There is no logical reason for me to start yet another story. I just finished off a couple of them, but I don't have the spare time for this. I really don't. Even stranger is why I would decide to write for this particular fandom. I mean, I liked the first movie (mostly because of a certain bat). But I wasn't too impressed by the sequel (and it will be ignored) and I know there is not a huge following for stories in this category. There is no real reason for me to write this. Unfortunately my brain and inspiration are working against me and I end up with this idea taking root.

Please keep in mind that this is a complete work of fiction and anything I write about certain topics mentioned in the film will be presented in the same fashion that they were in the movie: exaggerating to fantastic proportions rather than a perfect representation of reality. Specifically, I'm drawing inspiration from a certain rap from the movie and tossing most ideas of the scientific method out the window. Don't take the content of this story as any kind of real demonstration of animal testing or my views on the topic. I'll look up species of animals for the area, but even those will likely have mistakes (even if I'll try harder on that part of the story).

I don't own most of the characters, though there will be a few creations from the dark recesses of my mind. If they were in the movie, then I don't have any type of claim on them. Otherwise, they are available to be borrowed by my fellow writers if you ask first.

Okay, that should handle all the opening statements. I just warn now that updates will likely be few and far between. Reviews can help convince me to hurry up occasionally, though.

Shrewd Choices

His eyesight was going. Probably from those weird drops they tried on him earlier, the ones that burned and still ached even as his surroundings blurred. Not that he had much to look at. Just the metal walls and thin bars of a cage, the room beyond, and the white wire that snaked from the side of his head to some beeping and clicking monstrosity outside of cage. It was something similar to the television set that was sometimes turned on.

All of them turned on the television as they worked in the bright and strong-scented room with the wall of cages. And he also used to watch it in his lucid (and less lucid) moments, which might explain the strangeness of his odder moments. Or he used to watch it prior to his most recent development. He might be able to still hear it and figure out what was happening on the small flashing screen.

He tiredly rubbed at his burning eyes with his wing, wishing they would stop hurting so much so he could sleep. It was hard enough trying to rest when the bright lights glared overhead, the stinging scent of antiseptic bit at his nose, and the panicked and pained cries from the other cages' occupants ringing in his ears. Suffering from the newest concoction of chemicals just made the whole thing more difficult. He wanted nothing more than for his eyes to stop burning and to fall asleep.

"It hurts," a particularly shrill voice from a cage to the left shrieked. "Make it stop. My eyes hurt. Get it out. Please. They burn."

"Word of advice," he called tiredly. "Don't try messing with them too much. Clawing your eyes out never helps. I've seen the results repeatedly. Creepy stuff. Kind of like those late night horror movies. The ones with slime pouring out of a building and clumsy girls hurting their ankles. Why they don't take off the high-heels before running, I'll never know."

"Who was that?" A young voice, several cages down, asked.

He remembered the arrival of several newcomers recently, but he couldn't recall the species. So many mammals came through here that it wasn't even worth the effort to try remember anymore. The speaker was clearly one of the fresh specimens. Fear was in his tone, but none of the pain and hopelessness that would eventually taint him could be detected.

A quiet, strained voice replied, "Just ignore him. Koda went completely batty a long time ago. Stay here long enough and you either die horribly or end up like Batty Koda."

He knew that voice. Sandry was a rather calm crest-tailed mulgara he knew was in a cage two spaces over to the right. She was often referred to as looking similar to a "brown rat," but she was a nice enough marsupial. He also knew that, next to himself, she'd been here the longest. Her survival was likely due how they kept assigning her as a control. Not every time, but often enough. She tended to serve as the welcoming party to the future victims.

"What happened to him?" the newcomer asked from his cage, probably trying to not focus on the implications that he would either die or go insane from this place.

"Don't know for certain," she replied. "He was already a little strange when I arrived. And those who were still alive and sane also claimed he was batty as long as they could remember. Batty Koda just keeps surviving whatever they do to him."

