It wasn't hard to find the Agent's mother ship. The Wabbit and Lapinette followed their noses, mostly because the acrid fumes that belched from the craft were smelly indeed. The craft lurched from the ground. They pulled out their automatics. The spaceship coughed and wheezed and finally settled back down. They heard curses from inside. "I told you it needed a service!" yelled an Agent. "It was working this morning," came a reply. The Wabbit gestured to Lapinette. "I'm uncertain why we bothered. We could leave them to blow themselves up." Lapinette giggled and tucked her automatic back in her frock. "Cut out the middle rabbit?" Suddenly the vessel burst into life - and for a few seconds it flew in the air. But it just as quickly crashed down again. Smoke billowed from the hull. They heard shouting and a few curses. The Agents tried again. This time there was less smoke and the mother ship floated about two metres high. Lapinette's ears swivelled to hear any information. "OK," said an Agent, "fly it back to where the Wabbit and his gang hang out." But the vessel wouldn't go any higher. It lurched into the distance, circumnavigating rocks and trees and occasionally bumping on the ground. "I think we'll head them off at the pass," chortled the Wabbit.
There was more than enough explosive - and when it detonated the blast was significant. "Too significant," yelled the Wabbit as his paws left the ground. Lapinette scampered to the left and behind the stonework, but the Wabbit had no choice, He was thrown to the front and the vole quickly followed. Rocks fell all around him but he managed to glance back. The missiles weren't from the explosion. Three Agents of Rabit stood on the parapet, showering them with every stone they could find. It wasn't high tech ammunition but it was effective. "Regroup," yelled the Wabbit. He feinted to the left, rolled and found some cover. The vole rolled too and landed on top of him. "Where did they come from?" shouted the Wabbit. "Must be a second unit," snickered the Vole. Lapinette took a makeup case from her fur and carefully applied various cosmetics. "I hate this rain," she pouted. The rain got heavier and they sheltered as best they could. The Agents hated the rain too and it frustrated their efforts. A bit of moaning floated over the parapet. "Let's go back to the mother ship," said one. "Then we'll come back and mop up." "Achoo," sneezed another, "my paws are all sore from these rocks." "I need an aspirin," said another. The Wabbit grinned and then he grinned again. Turbina's hood appeared out of the rain. "I have hot chocolate," she breathed.
It wasn't far to the Agents' lair. The vole gestured to the cave. "The awful creatures are in there, I can smell them." The Wabbit and Lapinette hung back. "Leave this to us, vole," said the Wabbit. He dug deep in his fur and fished out a largish quantity of explosive. Lapinette grabbed it and inserted a detonator. She was about to throw it down the cave but the vole snatched it. "I'll do it!" He was off before they could do a thing. He scampered up the stone steps and into the shadows. It was then they discerned sinister shapes that could only be Agents of Rabit - and they were much too close. Lapinette drew a breath. The Wabbit clenched his jaw. What happened next took place at lightning speed. With the package of C4 under its snout, the vole reached the top of the stairs. He scraped his claws along the top step. The sound set everyone's teeth on edge. "What's that?" yelled an Agent. "I'm only a vole," snickered the vole. "It's only a vole for goodness sake," said the leader. The vole scampered past and behind them. "Stupid problem pest," grimaced an Agent. The Vole dropped the explosive just behind him. "What the ..." shouted an Agent and he reached out - but it was too late. The vole was a blur as he scampered back. He shot past Lapinette, executed a speedway turn and let out a snicker that echoed down the cave. The Wabbit reached under his fur for the wireless detonation switch and yelled. "All clear! Fire from the vole."
The rain gave way to steamy night. Under heavy clouds, the vole led Turbina to what looked like a roughly wired street lamp. "This is what these rabbits erected," he said. The Wabbit climbed the pole and subjected the circuit to an interminable series of tests. "Well?" asked Lapinette. "It's not a lamp, it's a transmitter," said the Wabbit, "and it's a lot more powerful than it looks." Without warning, the array became hot and started to hum. "Yow!" said the Wabbit, "that made my fur tingle." "Mmmm. Let's see," said Lapinette. She fished under her frock and brought out an expandable pole. "Are you going to poke it?" asked the vole. "When in doubt, burn it out," said Lapinette. She poked the array with the pole. Nothing happened. She prodded all around with no results. "Poke it in the middle," said the Vole. Lapinette poked it viciously. There was a flash and a crackle and something arced. Sparks flew. The humming stopped. "That'll keep them busy for a while," laughed the Wabbit. Lapinette folded the pole and jumped to the ground, followed by the vole. Slivers of wood flew around as the Wabbit slid down. "Now I'll take you to their lair," said the vole. "They have a lair?" smiled the Wabbit. "Doesn't everyone?" grinned the vole.
