

The door opened and Sgt. Vinton entered, looking concerned. "Boys, we have a serious problem," he began.

We hopped to attention, awaiting orders.

"Don't worry, Sgt. Vinton," I assured him. "Whichever criminal needs caught, whichever ne'er-do-wells need nabbed, whichever lawbreaker needs lassoed, we can handle it! Because we are . . . "

"The Civilian Authority for the Protection of Everybody, Regardless," we recited.

"Tadaa!" sang Doc.

There was then an awkward silence.

"Um . . . Sgt. Vinton . . . would you . . . would you mind filling in since Doomsday's not back yet?" I asked.

Sgt. Vinton really looked as if he'd rather not, but quietly he murmured a "Tadaa," under his breath.

"Tadaa!" sang Bugs.

"Tadaa!" I finished, adding a nice little impromptu jazz closing.

"So what's the case?" Bugs asked excitedly.

"Mice," Sgt. Vinton stated.

"Mice?" we all asked.

"That's right, boys," Sgt. Vinton paced, his eyes scanning the corners of the room. "Mice. The police station is becoming overrun. We run a clean precinct here and mice can really bog down our otherwise smooth operation."

Doc and I exchanged a look of confusion but Bugs seemed interested in what Sgt. Vinton was saying.

"Don't you worry!" Bugs assured him. "We'll do everything we can to eliminate the pests!"

"Glad to hear it!" Sgt. Vinton patted Bugs' shoulder. "That's the spirit I like to see. Carry on, boys."

"So our case is to incarcerate mice?" I asked.

"I say eliminate them!" Bugs said enthusiastically.

"But we're not exterminators," Doc pointed out.

"Leave them to me," Bugs said. "I'll take care of them!" He started stalking around the room with his broom, poking in corners and trying to flush out anything which might be lurking unseen in the shadows.

"I didn't know you were so into blood sports, Bugs," I commented.

"At least it's something to do!" Bugs explained, poking the broom behind the water cooler. "Here, Mr. Whiskers! Come on out!"

The door opened again and Doomsday entered, carrying an extra large pizza box which he set down on the desk. "Lunch is served!" he announced, opening the box as Doc and I approached. "I got it with the works . . . mozzarella, chocolate sauce, treacle and marshmallow creme."

"Come on, Great White Hunter," I called to Bugs. "Better get some while it lasts!"

Bugs set aside his broom and joined us. We each took a piece of pizza and started eating. Except for Doomsday. We realized he had taken his slice and was moving around the room, breaking off bits and dropping them onto the floor. With every piece he dropped, he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a handful of M&Ms, which he dropped as well.

We all watched with confusion as Doomsday moved from corner to corner, repeating this same action. Bugs began following closely behind Doomsday, peering around him every time he stooped down. "Hey, I just swept there," Bugs finally complained.

"Oh, sorry, Bugs," Doomsday offered. "These are for my friends."

"Well, the floor may be clean but I wouldn't say it's clean enough to eat off," Bugs countered.

"Doomsday, your friends wouldn't happen to be gray and furry, would they?" Doc asked.

"No," Doomsday answered.

"That's good," Doc sighed with relief.

"They're more of a brownish color," Doomsday corrected.

We all let out a moan. "Doomsday, you shouldn't be feeding the mice in here," Doc scolded.

"But they're hungry!" Doomsday cried.

"Sgt. Vinton was just in here complaining about the mice in the building," I explained.

"And Bugs has declared himself chief exterminator," Doc added.

Doomsday looked horrified. "Bugs! You would hurt a poor defenseless little mouse, would you?"

"If Mr. Whiskers pokes his nose out while I'm watching . . . whack!" Bugs promised, picking up the broom and slamming it down for emphasis.

"Oh, I don't believe it," Doomsday scoffed. "I know you better than that, Bugs. You couldn't hurt a fly."

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "Killing mice doesn't require any charm."

"Or brains," Doc added.

"And certainly not sweetness," I continued. "It only requires brute force and a neanderthal's sensibility."

"Yeah, see?" Bugs said proudly. "I'm the perfect guy for the job!"

"Oh, I don't want to hear about it," Doomsday sighed sadly, covering his ears with his hands. He moved to the bench on the other side of the room and sat down, then consoled himself by saying, "Well, at least the mice will be able to smell you coming."

