Chuck Norris allows this Disclaimer to live:I don't own HTF.

Chapter Seven: My Captives and Other Animals

At the back of the prison cell, Russel stood and stretched. It had worked, he couldn't believe it had actually worked. Being ignored all the time was finally paying off for him. He sniffed contemptuously, those raccoons sure were stupid. Tying Russel up with ropes? Yeah, big mistake. He'd cut his hands free with his hook ages ago and those leg cuffs. What legs? Russel's grin widened into a massive, almost face splitting smile and he tossed his head back, laughing heartily. A real pirate laugh.

"Yar har har!" Russel roared, clutching his belly and tipping his head back, finally drawing the attention of everyone in the room. Well, except for Sniffles and Petunia, who were either too busy fending off a love-struck lobster or cleaning the floor. Russel beamed at them, enjoying there eyes upon him. So this is why Toothy was always acting like that.

"Well me hearties," Russel began, putting on his best I'm-a-pirate voice, "Who wants to be free?" The other children cheered, and Mime nodded vigorously, still struggling with ropes. Russel looked down at the little deer by his feet. "You were tied to me."

The deer nodded.

"I cut the ropes."

The deer gazed at him expectantly and Russel face palmed, before shrugging and cutting Mime free of his self-perceived ropes. The little deer jumped to his feet, before promptly turning and heading towards the skunk. He grabbed her ropes, wrenching and pulling at them with his hands, straining as the ropes dug into his skin. Meanwhile Russel walked calmly around the room, cutting the ropes of Cuddles and Giggles with his hook, before unlocking the chains that bound Toothy and Flaky with an improvised tool, a clever mix of one of Flaky's spines, a match, and a couple too many pounds of gunpowder. Toothy blinked, rubbing soot out of his eyes.

"Yeah. Thanks. I really needed that." Russel smiled at him and shrugged apologetically. Toothy smacked him round the head before glaring around the room. Cuddles and Giggles were over at the door of the cell block, trying to force it open, but to no avail. There wasn't anything on the bodies of the guards either. Code lock, go fig.

"Doesn't it just take your breath away." Giggles wondered to Cuddles as they both tried to pull open the lock.

"Y-yeah," Cuddles groaned, putting a foot on the wall and straining, "Pulling this door is really hard work."

"No, not that," the chipmunk face palmed, "I'm talking about this whole cell. I mean, come on, these guys can't of been in Happy Tree Town more than a week, and they've already built a concrete cell bunker." Cuddles stopped pulling, stared at her for a minute, and blinked.

"Wow." Cuddles took a step back, "That's some work-ethic."

"Really makes you think, doesn't it?"

"No." Toothy rolled his eyes and stepped forwards, shoving passed the two dumbfounded critters and growled, wrenching at the door, with decidedly less effect than Cuddles and Giggles had had on it. He growled, gritting his teeth and straining. Sure this was Happy Tree Town and doing that was probably going to rip his arm off or something, but, hell, someone had to play the hero. He closed his eyes, grinding his teeth together as he tore at the door.

"Evenin' gents." Someone said from behind him, "Looks like you lads are in a spot of bother." Toothy turned, glaring around him to see who had spoken. "Who said that?" he demanded "You trying to scare us or something? Cos it's not working!"

"Blimey," the voice chattered, as the speaker jumped onto Toothy's nose, "Put a sock in it. No need to be an arse about it ya sad duffer."

Toothy shuddered, his eyes crossing as he stared at the speaker. A tiny ant, no more than a couple of centimeters tall (which, incidentally made it a giant by ant standards) in an expensive looking frilly pink dress. It grinned up at him, repositioning its bonnet and batting its eyelashes at the beaver. It took in the dumbfounded look with a sort of wondering pleasure as it tried to hide a large pin behind its back, or at least pretend it was a parasol.

"What."