Pulling his wings around himself tighter and closing his sore eyes, he muttered, "What doesn't kill you makes you stranger. And I've survived being electrified, injected with random concoctions, fed poisons of all sorts, and listening to far too many soap operas. They haven't quite managed to kill me yet, but not for a lack of trying." Shuddering slightly, he added, "The vivisection was a little too close for comfort. I can't believe my medical insurance covered that procedure. Probably should look into changing the extent of my coverage."

Even over the whimpering of the rest of the room's occupants, he heard the approaching steps. Someone was coming here, the place they always refer to as the biology lab or product testing and he always considered the worst place on the planet. His eyes flew open and he scrambled towards the back of his cage, the wire in his head pulling tightly. His eyesight was blurry, but he could still make out the shape of the door across the room opening and a figure entering. He didn't have to see to know what he was looking at and it terrified him. They were responsible for everything and he was utterly powerless to get away.

Humans. One of the humans was in the room.

"Time to check the results so far," the human remarked cheerfully. "Subject seven should be reacting to the product by now."

He heard the door of his cage being opened, even as he tried to press himself in to the metal back of the confined space. Whenever they took him out of the cage, there was a strong possibility of something bad happening. His burning, blurry eyes were locked on the vague shape of a hand reaching for the trapped mammal and there wasn't logically anything he could do to stop it. Not that a little thing like logic worked well for him anymore.

"Puff up, puff up, they hate that," he muttered to himself, trying to appear a little bigger while keeping against the solid metal back of the cage. "I really don't feel like playing mad scientist with you again today."

With no regards for his posturing, the human's hand wrapped around him and pulled him out.

"No," yelped the bat, snapping awake and nearly dropping from his perch.

His eyes glanced around quickly, spotting lots of green vegetation that didn't belong in his previous nightmare of the past. The warm, humid air and the absence of that sharp antiseptic smell helped to further assure the mammal that he was far away from that place. The only remaining evidence he had that his dream was actually a memory instead of the product of his rather unreliable mind would be the wire still sticking out of his head, the scars hidden beneath his fur from a number of procedures, and his mind itself. He was safely dangling upside down off a branch in the middle of a rainforest, not serving as a lab animal for that Shrewd Choices company.

"I need to lay off the snacks before I go to sleep," he muttered, shaking his head slightly.

The bat released his grip of the tree branch and spread his wings as he fell. A few flaps later and he was flying towards his destination. As he neared, there were fewer obstacles to dodge. Hexxus and the humans' machines might not have destroyed everything, but there was still evidence of how close they came to success. It might have been a year and a half since the event (or was it two years?), but time hadn't healed all wounds yet. The trees were shorter, still in the process of re-growing even with all the help they were receiving from the inhabitants of Fern Gully, so there was fewer opportunities for him to crash.

The closer he came to the two trees in the center, one a safe refuge and the second the remains of the Leveler, the more he spotted streaks of green light. Whenever they stopped or slowed down, he could see the winged figures more clearly and even identify specific individuals. They were flitting around the growing plants, dressed in leaves and flower petals. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite seem to find the one he was looking for.

"If I was a little glow bug with a habit of seeking out trouble, where would I be?" he muttered to himself.

His eyes, long since magically-repaired from the damage that left him nearly blind before, finally spotted a thin trail of fresh sprouts and flowers. Ever since trapping Hexxus in his vegetative prison, she tended to do that sort of thing unconsciously. She also picked up a number of new tricks with her power. Unfortunately, he knew she was still somewhat naïve of the world beyond this forest and her curiosity would undoubtedly lead to trouble if he didn't keep an eye on her.

At last, he caught sight of the blue streak of light ahead of him, proving that he was on the right trail. If he had to guess, it looked like she was inspecting a rather wimpy-looking sapling and was trying to see if she should give it a little help or give it a chance to grow on its own. Landing on a large leaf, the glow faded enough for the bat to see her properly as she leaned over the sapling.