Turbina landed on the Planet of the Voles and they clambered out. Rain lashed their fur. "You might have chosen a better landing spot," grumbled the Wabbit. "Security, no tracks," she chortled. She pivoted on the rock and tried to dislodge the Wabbit. The Wabbit clung onto her engine compartment and quietly swore. "Oh look," said Lapinette. "Here's a vole." "There aren't any voles," said the Wabbit, "I made that up." There was a scurrying from under a rock. "I am a vole," grunted a small vole, "did you bring any food?" The Wabbit ducked back into Turbina's cabin for a salad sandwich. Lapinette smiled. "Did you see any wicked looking creatures?" The vole scurried back and forth. "Food first, information later." Lapinette passed a sandwich which the vole devoured in a single gulp. "I saw some hideous rabbits," he spluttered. "And?" inquired Lapinette. "More food!" snapped the vole. The Wabbit's face fell as he passed the last of his sandwiches. The vole snapped them up. "They're a few kilometres south and they have equipment of some kind." The Wabbit dropped from Turbina with a heavy thump. "Equipment?" The vole shrugged. "I'm just a vole, not an engineer. But it looked like transmission gear." Lapinette reached out and stroked the vole. "Can you take us to them?" The vole's teeth chattered." "Half of whatever you take from them." "A quarter," offered Lapinette. "A third," said the vole. "Done," said the Wabbit. He pulled out his automatic and turned to go. "But it's only because I like you." [Vole graphic: Courtesy of Mikhail Kolesnikov and Marina Korobchenko.]
Planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb was always freezing but the bar was one of the warmest in the galaxy. Leaving Turbina in a rocky rocket park, they stole inside and waited. The Agent on the bar stool got steadily drunker - and the drunker he became, the more he talked. "We got them this time and I'll get a hefty bonus when we do." The Agent's voice was thick and slurred. Lapinette lurched against the bar and pretended to down cocktails. The Wabbit staggered up and down, reciting poetry and asking for money. Occasionally he burped. The bar belonged to their friend, the Alien Pilot. Information-gathering was his sideline, so all they had to do was listen as he pumped the Agent dry. "What a brilliant plan. Just brilliant." He offered the Agent another drink. "On the house for you and all you Agents on ... ?" The Agent grinned as he slumped against the bar. ".. the Planet of the Voles." The Alien Pilot pushed another glass in the Agent's direction." "Sounds terrific." The Agent smirked. "We have cutting edge reconnaissance equipment." "Squipment is exshpenshive," slurred the Wabbit. "Get that fart smellow another dwink," said Lapinette. The Agent laughed and drank and told the whole bar where the funds came from. He rocked on his bar stool and while he rambled on, Lapinette and the Wabbit crept away. Turbina set course. And when she took off for the Planet of the Voles, the roar of her turbines rattled every glass in every bar on the planet. The Agent suddenly stiffened. "What's that?" "Mice?" shrugged the Pilot.
Turbina the Jet Car sailed up a ramp near Lingotto and just kept going. Lapinette twisted the steering wheel and made vrooming noises. "It's just for effect," she laughed. Turbina shot through a layer of clouds and soon the whole planet was behind them. The windows slid up and the instrument panel changed to something out of Star Trek. Someone in the Space Station looked out with astonished eyes and grabbed a camera, but it was too late. There was a flash and Turbina disappeared. "How fast was that?" asked the Wabbit. "Too fast for numbers," said Turbina. "Where are we going?" asked the Wabbit. "Someplace to talk," replied Turbina. "Super hush hush - ears only," said Lapinette. She tapped the steering wheel lightly. It folded back. Galaxies sped by like soup. "There it is," said Lapinette. "MACS0647-JD," murmured Turbina. "Snappy Scottish name," chuckled the Wabbit. Turbina slowed down. The Wabbit laughed. "It looks like an electric bar heater from 1952." Turbina glowed red to match. "Perfect." she announced. "No passing trade," grinned Lapinette. "So what's it all about?" shrugged the Wabbit. "Agents of Rabit are planning an all out assault on our communications," said Turbina. She coasted to a stop, switched off the radio and turned off all her lights. The Wabbit's eyes glowed faintly in the dark, as did his 28 teeth. "So let's make a plan," said Turbina ...
