Fly Like a Penguin, Vol. 1, Chapter 33

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Finally, the last chapter arrives, in which the Rockhoppers seek to defend themselves and their homeland from the invading evil Caracaras.

To read from the beginning, click here.

Chapter 33

The Battle

Now for the next few days the penguins made defensive plans and practiced what they’d do when it came time to fight. Hopper was also making plans for an offensive move to rescue the penguins at the Jason Islands.
One morning he and Eudy were out in the ocean getting some food when suddenly he felt himself flying up in the air saying, “Wheee! See!” And indeed it was his good friend See who had also brought his family.
He brought news of events in the Pacific Ocean. “The Great White Seal has been moving down the coast, planning to come into the Atlantic and take over the Falkland Islands, and from there the whole Atlantic. He especially wants to rid the world of Rockhoppers. And now he suspects you are alive, and that makes him extremely furious. But something has been hindering his attempts to get here. In the meantime the caracaras are his servants in this ocean. When he heard they had already started a war against the Rockhoppers, he offered them great rewards to save the captives for his trophy ledge. The birds have sold themselves to be his servants because of what he has promised to give them in return, but I doubt that they’ll ever get their reward.
“Anyway, I listened in on some caracaras’ conversations and learned all this stuff. I brought my family to live here while I do more scouting.”
“Are the caracaras going to attack soon?” asked Hopper.
“They’re getting ready for the biggest attack yet. They’re really mad about being scared away twice. They say it won’t happen again. It doesn’t matter what tricks you come up with, they say. Next time they’re going to get all of you.”
“Do you have any ideas for winning this battle and getting our penguins back?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t, but I’m going to see what I can find out.”
“Where are you going?”
“Back to spy out the Pacific. We need to find out what the Big White is up to. Even if we can beat the caracaras, we need to stop him even more.”
“When will the birds be back?”
“Probably tomorrow. And now I’m heading west. Hope to see you before too long!”
“Bye, good friend, See!”
See nosed noses with his mate and pups and slithered into the water and was gone.
Hopper called a meeting for all the Rockhoppers, saying, “We have a day to prepare for the fight of our lives. We need to store up food for a few days, and we need to practice our fighting moves without getting too tired out. Tomorrow we’ll all stay together. We won’t even send lookouts because we know the birds are coming. We need to make them wish they’d never joined with the Great White Seal and regret that they’d ever started this war against us in the first place.”
The next day everyone was excited but sober. They sat and waited, each saying a silent “Help!” The hours dragged on slowly until finally at midday they could see the cloud of caracaras approaching. They all got to their positions, ready for battle, with the young ones protected at the center of the colony.
The birds arrived, flying overhead, nervously shouting taunts at the penguins, such as, “There’s no help for you flipper wings. You guys can’t even fly. How can you possibly win? You might as well give up. You’ve been invited for dinner at the table of the Great White Seal! Ha ha!”
Hopper encouraged his friends to pay them no heed; just get ready to fight. Soon the battle began. The birds swooped down to snatch penguins, but the penguins snapped at them with their beaks. The birds were surprised by the determination and united effort of the penguins, but they attacked even more viciously, their claws slashing and their beaks slicing. The battle continued for hours. The penguins were tiring out. The birds had the advantage of being able to attack from the air, while the penguins could only defend themselves. A few birds were brought down to the ground, but more penguins were being carried off.
The caracaras began focusing their attention more on Hopper. He was fighting off three birds, then four, then five. He saw them ganging up on Eudy. He struggled to help her, but then they grabbed her and took her away.
His heart nearly broke to see her go, crying, “Help!” He felt helpless as he stood momentarily watching while she rose farther and farther into the sky, but then he was jolted back to his own fight with the stab of a beak in his side. Once again he was fighting for his life, his freedom, and his family.
Now there were ten birds after him. He was bleeding from his side, his wings, and even his feet where the birds kept pecking him. Now one flew hard at him and pulled out some of his beautiful yellow crest feathers. Then finally one big caracara was able to grab him, and up he went into the sky.
All the caracaras stopped fighting to savor the moment. “Ha ha!” they called down as they flew in circles around and above the remaining Rockhoppers. “Here’s your leader! Now what are you going to do! Give up, and come with us! It’s no use fighting against us.”
“Don’t give up!” shouted Hopper. “There’s still hope!”
“Ha ha! Don’t listen to the ravings of this young fool! Why expend effort and go through the suffering of another battle?”
“You know what to do!” cried Hopper.
At that they all cried, “Helllllllllllllllllp!”
“Ha ha, you fools! There’s no help for you. What can you do against us? You can’t even fly, and if you swim we’ll pluck you right out of the water!”
One caracara now flew closer to Hopper and said, “Hey! I think I’ve seen you before in the company of a couple of hummingbirds. Ha ha! Now I bet you’re sorry I didn’t eat you when you were an egg! Ha ha!”
Hopper said, “Oh, hi, Johnny Rook. I hope you didn’t take too seriously that little peck on your tail-feathers.”
“Mind? Me mind? Ha ha! I’m glad you did! Ha ha! Now I’ll get to present you to the Master for a good meal! Ha ha!”
The penguins’ heads were drooping lower and lower as the caracaras’ taunts grew sharper and sharper, and their gloating hearts rose higher and higher.
Imperceptibly at first, as the birds circled with their words of discouragement, a sound grew from the north. Soon it became audible as possibly a song coming from the sky. As it grew nearer, to Hopper it seemed to be a song he knew. The caracaras were too busy with their taunting to notice it at all.
Hopper listened and looked to the north. Far away he could see a bluish-gray cloud which grew bigger as he watched, and the song grew louder, although he still couldn’t hear the words.
The caracaras continued circling and gloating. The cloud and the song approached rapidly. Now he could hear the words:

A penguin and a duck! Hey!
A penguin and a duck! Ho!

