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From the August round of Fic_Rush, in which ninja animals figured prominently.

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Punchline

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MacGyver, Pete Thornton, and the Lady Scientist of the Week walked into a bar.

The barman glared at them. "Is this some kind of a joke?" He handed a beer to Pete and a glass of tomato juice to Mac, then poured three shotglasses of whiskey for the Lady Scientist of the Week.

Dr. Week shook her head. "Just two glasses, Fred."

The barman met her gaze with a sorrowful expression. "But you always have three drinks – one for yourself and one for each of your two brothers, who are fighting the Forces of Evil overseas. You don't mean to tell me – "

"Oh, they're both fine," Pete interrupted.

Dr. Week nodded. "I've quit drinking is all." She downed both of her brothers' drinks and then joined Pete and Mac at a table in the dimly-lit recesses of the bar.

Mac was already in earnest conversation with their contact, Dr. Li, an attaché from the Chinese Embassy. "So you're sayin' the scroll was safely locked up in its case when you all went to bed last night?"

Dr. Li looked inscrutable.

"Aw, cut it out," said Mac. "We're tryin' to cut back on the ethnic clichés."

"I beg your pardon," said Dr. Li, looking contrite.

"Much better." Mac reached over the the next table, collected half a dozen unmarked bottles of sauces and flavourings and poured random amounts of each into his glass of tomato juice. The glass fizzed.

Pete Thornton cleared his throat. "Is it time for the expository lump now?"

"Go for it," MacGyver said cheerfully.

"Right. Dr. Li, you told us that the priceless antique scroll had disappeared from its locked cabinet overnight, and in its place was a different scroll, filled with strange pictures instead of magnificent specimens of T'ang Dynasty calligraphy."

"Very strange pictures. The first image was of a ninja aardvark, followed by a ninja bat, a ninja capybara, and a ninja dodo."

"I'm beginning to see a pattern here," said Mac.

"Well, duh," said Dr. Week. "Is it time for me to be kidnapped at gunpoint yet? This is getting dull."

"Not till just before the first commercial break," Pete replied. "Go on, Dr. Li."

"Let's see – after that, it got a little more complicated. There was a ninja elephant and a ninja flamingo – "

"Whoa!" Mac waggled a finger. "If you recite the whole danged line-up, the narrative is gonna slow down to a crawl."

"The ninja sloths did that already."

Pete nodded. "Please, Dr. Li. Just give us the high points."

Dr. Li cleared his throat. "Um, the ninja lemurs were very cute. But the ninja jellyfish quite disrupted the celestial harmony of the scroll."

Pete was scowling. "It doesn't make sense. Why no penguins?"

Mac shrugged. "Even penguins need a vacation." He suddenly reached out, grabbed Dr. Week by the hand and dragged her off her chair onto the floor as a shot rang out over their heads. The mirror above the bar shattered, the glass falling with a musical crash underscoring the sudden dramatic build of the background music. Pete and Dr. Li ducked under the table.

MacGyver peeked over the table, reached up and snatched his glass of quietly fizzing liquid, and lobbed it at the shadowy figure that could be seen at the entrance to the bar. The glass exploded in a completely unrealistic fireball, and the defeated evildoer fled.

Pete peered out cautiously. "Was that Murdoc?"

"Naw, we tangled with him only two weeks ago. Remember? He ended up electrocuted, strangled, stabbed with his own knife, shot with his own gun, and poisoned by the spines of a ninja sea urchin. Then he fell to his death from a great height. He won't be back till next season."

"Oh. Right." Pete stood up carefully, brushed the dirt off his suit and straightened his tie. "Now what?"

"Now all we need is the punch line." Mac looked expectantly at Dr. Li. "I gotta ask. How did that ninja animal alphabet deal with the letter X?"

They heard a disturbance at the doorway. A xylophagus ninja xerus, a xanthic ninja xukazi, a xenophobic ninja xenopus laevis, a xenophilic ninja xantusia riversiana and a xeric ninja xiaosaurus all walked into the bar, stopping to admire the aquarium with its ninja xiphias gladius and its ninja xiphophorus helleri, and stepping carefully to avoiding the ninja xanthidae scuttling across the floor. They all ducked to avoid the ninja xenops that flew at their heads, flanked by a ninja xami hairstreak butterfly and a ninja Xerces blue.

The barkeeper glared at the menagerie. "Awright, you smartasses. You've made your point."

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