"What? What? What do ya mean what?" The ant squeaked, taking a step towards Toothy's eye and brandishing it's pin wickedly, "Ya tramp. Why I oughta, I oughta box ya ears, I oughta give ya a knuckle sandwich, oughta kick ya in the joules. Arggh." The creature swept it's weapon up, carving at the flesh on Toothy's nose. The beaver gasped in pain, and the ant gave a shriek as a hook ripped her off the other boy and hung her high above the ground. Russel gave a whoop of victory and Toothy bristled, taking a step towards the creature.

"Are all English people this annoying?" Toothy groaned.

"English. ENGLISH! What the bloody hell makes ya think I'm English, ya berk," The ant squeaked, punching and kicking at the larger creatures around her, "What the hell is England anyway. Never 'eard a no England round 'ere. I'm Tree Town born and bred, me. Name's Harriette Persephone Fiona Willamina Felecia Cruella Antimyer III, but you can call me Ari. Ari the ant. Ain't anything English about that name!"

"So, why the English accent then?" Cuddles asked, raising an eyebrow .

"Clean out ya ears ya gormless nancy boy, like I said, I ain't no Limey, I'm just evil is all." Ari fluffed her hair and pouted. "Now, way I 'ear it, you fellas are in a right jam, eh? Need some 'elp from little old me." Toothy laughed.

"If you think you can open that door feel free. I'd like to see you try."

"Cor blimey, you been trying t' pull the bleeding thing?" Ari tittered, "Well, best a British t' ya then, eh? I'll just be clearing off now an' leaving ya to it, eh? But," She paused, batting her eyelashes at the beaver and giggled like a schoolgirl, "Then again. Let's just suppose that a certain someone just happened to 'ear them two Bobbies, ya know, them raccoon blokes, come in 'ere a couple of hours back. Watched 'em through the wall fer a while, just 'cos I was bored an' all, an' what do I see? Only the code to the bleeding door!"

The children's eyes lit up and they cheered. Mime, who had been gradually wearing away at the ropes binding Sniffles and Petunia with his buck teeth, finally snapped them, releasing the two trapped critters. He fell back in shock, tumbling across the floor. Petunia pulled herself up, scurrying across the floor towards him and helping the dirt smeared deer to his feet. She opened her mouth to thank him, and caught sight of the filth.

"Oh, look at you." Petunia rolled her eyes, shaking a bottle of cleaning solution that had somehow appeared in her hand, and sprayed Mime in the face. The deer fell back against the wall under a bombardment of blows from Petunia's scourer.

"I'm just trying to help!" Petunia called out as she swiped at Mime, who was vainly attempting to escape. Now free, the final member of the captives, Sniffles, pulled himself to his feet and hurried over to the others to see what all the fuss was about. The ant grinned savagely upon seeing the anteater, and Sniffles recoiled.

"YOU!" Sniffles squealed, marching towards the tiny creature sitting on Russel's hook in what he obviously thought was a menacing manner, but actually made him look like he was in pain.

"Buggy!" Ari's eyes lit up and her grin widened, "What a jammy fluke. Say, 'ow'd ya like a door opened, eh?" Sniffles was about to speak when Toothy cut across him.

"You can do that?" The Beaver asked.

"Sure, sure. It'll be a doddle, easy-peasy, Bob's your uncle an' all 'at." Toothy stared at her.

"Who's Buggy?" It was Giggles who had said it this time. Ari stared at the chipmunk for a second, pouted, clenched her fists, then burst out laughing.

"Buggy's Buggy." Ari laughed, rolling about on the floor, Sniffles glared at her, "Ya know, the off-colour anteater. Call 'im Buggy cos a 'em specks, see, make 'im look all bug eyed. Like a bug." She rolled her eyes back in her head, regaining composure, before hopping to her feet and climbing the door onto the lock. "'Ave this off in a jiffy," she giggled, "'course, that's considering you can pay an' all."

"Pay?" Giggles shrieked, taking a step towards the ant and tripping over the struggling form of Mime, who was still being cleaned, in the process "But we haven't got any money!"