Black hair cut short, her outfit apparently crafted from the skin of a piece of red fruit, and her wings translucent as a real bug's, Crysta stretched out her hand towards the plant. Blue-green light streamed from her fingertips, causing the sapling to stretch skywards and the leaves to extend further. Further green shoots appeared along the branches, quickly bursting into even more leaves. The sickly-looking plant overtook the neighboring flora until there was no hint of the previous weakness. From his current angle, he couldn't see the fairy's face clearly, but he knew she was likely smiling with satisfaction as she cut off the flow of magic.

Unfortunately, watching Crysta's efforts resulted in him being distracted from his flight path. He barely noticed one of the remaining larger trees in this particular corner of the rainforest in front of him before he crashed right into it. While the impact was mildly painful, it was a familiar sensation by now. He slid down the bark until he hit the ground and stayed there momentarily as he tried to gather his scattered wits.

"Batty, are you all right?" the fairy asked, flying over towards him.

"Fine. I'm fine," he called, climbing to his feet and turning to face her. "I think that was one of my better landings."

He tried to wave his wing towards the tree he'd hit in order to indicate that it wasn't that bad an impact. Unfortunately, his gesture managed to brush against the twin pieces of metal sticking out of the rubber insulation of the wire and when they touched-


"And with the addition of the new baby panda, I'm sure that admission to the local zoo will only skyrocket," he stated, reporting the news story faithfully. His co-anchorperson always got the better headlines, but he was a better professional. If he played his cards right, he would be promoted soon from this local station to the big time. "Now, here's Robert with the weather."

"Batty?" a female voice asked in concerned, interrupting his thoughts and pulling his mind out of another hallucination caused by frying his brain.

Shaking his head to clear his head, taking more caution this time not to touch the wires, he assured, "Sorry, I'm fine. Really."

Used to his moments of weirdness, Crysta smiled, "Come to check on me?"

"Maybe partly," he confirmed. "I was also considering finding some breakfast, but I wanted to make sure you aren't trying to fly above the canopy or investigating smoke at a mountain or anything else that could turn into a disaster first."

"Pips and the Beetle Boys are more likely to get into trouble now," she scoffed. "I've been too busy lately. I don't know how Magi Lune managed to do this."

Spotting the small frown at the memory of her lost mentor, the bat tried to cheer up his friend, "Hey, she didn't have to deal with an invasion from a human machine possessed by Hexxus. I'd say you've been doing very well fixing things around here. I didn't get to know her all that much before everything went a little crazy, but I doubt she could do better than you have."

"Thanks, Batty."

"So let's go get a nice fruit salad and you get to take a break from helping the plants grow," he suggested. Then, smiling to himself, he added, "Maybe you can go fly around with Pips later too. You know he would like to spend some time with you."

Taking a step along one of the roots of the larger tree, she stated slowly, "I don't know. I was going to work on the section to the east this afternoon."

"So take the red-headed bug with you. As long as you both don't start another competition at proving who's the most adventurous, that should keep the two of you out of trouble. And keep him from pining after you until you both end up like Romeo and Juliet."

"What?" asked Cryta, clearly confused by the reference.

"Never mind," the mammal responded. "Back to my original suggestion. Breakfast?"

He stretched out another section of mesh netting between the trees, making sure that the barely-visible trap was properly attached. He'd already set out the ground-based traps and was now working on the devises for the animals who wouldn't be running along the forest floor. None of them were lethal or even harmful of the creatures they caught. He needed his merchandise to be alive and in relatively good health.

While some people might refer to him as a poacher, Martin liked to think he was a business man who simply made use of a less-legal source of commodities. The entire company worked off of the idea of saving money by any means. And if it was a little cheaper to collect specimens without purchasing them from other companies, reusing subjects repeatedly, or fudging the results a little on a few experiments in order to get their products on the market sooner, it only made sense to take advantage of such opportunity. They preferred to viewing legal and safety standards as "guidelines" rather than actual rules, even if they were technically laws.

Rather than paying for untold numbers of lab rats, bred to be nearly identical so that the results of testing should be fairly accurate and having enough for each separate product, the company collected a few wild animals to add to those purchased legally and made use of them for as many experiments as possible. The best use of the scientific method? Perhaps not. The best use of their monetary resources? Yes.