The Wabbit strolled down Via Nizza with hardly a care in the world, when a fast car mounted the sidewalk and a beautiful rabbit leaned across with a gun in her paw. He'd been wondering about his next mission, but not that hard. "Get in the car," snarled the rabbit. He raised a paw in the air and drawled, "Lapinette, that looks like my gun." Lapinette twirled it round several times and offered it butt-first. "I cleaned it up and replaced the safety catch." The Wabbit shrugged, took the gun and got in the vehicle. "Hello Commander," said the car. Turbina held an impossibly high rank at the Department of Wabbit Affairs. She could talk and fly. And she usually kept a salad sandwich in her glove compartment for the Wabbit, just for a culinary emergency. "I have your orders," said Turbina, "but let's take a little drive first." Lapinette put her foot on the gas, then gunned the throttle and hauled up the handbrake. Turbina swerved through 180 degrees and took off in the direction of the centre. The Wabbit clung on for dear life. Lapinette eyes gleamed and she span the steering wheel. Turbina took a left at Corso Germano Sommeiller on two wheels and briefly left the ground as she flew over the railway bridge. People jumped out the way. "Are we in a hurry?" asked the Wabbit. He tucked his automatic in his fur and peered in the glove compartment. Turbina and Lapinette laughed together. "Just practicing."
The sun was so bright it bleached the street - so the team found a caffè in the shade and scrunched in. Skratch made a late and fashionable entrance as usual. "Well hello everyone. What sort of adventure did you just get yourselves into?" Wabsworth was the first to comment. He looked directly over the table at Skratch. "It was a no reason kind of adventure. Despite its folk pretensions, it defies categorization." Skratch grinned a mighty cat grin. "That's very critical, Wabsworth. You surely didn't think it was silly." The Wabbit chimed in. "Perhaps it was. But that's not entirely negative. The adventure critiques the story-telling process itself." Lapinette giggled and beat a rhythm on the table. "I think it was wonky intellectualism of the highest order - Arabian Nights for the very highest of high brows." Skratch meaowed. "It was the anti realist nature of the story that rendered it as magical realism. The Wabbit and Wabsworth were arrivistes as much as Aladdin and Sinbad. But this version is as authentic as any ancient Arabian tale." Wabsworth chuckled. "My point exactly. Instability. Entangling displacement. Repetitive motifs." Lapinette laughed. "The story is a folk tale. The tyre is a ring. A ring means a wedding." "With this ring I thee wed," said the Wabbit. He made a circular movement with a paw - and said gravely, "Hoc est corpus meum." "Hocus pocus!" yelled Skratch.
Prill the magic tyre sailed over the rooftop race track at Lingotto and made an elegant descent down through the big ramp. The Wabbit and Wabsworth scrunched down as best they could and looked over the tyre rim. "There are schoolchildren down there," smiled Wabsworth. The children looked up and made a figure of eight. Some waved, but one of them shrugged. "It's only the Wabbit on a Flying Tyre." Then they all went back to their tasks. "Look. There's someone else!" chuckled the Wabbit. Lovely Lapinette sat on a balustrade with a flag in her paw. She dangled her legs over the heights and waved the flag. "Welcome back, Wabbit and Wabsworth! Did you meet Aladdin?" Prill span round and they dropped until they were level with Lapinette. She giggled. "Here you are my master, this is my mistress." The Wabbit laughed. "What's going on, Lap?" Lapinette lurched dangerously forward. "It's a new project. We call it the Flubber Development." Wabsworth chimed in. "Well, we'd like to be Landflubbers now." Lapinette jumped aboard and signalled. "Going down," said Prill. The children cleared away as if they'd never been there. Prill bumped down on the concrete. The Wabbit sniffed the air. "Could be a new perfume," he grinned. "Mmmm," said Lapinette, "Soft overtones of rubber, coal and oil." The Wabbit's 28 teeth flashed and his eyes gleamed. "And combustion!"
The Wabbit sprayed copious amounts of WD-40 on the rubber road, but it only half worked. The tyre parted company from the road but it flew high in the air, taking the Wabbit and Wabsworth with it. The Wabbit and Wabsworth clung on and grimaced. The Wabbit cursed as he lost a hold of his can of lubricant. It detached from his paw and made its way down to the city, but at that moment the tyre stopped spinning. It sailed lazily in circles, making whirring sounds. Wabsworth pointed and laughed as another sound caught his attention. A dove swooped around them making cawing noises and laughing. "Are you King Solomon today, Commander, or Prince Husain?" "It's Parakalo!" yelled the Wabbit. "Parakalo!" cooed the dove. "Give us a hand, Parakalo, we want to go down," shouted the Wabbit. Parakalo hovered near the tyre and cooed softly. The tyre made a whirring noise in reply. This went on for some time until the Wabbit interrupted with a wave of his paw. Parakalo wheeled straight up and then swooped down and hovered. "You can talk to him yourself, it's your tyre." The tyre wiggled, then spoke in a high pitched female voice. "My name is Prill. To where dost thou wish to travel, my master?" "Down would be nice," said the Wabbit. "Down where?" said Prill, "to the bazarre perhaps?" They were already skimming rooftops. "Just downtown," smiled Wabsworth.