"I ain't in this for a couple a bob ya div," Ari smirked, giving her best I'm-a-good-girl-me smile, "All I ask for is twenty minutes with Buggy. Alone. An' with a stapler." Sniffles recoiled and the other kids looked at each other apprehensively.

"OK." Toothy shrugged. Sniffles screamed and Toothy turned to look at him. "What? It's just a stapler." Ari and Sniffles gave simultaneous, sarcastic laugh and, in an instant, Ari had cracked the lock.

The next few events happened very quickly, somewhat expectedly and with such a horrible sense of cliché and deus ex machina that it would make the writers of Yugioh and Pokemon blush. Firstly Petunia, who had, until that moment, been scrubbing away at a caked on speck of dirt in Mime's hair, slipped on a patch of suds on the floor, sending the sponge that she had pulled out of nowhere high into the air. At the same time Toothy pulled the door open a crack, setting Ari off balance and knocking the pin out of her hand. The sponge flew through the air and the tinniest droplet of water knocked her off the edge, causing her to flip off the door and land directly on the sponge.

"Wow, that could 'a' gone a bit pear shaped, eh?" Ari giggled as one of the larger figures bent down to pick her up, "Ah well, Sod's law an' all, eh?" She gave another little giggle and stared up at the boy bending down to her. A Blue anteater. With a devilish grin on his face.

"Ah bugger." The little ant gasped, attempting to stop her manic giggling. Sniffles tongue whipped out, and everything went black.

...

"Hey kid, do you ever get the feeling that, hey, maybe we're just wasting our time out here and nothing's gonna happen?"

"Err, yeah. Sometimes. Why?"
"Ah, no reason. Just, DB gets that a lot." The orange bear shrugged, turning and walking over to the large hole that they'd made in the wall. He span around, posing comically at the entrance and pointing at the Panda. The only 'single' girl on the trip. "Ya know what I'm talking about beautiful."

Further down the hole, Nutty gave a laugh. "Aw come on. Let me go down. Pleeeease. Pwetty please. I'll be good. I promise." DB groaned, looking down at the squirrel. That dude was cramping his style. The squirrel stopped, sniffing the air, and his giggling stopped, "I smell candy." He scurried up and down between the tunnel entrance and where Disco Bear was standing.

"Count DB out of that." the bear grinned, leaning back. Nutty pouted.

"Aw come on your no fun. See, that means you ain't candy. Cos candy's fun. Candy's candies. And candies are even more fun. And since your one, you can't be candy because..." He stopped, sniffing the air again and turning to the Panda Mom, stretching towards her baby, "Say, little guy, wanna come find some..." Panda recoiled, slapping him round the face and growling. Forcing him away from the baby. "Aw, you ain't no candy either. I'll just go find that fun myself, huh." Nutty turned and stalked away, eyes spinning, he slammed into the wall, and passed out, giggling stupidly.

"Hey guys." Lumpy began, "Any of you seen Cuddles or Giggles anywhere?"

"Ha. No" Truffles put out his tongue, matching the state of his back, due to carrying Cro, perfectly.

"How about Toothy?" Lumpy wondered aloud, "I like Toothy, he's a real nice guy. Real nice. Always gives great advice."

"DB seems to remember he was telling you to go suck on a cabbage." The bear, reminisced, tinkering with a huge radio that was lying on the ground.

"But, but, what if they been kidnapped DB?" Lumpy bellowed suddenly, "What if the reason I ain't seen none of 'em for a couple of days is cos some moon man or, or some stupid homicidal kitten kidnapped them for as of yet unknown reasons?"

"You are not serious, are you?" The panda moaned. Why was she stuck with the loonies. This stupid moose and the squirrel, rather than her wise teacher, or the bear in charge. She blushed. The other bear was OK she supposed, when he wasn't tinkering with that radio.

"What are you doing?" Panda asked, leaning over the bear and holding out the baby so it could see.