And the cloud became an enormous flock of Harlequin ducks. Even in his pain Hopper could smile, for there, leading this great duck air force, was his great friend, Harley Q. “Quack” Duck!
Quack and his company took the caracaras completely by surprise. Hopper’s foes panicked and fled for their home, and the ducks pursued them. Hopper was dropped into the sea. No one seemed to notice, and he was left unconscious, floating in the water like a dead penguin.
He was unaware of anything happening around him and unaware of time passing. He dreamed of his life in Antarctica, his drifting in the storm, his life with the Magellanic penguins, his times with Hummer, Quack, Bhill, Meadowlark, the people and their dog, his stay in the Oceanarium, and his travels with Eudy, Gump, and Emp.
Then he heard a familiar voice gently calling him, “Hopper!”
Then another gentle voice called, “Hopper! Are you okay?”
He tried hard to wake up. His head hurt, and his whole body ached. “Hopper!”
He tried opening his eyes. It was very difficult, but finally he did, and there above him was an Emperor penguin. He focused his eyes, and then he saw there were two! And these two looked at him with the love of a mother and father. “Am I dreaming?” he asked. “Or has this whole thing been a dream? Am I back in Antarctica?”
“No, son, you’re not dreaming,” answered Emmett.
Then Emily continued, “We’ve heard all about your travels and the struggles here. We had to come and join you. Our good friends, Del and Delphina, found you floating and brought you home.”
“Home?” asked Hopper.
“Yes, the Falkland Islands,” answered Emmett, “and by the way, I’m glad you were able to follow my directions to get here.”
“Do you know how all the others are?”
“They’re all okay. The battle has been won, and all captives have been freed,” said Emmett. Emily said, “And there’s someone else here you should meet.”
A pair of older Rockhoppers hopped over to where Hopper lay. Hopper recognized one as the female he had seen with the captives on Jason Island.
“Mother!” he cried. “And Dad! I’ve been wanting to see you for so long!” Then he looked above and said, “Thank you!”
Hopper, Cliffider, Cliffidee, Emmett, and Emily talked a long time by the sea. They filled him in on what had happened while he was floating—the great victory that the ducks had won over the caracaras and the deliverance of the captured penguins. All were brought back safely, including Eudy.
“Hey, where is Eudy, anyway?” asked Hopper.
“She’s up the cliff with all the other Rockhoppers. We’ll see all of them when we go back up, and we’ll have a great celebration,” said Cliffidee.
A flutter of wings and a voice came from above, “Hey, Hop, where’ve you been? I come thousands of miles to see you, and you disappear for three days!”
“Hey, Quack! Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad, this is Harley Q. Duck, better known as Quack, the best friend a penguin could have.”
“We saw him in action,” said Cliffider. “He leads quite the air force of ducks. They took care of those caracaras pretty quick and easy.”
Emmett added, “It’s good to meet you, Quack. We’ve heard some stories about you, and now we get to meet the actual duck. But one thing I’ve been wondering—who ever heard of a penguin and a duck being friends?”
They all laughed, and then Quack told his story. He had assembled his flock of ducks, planning to hunt down Bhill Blue and run him aground. They had found the whale off the coast of Central America. “I was about to attack him,” said Quack, “and he lifted up his head and laughed at me. Then he said Hopper was alive and well, but he needed my help at the Falkland Islands.”
Quack also found out that the Great White Seal was attempting to come from California down the coast to the Atlantic Ocean. Bhill Blue had assembled his own navy of whales and dolphins to prevent him from going any farther than Central America.
“And you know what else I saw there with Bhill? There was an Emperor Penguin! I didn’t stay around long enough to see who he was.”
“Emp!” cried the penguins.
Just then See splashed out of the water onto the rocks and said, “The war is over! I’ve been told that the Great White Seal has gone back to California. His servants in the southern hemisphere are scattered. They won’t bother us for a long while.”
Hopper said, “Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad, and Quack, this is See, a great seal who befriended me even though it could have cost him his life. As it is, he was driven away from the other seals. Without him I don’t know if I could have made it here.”
The other penguins and Quack greeted the young seal warmly, and he told them more of his story and of his latest spy mission. “And by the way, Hopper,” he concluded, “Magellee and Maggot send their greetings.”
“Maggot? Why would he send me greetings?”
“After you saved his life he became a different penguin. He completely changed. He didn’t have to hurt others anymore. He became very kind and helpful. He and Magellee ended up together, and now they have had their own little penguins.”
“Wow!” said Hopper. “One thing that bothered me is that I never got to say goodbye to Magellee and her family. I’m glad everything turned out well for her and Maggot.”
Emmett said, “Well, it’s time for us to head back home.”
“Couldn’t you stay here?” said Hopper.
“We can’t climb the cliffs,” said Emily. “We’d sure like to be closer to you, but we can’t.”
“Why don’t you join the King penguins? There’s a colony of them not far away, and they don’t climb cliffs. You even look kind of like them.”
“No, Son, we need to go back to Antarctica. That’s our home, but we’ll visit you sometimes.”
So they bid their good-byes and the Emperors dove into the sea.
The Rockhoppers climbed the cliff, and Quack flew up to the top where all the Rockhoppers and Harlequins had a great celebration which lasted many days.
Then the ducks flew back to their home in North America. See and his family stayed at the Falkland Islands, and from them came descendants who were friendly to penguins.
Hopper and Eudy lived many more years and had many children and grandchildren. And some of them grew up to be great penguins with their own stories to tell.

The End (for now, anyway)

 

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