The Wabbit and Wabbit pursued the tyre and jumped aboard as it passed under a bridge on the Po. Rabbits were known for their speed and their legs blurred as the tyre carried them down river. Just in front, the rubber road came with them. The tyre picked up speed. So did they. Wabsworth fished out a pole and used it to balance. "Where did you learn to do that?" yelled the Wabbit. "I'm an android. I have a circus acrobat algorithm," shouted Wabsworth. The Wabbit clenched all of his 28 teeth. "Everyone should have a hobby." The tyre rolled faster. "It's all a matter of torque," shouted Wabsworth. "Torque is cheap," quipped the Wabbit. He pulled out a multi tool with sharp bits and he span forward with the tyre. "Sidewall?" shouted Wabsworth. "Just waiting on the right moment," murmured the Wabbit. He rolled over at an impossible angle, then struck the tyre with the axe. But it bounced off. Wabsworth hauled him back. "We can't keep this up indefinitely," he screeched. The Wabbit stabbed the tyre a few times but to no effect. The tyre tore down the river, then veered off and rolled towards a built up area. "This tyre's gotta run out of road sometime," cried Wabsworth. "Aha, "said the Wabbit, "that's it!" He gritted his teeth, plunged a paw into his fur - and produced a can of WD40 ...
Wabsworth arrived at speed brandishing a tyre iron - and his timing was impeccable. The giant tyre rolled backwards and started to spin. The noise was unbearable. The ground shook under their feet and they felt it move, then sway. They began to lose balance and they slithered around. "It's a rubber road," yelled the Wabbit, "Run!" But they couldn't run. The dimpled surface of the rubber road made movement difficult - and every time they got to their feet, they fell and bounced back. But the tyre clung to the rubber road like glue, moving forward with menace, picking up speed. The Wabbit fished in his fur and pulled out Lapinette's edged weapon. He waved it menacingly and yelled, "I'll cut you a new tread!" The tyre swerved to the left but Wabsworth was in its path. "You're worn out! You need changing," he yelled. He lifted the tyre iron and stroked it. The tyre hesitated, then veered away, cutting a slick path through a highway of rubber. Wabsworth watched the tyre race out of sight, taking the rubber road with it. He wrinkled his nose. "He's unbalanced as they come." The Wabbit glanced down. The street was stabilising. It hardened and turned into asphalt under his feet. "No chance of it getting a flat, I suppose?" chortled Wabsworth. The Wabbit thought for a second and grinned. He groped for his radio. "I suppose it could be arranged."
The Wabbit hadn't hopped far when things went belly up. He was happily hopping down to the river when he heard a whistling, which turned quickly to a rumble. He felt a wind, then a blow to the back. He rolled and cursed and got back up. The tyre was massive, as high as the tram wires - and it smelled of whatever tyres were made of these days. His nose twitched. Not rubber exactly. Rubber and something else. The Wabbit brushed soot from his fur and watched the tyre. It had rolled to a stop and it stood quivering in the road. It seemed to look at him. He picked up his radio from the asphalt and yelled. "Rogue tyre with attitude, Piazza Vittorio Veneto." The radio crackled. It was Wabsworth, his android double. "What kind of a tyre?" The Wabbit shook his head, but anyway, he looked the tyre up and down. "Pirelli P7, Corsa Classic. "Excellent tyre," murmured Wabsworth. The Wabbit said something rude under his breath, then, "Get down here, Wabsworth!" The radio whined. "Do we need any tools, Commander?" "This is not Formula One, Wabsworth. The tyre's alive!" screamed the Wabbit. Now the tyre was rolling towards him. The Wabbit edged back and under a portico. That was when it spoke. "I. Rubber!" The Wabbit nodded. He groped in his fur for his automatic and snarled out the corner of his mouth. "Don't you tyres get dizzy?"
The Wabbit hopped aimlessly through the city with hardly a care in the world. He tried very hard not to think, because the minute he realised he was enjoying himself, he would feel anxious. He preferred to be at one with the city; to merge into it, to become indistinguishable from it. "Ultimately I will vanish," he smiled. He looked down at his fur. He hadn't vanished. "OK," said the Wabbit, trying hard not to think. "I will merely taste the flavour of the day." He ambled on, sniffing the air. Memories popped into his head - times gone by, missions accomplished, enemies defeated. "All in the past, transient and fleeting," grinned the Wabbit. The Wabbit growled. He'd remembered he was between missions and that was a place he didn't like one bit. He fished in his fur for his radio, but then drew back, empty pawed. "Lapinette insisted I relax." He continued along the street but stopped dead when he was struck by a sudden insight. "Trying not to think is thinking too." The Wabbit gave up and headed along the porticos to the river to watch the water go by. But something made him turn. It was Lapinette. "Wabbit, Wabbit, your new mission papers arrived, they want you at the Department." The Wabbit hopped with glee. "Don't they know I'm taking a relaxing break," he yelled.