"DB's glad you asked that, beautiful," The bear turned, "See, it's like this. You guys all think DB is such a two dimensional character. All he's got is Disco right? Wrong. See, couple of years back, I heard chicks dig nerdy guys. Now I was like, straight A's in college, right, so I went down to the library, and I met this guy named Sniffles. An' he got me into radio communication, see. So I could be hip with the ladies. An' now I know I ain't two dimensional. I'm one dimensional." The baby giggled, but everyone else just stared at DB. "Ah it'd be funny if you understood complex..." No, they weren't staring at him. They were staring past him. And backing away. He got up, staring at them from beneath star-framed shades. "Hey now, what you all staring a..." Something hit Disco Bear hard on the back of the head and he collapsed, unconscious

...

"Hey kid, do you ever get the feeling that, hey, maybe we're just wasting our time out here and nothing's gonna happen?"

"Err, yeah. Sometimes. Why?"
"Ah, no reason. Just, DB gets that a lot."

Up in the trees Flippy sniffed, swigging a few pills before turning to the girl next to him and loading his gun.

"You see those guys down there?" Flippy asked, "Well, this is what we're here to beat, and those guys are the enemy." Lammy whimpered, that was Disco Bear and Lumpy and Truffles. She knew these people. Flippy knew these people. They weren't the enemy.

"Th-they're..."

"They are the enemy!" Flippy shouted, eyes flashing dangerously green. "This is enemy base, they're guarding it, they're armed and do you see our uniform on any of them. It's the enemy alright." He threw a gun in Lammy's direction before waiting to give her time to pick it up after she dropped it, "Your my backup. If anything happens to me down there... shoot... I don't care who you hit just shoot. Got that." Lammy looked down at the gun in her hands. It was massive, at least two times as big as it had any right to be and so heavy that she had to prop it on the ground. The gun was made of cold, dark metal and black plastic. And it was cruel, so very cruel and deadly. The sort of horrific thing that she never would have imagined. Not at home. Not back when it was safe. Back when it was just mummy and daddy and Mr Pickles and her. She liked to believe life was still like that. That this wasn't any more than just a passing nightmare. But it was. And she was so scared.

"Scared are we? Shaking in our boots? What would your mother think?" the Pickle grinned.

"I-I-I caaan't do this," Lammy cried, falling to the floor, "I'm not a murderer!"

There was a brief pause in which the bear said something, but Lammy couldn't hear what it was, and then Flippy knelt down next to her and, placing his hand on her head, turned it up to look at him. "Not a soldier?" he grimaced, "Who do you think you're kidding, huh? You're as much of a soldier as I am. If not more. I saw your work a couple of days ago. It was good." Lammy coughed and, nearby, Mr Pickles nodded his agreement muttering something, most probably questioning the views of Lammy's parentage. Lammy sniffled and hiccoughed, trying to bury her face in her jacket. Flippy ears pricked up, and he laughed. "Yeah. He would love you."

"Who would?" Flippy rolled his eyes and turned away.

"The other one." Lammy nodded. He meant that Green Eyed Soldier right. "Ha. He's probably into bad girls just like you." Lammy wiped her face on the army coat and sniffed a few more times, and Flippy placed his hand on her shoulder.

"B-b-but I-I'm not baaad." Lammy whimpered, "I-It's Mr Pickles. He's the one who kills everyone."

"You're blaming me? How dare you? What would your mother think?" Flippy gave a groan, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, I know kid. It's hard. You think I want that green eyed guy? Nah. I used to be just like you. But we can't just do that, OK. We have to just accept who we are." He gave another groan and Lammy stared up at him quizzically "Sadistic murderers. You can't just blame a pickle forever... Now come on." He leapt from the trees, heading towards the people below. Mr Pickles looked up at Lammy, who blushed, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief he handed her.

"Why can't I kill him then? What do you see in that thug anyway, might I be so bold as to ask? What would your mother think?"

...