"This cologne happens to be very popular with the ladies!" Bugs insisted.

The door opened and a blonde woman came in. She was wearing a casual jumpsuit and carrying a large box with a metal and wood casing.

"Hi, I'm . . . " She stopped in mid-sentence and looked around, sniffing. "Ew, what's that smell?"

"Sewage Channel No. 5," I answered.

Bugs sighed and walked to the other side of the desk as the girl set the box down next to the television set.

"Ooh, that's a cool-looking radio!" I commented, and reached over to touch it.

"Don't touch it!" the girl cried, slapping my hand away. "It's not a radio. It's a highly secret invention."

"They usually are," Doc commented.

"This happens to be a shrink ray machine," she informed us. "I invented it myself."

"I like your choice of wood accents on the housing," I noted, leaning over to have a sniff. "Mmm, walnut?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "My name is Violet Blue and I really need your help. Someone is trying to steal my invention!"

"Someone usually is," Doc commented.

"In fact, two men followed me here," Violet said worriedly.

"What did they look like?" I asked.

"One was short and heavy, the other was tall and slim," Violet remembered.

"They usually are," Doc commented.

"Anything else?" I asked.

"No, nothing notable," Violet answered, then added, "Oh, except that they wore white suits with white bowler hats."

We looked at each other and sighed, "The Brock Boys."

"Who?" Violet asked.

"Bric and Brac Brock," Doc answered. "They're noted criminals in the city."

"Their parents were the infamous Helene and Richard Brock," I added.

"H & R Brock?" Violet asked.

"Racketeers, swindlers, thieves, arsonists and litterbugs," Bugs explained.

"Ironically they were finally put away for tax evasion," I added.

"And Bric and Brac are chips off the old Brock," Doomsday threw in.

"They're every bit the chiselers their parents were," I noted.

"I think they may have followed me here," Violet said worriedly.

"The Brocks are on our block?" Doomsday cried.

"I saw them as I was walking over here," Violet noted. "I kept my eye on them, though."

"You took stock of the Brocks on your walk to our block?" Bugs asked anxiously. "Doc!"

"We should investigate this," Doc suggested.

"Good idea," I agreed. "Doc, Doomsday and I will take our C.A.P.E.R. band radios and search around the immediate vicinity. Bugs, you stay here and guard the shrink ray machine."

"Sure thing, P.T.," Bugs agreed.

We grabbed our radios and Doc and I headed out the door. Doomsday was about to follow when he noticed Bug grabbing the handle of the broom. "Don't you dare hurt any mice while we're gone!" Doomsday warned him.

"Oh, you like animals?" Violet asked, intrigued.

"I love animals," Doomsday confirmed with a shy smile.

"I just love men who love animals," Violet sidled next to him.

"Do . . . do you want to come with me to look for the Brock Boys?" Doomsday asked. "I can introduce you to a few of the pigeons in the neighborhood."

"Oh, I'd love to!" Violet agreed, and she and Doomsday walked through the police station and met Doc and I out front.

"Okay, we'll split up and search in different directions," I suggested. "Doc, you go north. Doomsday, you go south. And I'll make a circle of the area. If anyone spots the Brock Boys, call on the C.A.P.E.R. band radios and we'll come to help. If not, we'll meet back in the C.A.P.E.R. room. Got it?"

"Got it," everyone confirmed, and we went our different directions.

Inside the C.A.P.E.R. room, Bugs was scanning the corners of the room again, searching for mice. Not seeing any, he stood by the desk and studied the shrink ray machine. It had a large red button on one side and a switch marked "Shrink / Reverse" on the front. Bugs looked from the machine to their little television set and felt bad that their poor TV looked so worn out next to this shining new contraption.

"There, there," Bugs comforted the TV. "Don't feel jealous." He patted the top of the set, which happened to turn on. "Oh, a Klinsinger Report!" Bugs noted, and he started watching.

"Is our beloved 927th police precinct deteriorating?" Klinsinger was asking seriously. "Becoming infested with underlying sabotage? Suffering from a constant and steady assault from within? This fearless reporter will tell you that the answer is an astonishing yes! What vile vermin have infiltrated the walls of our sacred city sanctuary of law and order? Mice. Yes, the police headquarters building is reportedly overrun with the diseased rodents, scurrying their way into police records and nibbling away at expensive equipment paid for with our tax dollars. We have obtained this exclusive photo of Sgt. Vinton as he attempts to address the problem." A picture flashed on the screen of Sgt. Vinton standing on top of a chair and looking terrified.