Martin moved onto the next location, carrying his capturing supplies with him. Short brown hair, dark green eyes, and thin build, he was the type of person who faded into the background and no one ever noticed. He was perfectly ordinary. The dark jeans and plain brown shirt helped that perception. If he wasn't standing in the middle of the rainforest, no one would have even looked twice at him. That was why he was ideal for this job.

The mammals would all go to the company, unless they were so high on the endangered species list that he couldn't risk it. That was the deal. Reptiles, birds, and the rarer mammals would go to the black market to vanish forever. The company still received a percentage of those sales, but he had to take care to make sure those funds were untraceable. Either way, each animal profited both him and his employer.

Setting down another of the live traps, Martin began baiting the small box. The metal trap, provided by the corporation, was easy enough to operate. It was pressure sensitive and, once an animal entered to investigate the food, the door would close behind them and keep them captive until he returned. The mesh nets were less reliable, but anything that flew into them would become tangled and trapped like a fly in a spider's web. Both types would have to be checked for captures regularly, but he could manage that.

After all, being their main source of test subjects, Shrewd Choices paid him well for his efforts.

At the time he initially met the human, Pips hadn't been particularly fond of Zak. That was mostly because he'd been looking everywhere for Crysta at the time and the human had felt the need to embarrass the red-haired fairy by startling everyone with his strange music. Not to mention getting a little too close to her. By the time Zak was returned to normal, he felt a little friendlier towards him. After all, the human did help stop Hexxus and let them keep the "stereo." And the fact he was leaving meant that he didn't have to worry as much about how Crysta felt about him.

Now, he felt that Zak might have been a rather nice guy to have around. At least, he would have been as long as he didn't try spending too much time with the black-haired fairy. His music, while strange, was rather interesting once you grow used to it. Pips and the Beetle Boys had listened to the loud and intriguing sounds from the "stereo" until one day the object stopped producing the music. Batty had claimed that the batteries were probably dead. And, unlike with a dying plant, their magic didn't seem to help fix it. Perhaps the human might have some strange magic that would help these "batteries." Pips, after much consideration, had decided that he missed the music and would have enjoyed having Zak back in Fern Gully if it meant the "stereo" would produce those sounds again. He might even be able to show them more strange human objects.

"Are you sure it isn't just hungry?" asked Root for the hundredth time. That particular Beetle Boy had taken the loss of the music particularly hard and kept looking for a way to bring it back. "Maybe 'stereos' need to eat or sleep and it'll start working again."

Leaning against the trunk of a tree, turning the panpipes over in his hands, the red-haired fairy reminded, "You tried feeding it berries immediately after it stopped. It didn't do anything except make it sticky."

"And I tried hitting it," pointed out Stump.

"We need to admit that the 'stereo' won't work ever again," Knotty declared. "You don't hear Bark complaining," he commented, pointing at their smallest member. "So you should stop too."

All of them were resting along a tree branch not far from where they had moved the object after Zak left. It was far enough to not completely deafen the rest of the fairies, but close enough that they could visit the location often. They still visited the yellow shape regularly out of habit now. It was as good a place as any to be, as some fairies had described them, "bug-brained layabouts" and it was certainly better than some.

Boredly, Pips once again tried to match the music they used to listen to with his panpipes. He could play the melody enough for the tune to be recognizable, but he couldn't match the volume or the timbre of the music. That didn't stop him from trying.

"Well, look at this group of lazy of bug-brains," a familiar female voice commented, surprising the red-haired fairy into nearly dropping his instrument.

Glancing up, he spotted Crysta staring down at him with a mischievous smile. Flying down, she landed on the branch next to him.

"I bet all this goofing off is making your wings a lot slower," she continued.

Recognizing a challenge when he heard one, Pips added, "Just like how out of practice you've probably become since you spend all your time working on the plants less than a few wingspans from home?"

"Would you like a demonstration of how 'out of practice' I am?" she asked, a competitive edge entering her tone.

"Think you can keep up?" he responded, matching her competitiveness with his own.