"I-I-I caaan't do this," Lammy cried, falling to the floor, "I'm not a murderer!" Flippy rolled his eyes. Not this thing again. Why did kids always have to act like this? Ah, who did he think he was kidding? Couple of years ago, he would have done the same. He sighed, leaning back against a tree and yawned. There was a whoosh and a thud, and when he opened his eyes... They were there. The little mouse with the bandaged ears and the massive back pack and the chameleon in the helmet. Mouse Kaboom and Sneaky. Flippy smiled dreamily and sighed. Those two took him back. For once, he was happy to see them. This was the war after all and they were his friends. He grinned wider, he would have gone mad if it weren't for those two. Like that little girl. The one lying at his feet.

"Wow." Sneaky hissed, staring down at the little girl on the floor, "What did you do to her?"

"Nothing." Flippy whispered, the little man behind him laughed.

"Don't give me that one, mon frere, you've done something. I know it." He stood over the little lamb and grinned, "She's not a South Sider if that's what you wanted to here. Just a kid. I didn't think you were into that kind of thing, mon frere."

"What do I do?" Flippy stepped away and the mouse laughed.

"She just needs talking to, that's all. This is what you need us for, huh. God, you sure don't need us for killing." The chameleon smirked, tongue hanging out and splashing drool on the floor. It was sort of comforting for the bear. To have these creeps around. Just the three creeps together. Flippy knelt, turning her head to see the lamb's tear streaked face.

"Not a soldier?" He tried to keep her face up, looking for some sort of reaction "Who do you think you're kidding, huh? You're as much of a soldier ass I am. If not more. I saw your work a couple of days ago. It was good." It didn't help.

"That's not going to work." Kaboom sang and Sneaky stepped forwards, staring straight at Flippy and making him shiver, "She's a girl. A kid. Try saying something emotional. Get to know her." Flippy groaned softly, Kaboom was right, he didn't know how to interact with people. Kaboom stepped closer to the girl, his eyes sparkling.

"Not now Romeo." Sneaky hissed, "She can't see you, even if she were paying attention."

"Ah come on." Kaboom moaned, "I happen to like short, rich girls."

"Short," Sneaky's drool sloshed against the trees, "Better talk to my friend, George Byron." Flippy laughed.

"Yeah he would love you!"

"Who would?" Flippy turned, someone had spoken. The girl. He'd forgotten. Forgotten the girl. Now that he listened, she kind of sounded like Kaboom, the accent. They must have come from the same country. Maybe that's why he couldn't kill her. She was looking around now, staring straight at, or rather through, the lanky chameleon, "The other one." Flippy corrected, nodding at Kaboom. Flippy stepped forwards, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "He's probably into bad girls." He turned to Kaboom, "Just like you." Kaboom grinned widely and saluted.

"B-b-but I-I'm not baaad. I-It's Mr Pickles. He's the one who kills everyone." Flippy rolled his eyes. The girl was definitely like crazy. Multiple personalities or schizophrenia or something crazy like that. He smiled sadly, consoling her with words that he had meant at some point, before forgetting, changing his opinion, forcing it back into his brain and spitting it out like a nasty pill. Meaningless words. Empty. He shrugged, his speech over. Now the attack would begin. Not killing, he'd taken pills for that, they should keep the Green Eyed Soldier back for about five more minutes. Just knock the enemy unconscious. Fighting. Finally something that he was good at. He sniffed the air, turning to the two other soldiers and surprisingly useless lamb.

"Right behind you." Kaboom grinned. Behind him Sneaky nodded, pointing North and disappearing into the tree. The mouse stepped forwards, putting a hand on the girl's shoulder.

"Now come on!" Flippy grinned, leaping out of the trees and landing on a particularly unfortunate orange bear with a whoop. Kaboom grinned, looking down at the small pickle, as Lammy rushed forwards to cover the bear.

"Nice moustache." He laughed, stepping past the lamb and throwing a charge, which was accompanied by a satisfying explosion.

"Indeed." The pickle grinned.