"Outrageous!" Bugs cried, slapping the top of the television to turn it off. "Those mice are making a laughing stock out of the police force!"

A small movement out of the corner of his eye caught Bugs' attention and he quickly turned to see a mouse nibbling at one of the crumbs of pizza Doomsday had laid out.

Bugs quickly snatched up the broom and carefully stalked toward the mouse. "Okay, Mr. Whiskers . . . this is it . . . "

The mouse spotted Bugs just as the broom came down. It scurried along the wall, ducking around some cola bottles which had been set aside on the floor for return. The broom swept past the bottles, knocking several of them over. The mouse then dodged behind a waste paper basket and made a mad dash for the file cabinets.

"Gotcha!" Bugs cried, swinging the broom back wildly. In his enthusiasm he lost his grip on the handle and it flew behind him, striking the red button on the side of the machine.

There was a hum, a strange flash of light, and Bugs felt very strange and disoriented. He seemed to be in a completely different place than he had been just a moment before. He looked around with confusion, trying to figure out what had happened.

"Where am I?" he wondered, gazing around at the wide open but somehow enclosed space and the odd-looking buildings in front of him. They were grayish in color and had signs at different levels. The sign on the first floor read "W - Z."

"How do you get in there?" Bugs wondered. "There are no doors or windows!" He then noticed the interesting piece of sculpture in front of the building.

"Ha, that's clever," he thought. "They made it look like an empty cola bottle."

Bugs looked behind him and could see a huge fallen tree laying on the ground in front of two tall blocks. Looking up he could make out what looked like a giant metal and wood finished radio.

"Say, that looks like . . . " Bugs finally recognized the machine on the desk and he gasped. The fallen tree wasn't a tree . . . it was the broom laying on the floor! And the blocks were the drawers of the desk!

"Oh no! That machine shrank me!" Bugs cried.

He stood in shock for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. He seemed to be all right apart from the fact that he was no more than an inch tall. He looked around desperately . . . there was no telling when we would return. And even when we did come back, how would he be able to get our attention?

All of these thoughts were interrupted when he heard the noise of scrambling toenails on the cement floor behind him, which grew louder then stopped abruptly. Slowly he turned and found himself face to face with a mouse . . . only this mouse was gigantic! Standing right beside it Bugs would barely have been able to see over its shoulder!

The mouse sniffed at Bugs questioningly. Bugs took a step or two back, nervous about the twitching nose inspecting him.

"Take it easy, Mr. Whiskers," he said with a nervous laugh. "I didn't really mean all that stuff with the broom, you know."

The mouse sneezed and then gave Bugs what was unmistakably an angry look. It bared its razor-sharp incisors menacingly.

"Okay, fair enough!" Bugs cried, and he turned to run.

The mouse hesitated a moment, then ran after Bugs. Bugs ran faster, then made a desperate leap for the opening of the cola bottle. He managed to pull himself up through the hole and then tumbled down inside.

The mouse stood up on its hind paws and stuck its nose in the bottle opening, squeaking angrily. Bugs knew the mouse was too big to get inside, but he backed away from the opening anyway.

"Easy there, Mr. Whiskers," Bugs urged. "Can't we talk about this?"

The mouse began running around the bottle, trying to get at Bugs through the distorted glass. Bugs struggled to remain on his feet as the bottle rocked whenever the mouse bumped it.

The mouse circled the bottle once more, then lunged at Bugs, knocking sharply into the hard glass. The bottle started to roll and Bugs found himself being tossed around as if he were in a House of Fun barrel roll. When the bottle settled and Bugs shook the dizziness from his head, he saw the mouse looking at him through the distorted glass. He could have sworn the mouse had a mischievous look in its beady little black eyes.

"Oh come on! No!" Bugs cried.

The mouse lunged at the bottle again and again, pushing it in wide circles on the ground. Bugs found himself alternately pinned against the glass by centrifugal force and thrown about by the sudden lack of centrifugal force. "Whoooaaaa! Stop!" Bugs cried, which only seemed to egg the mouse on.

All at once the bottle clinked to a sudden stop against the wall. Bugs was slammed against the glass and collapsed in a daze. The mouse then began jumping at the bottle opening, inadvertently pushing the bottle back along the wall until it slipped between the end file cabinet and the wall.

