In a laboratory not so far from the Halcyon Fold, Dr. Flitwick Stingsplatter IV prepares weapons for war …
“Shoo Ethel, shoo, you damnable ingrate,” lectured Flicker, swiping at one of his fuzzy ears.
Out of the ear flew a fairy. “I like it in there,” she whined. “It’s warm. Plus I’m not an ingrate. I have a spine. That’s some science you taught me.”
“Ingrate, I said, not invertebrate,” explained Flicker as he held a second fairy down on an examination table. “Ingrate means ungrateful, which you are, and if you do not stop your incessant ear tickling I shall lock you up with the others, or pin you to the board.” Flicker nodded his snout toward the shelves of stoppered jars. In the fairy laboratory were jarred fairies of all kinds: Majestic Violet Bottlewhispers and Heart-faced Bandyhoos glared at one another through the curved glass while a Spotted Dandywing napped with her toes in her mouth. Furious at her captivity, a Crystal-eyed Wiggler bonked her pink head against the cork stopper, her belly blinking green and gold light. A larger terrarium housed an air sprite named Loo who spent her days finger-combing her long hair and gazing at her reflection. Many more were posed and pinned to boards on the walls, sorted taxonomically, named and labeled with care by Flicker himself. There was another laboratory dedicated to termite mounds and a soundproof chamber where the noisiest crickets were stored; running along all the ceilings was a flat glass-walled ant farm; a sandy lab was full of burrowing scorpions; and smoke could be piped into the beehive yard to put them to sleep during comb examinations.
All available wall space was covered with Flicker’s drawings, notes and blueprints.
Ethel, a Bulbous-bottomed Gigglefly, stuck her tongue out at the captive fairies and floated to the beetles and scuttles, her fangs dug deep into a mealworm, her oversized golden wings battering the air with a buzz. Her bum squished down onto the hard back of a small beetle; it spun in circles with annoyance. Dozens more, displaying a rainbow of colors and sizes all the way up to the Bleekos’ mount size, scuttled around wire cages. Ethel petted her ride’s spikes and horns until its course straightened. “The new beetle eggs are way bigger than the old ones,” she said.
“An astute observation,” said Flicker. He bent over the Striped Whistler fairy, spread one of its wings out wide with a tweezer and swept a tiny brush across it. “I must breed mounts big enough for the new weaponry I’ve devised. With this crystalline material I discovered in the Meekos territory, years of breeding can be accomplished in a matter of days. Days, Ethel!”
Ethel rode her little beetle up a wall and along a blueprint, peering at it while crunching down on her worm. “What’s this gumball machine for?”
“That is not a gumball machine. It is a fairy launcher.” Fairy dust swirled away from Flicker’s brush, then burst into flame with a puhhh sound, singeing the scientist’s cheek fur. He cursed and the fairy sneered at him. “You… you… Lucy, darling, you must stay still while I collect the dust and stop igniting it, or the Bleekos army shall not have the weaponry it needs for the border wars.”
“Why would you launch fairies?” cried Ethel.
“Fairies are quite useful weapons,” muttered Flicker. “The stinging, the choking dust and the hypnotic effect of the light patterns have destroyed many a malevolent Meekos.”
Ethel dismounted and flew back into Flicker’s ear, having forgotten all about his earlier threat. “Why are the Bleekos at war with the Meekos anyway?”
Flicker continued, with great concentration, to sweep Lucy’s wing dust into a test tube. “The Meekos are an abhorrent race of nefarious plant life. Creepy daytime creatures who use photosynthesis to abuse civilized, educated nocturnal life. Get out of my ear.”
Ethel ignored him, pulling the sides of his ear around her like a cozy blanket. “But who started it?” she yawned.
“I don’t… Nobody knows really… What would you know of the intricacies of interspecies politics? We are at war because we have always been at war, as the moon wars with the sun.”
But Ethel did not answer, and her snoring resounded around Flicker’s brain.
“Another expedition is what I need,” whispered Flicker, so as not to wake her. “I must have more crystal. Then the moonlight shall prevail.”