Before she could answer, there was a small crashing sound above them and Batty almost tumbled out of the air. The mammal managed to catch himself in midair and landed on the branch on the other side of the watching Beetle Boys.

"I meant to do that," the bat stated firmly. "Honest."

"Quiet," Knotty whispered. "We're watching Pips and Crysta planning to race each other."

"First one to stop or get left behind loses?" she suggested, her wings giving an experimental flap.

The redhead grinned, "Works for me. But no going straight up. We're going for distance, not pure height. I don't want you to end up as falcon food."

"I won't," Crysta responded. "But I can still go farther and faster than you."

"Oh joy, let's watch the overly-curious girl and the boy with something to prove to the world try to outdo each other," Batty commented dryly. "How could that lead to a disaster?"

"We're coming too," stated Stump, climbing on his insect. "We don't want to miss this."

"Sure, let's bring the biker gang along for the ride," the mammal continued, his words not making complete sense to the fairy. Pips was rather used to that feeling when dealing with the bat. He wasn't really easy to understand and he only got worse when the strange thing on his head was touched. But he was a nice enough animal. "If we're going to have a competition in crazy stunts, we might have all the irresponsible individuals involved."

"This was your idea," Crysta pointed out cheerfully. "You suggested I have some fun with Pips."

Batty reminded, "I'm out of my mind. Sane people don't take advice from the insane. That's like having the professional golfer asking for tips on the backswing from a basketball player. It doesn't make sense."

While Pips doubted that she understood the odd sentences better than he did, the black-haired fairy smiled at the bat, "If you're so worried, you can follow along with us. You might even have some fun. It'll be fine. You'll see."

"Why," he asked, "do I not believe you?"

The long-nosed bandicoot scurried across the tree branches as quickly as she could. Her neighboring animals had been vanishing recently, far faster than predators could account for, and she'd finally determined what was making them disappear. She'd spotted the tall creature setting out strange objects that others had gone to investigate, smelling the food inside. They became trapped within and were later carried away by the same tall creature. Unlike some, she'd recognized the species of the invader from stories.

There was a human in the rainforest and he was capturing animals. Not catching and eating, which was simply a part of life and one any animal must face the possibility of. He was taking them away somewhere. Regardless, she didn't intend to find out where. She was heading for safer areas. While a reasonable distance away from her usual territory, the bandicoot knew that fairies dwelled deeper into the rainforest at a location called Fern Gully. If she could reach that place, perhaps the guardians of the forest could prevent her capture. At least if a predator caught her, she knew what would occur. The unknown fate that the human would bring scared her far more.

Okay, I really like comic-relief characters in a story, like Mushu in "Mulan" or Genie in "Aladdin" or Timon and Pumbaa in "The Lion King." They are the ones that, next to the hero of the tale, tend to capture my attention. Hence, I like Batty Koda. But I also like giving those types of characters a closer look and possibly exploring their past so that they are more than just comic relief. And Batty definitely has plenty to explore. Like his time in that lab or how his "channel changing" moments would be seen from his viewpoint or any number of possibilities.

And since it makes no logical sense for one test animal to undergo all the different procedures described in Batty's rap in the movie since such actions would make the results of the experiments less reliable, I decided to incorporate that disregard of the scientific method into the story. The practices of the company in my story, Shrewd Choices, are not an accurate representation of how a normal group would set up any type of product testing. And that's the point. They don't care if they have to tweak the results or that they might not be getting accurate data by their actions. This is the ultimate untrustworthy business with the worst corrupt executives. Rather than buying lots of rats to cover every product and aspect being tested, they would catch a few animals and essentially "recycle" them for several experiments until they have to use a new one. Which means their products are not necessarily safe. Adding in a little bit of profit from black market sales only makes things worse. Basically, anyone with any power who found proof about how they are operating could shut down the whole company.

In case you didn't guess, sections in italics tend to be flashbacks or dreams. Any questions you have are welcomed, as are comments. I try to make things comprehensible, but I am only human. I'll always be happy to clarify things. I hope you enjoy things so far and, even if I don't know when the next update will be, I hope you'll like what I have planned in the future.