It was at this moment Doc returned to the C.A.P.E.R. room, not having had any luck finding the Brock Boys. The first thing he noticed was that no one was in the room. The second thing he noticed was the broom laying on the floor. He set his C.A.P.E.R. band radio on the desk and reached down to pick up the broom.

"That's strange," he thought aloud. "Why did Bugs leave the shrink ray machine unguarded? He'd better not be off somewhere hunting mice instead!"

The third thing Doc noticed was a strange clinking sound coming from somewhere nearby. He turned around, leaning the broom against the desk and then he began searching for the source of the sound. Doc being as smart as he is, it didn't take him long to realize it was coming from the crack between the file cabinet and the wall.

He reached up to retrieve a flashlight from the top of one cabinet and turned it on, leaning over to peer in the narrow space. He could see a mouse jumping at a cola bottle, causing it to clink against the hard surfaces surrounding it. But he only saw this for a second, because the light scared the mouse, which clamored over the bottle and disappeared into a small crevice in the back corner. He couldn't be sure, but Doc also thought he saw a bug of some kind inside the bottle.

"They should really wash these bottles before setting them out for return," Doc sighed. "No wonder we're attracting bugs as well as mice!"

Now I may have mentioned on previous occasions how smart Doc is. But even Doc can make a mistake once in a very great while. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. Because when he set the broom against the table he did it when he was distracted and he didn't really lean it very carefully. As a result, the broom had started slipping from its upright position and fell, striking the red button on the side of the machine.

There was a hum, a strange flash of light, and Doc felt very strange and disoriented. But it didn't take him long to figure out what happened. He is very smart, after all. He was still standing in front of the file cabinet. He was still looking into the dark crack between the cabinet and the wall. Only now the dark crack was a yawning crevice, and his flashlight could barely penetrate the blackness.

"Well, this is a bit of a predicament," Doc sighed, looking around with concern.

"You can say that again," a voice replied wearily from the crevice.

Surprised, Doc ventured into the darkness until his flashlight found the cola bottle. He shone the light upward and saw Bugs hanging out of the bottle opening; his hat in his hand, glasses askew and looking decidedly sick.

"Bugs! What happened?" Doc asked needlessly. "You look green."

Bugs finished crawling out of the opening and fell to the ground, laying motionless on his back. "Let's just say Mr. Whiskers had his revenge," Bugs moaned.

"This is no time to lay around!" Doc complained. "We're in serious trouble! We have to think of a way to signal the others so they know what's happened to us."

"You do that," Bugs sighed. "You think of a way to signal the others. I'm just going to lay here until the world stops spinning."

****************************************

Meanwhile, Doomsday and Violet were strolling casually at the park, which was south of the precinct.

"I just love your pigeon friends," Violet said, hanging on to Doomsday's arm.

"They like you, too," Doomsday assured her. "Although if we'd brought bread crumbs they would have liked you more."

"You have such a way with animals," Violet sighed. "And it's so nice of you to protect me from those bad men who are after my invention."

"Oh yeah, weren't we supposed to be looking for someone?" Doomsday remembered.

"The Brock Boys," I reminded him.

Doomsday and Violet turned to see I had walked up behind them. "Have you seen them anywhere?" I asked.

"No," Doomsday assured me quickly. "I mean, I don't think so . . . "

I gave Doomsday a gentle look of reproach, then smiled. "Okay, well, I'm going to make the full circle again just to be sure. On the way back to the precinct, try to keep your mind on the task at hand, all right?"

"Yes, P.T.," Doomsday nodded.

I left them to walk back alone. I couldn't be too upset with Doomsday for forgetting his job. They did make a cute couple, after all.

"This time I won't get distracted!" Doomsday stated firmly.

"You're so dedicated to your work," Violet smiled.

Doomsday immediately melted, taking her hand in his. Then he looked confused and asked, "What were we looking for again?"

"Come on," Violet laughed, and she started leading him back to the precinct.

Little did any of us know, the Brock Boys were hidden behind some bushes not far from where I had stopped Doomsday and Violet.

"There's the girl!" Bric said eagerly.

"But she doesn't have the machine with her," Brac noted.

"Then we'll keep following her," Bric said. "And she'll lead us right to the machine!"

They both laughed with menacing glee.