Four Armadillos and a Jelly Mould
By Thorne & Co.
Part Seven

Is it really? Part 2

She turned over and snuggled down into the mattress. She was in the half asleep/ half awake time; those moments between dreaming and waking when you feel so relaxed and dreams come and go and everything seems right in the world. Something tickled her cheek. It didn’t feel like her pillow. More scratchy. She turned again. An earthy smell. Part of her dream. She smiled. It was warm and comfortable. Balmy warmth. There were flowers among the earthen odours. Jasmine, lilies…. She lay on her back. Shifting towards waking, the sounds of insects, of birds drifted through her consciousness and a light breeze caressed her face. Her hands at her sides felt not the mattress but something stringy that pulled away between her fingers. Warm, very slightly damp. Grass, moss. Her eyes opened. The rustling of leaves in the trees above her mingled with the other sounds of the forest. The light flickered from yellows to greens as the sun’s rays dodged between the swaying branches. She sat up and looked around. Near to her, looking similarly peaceful and oblivious were a number of sleeping forms. Where?… and then she remembered the parlour, the fight, the strange, uneasy, squirmy, slightly nauseating feeling as the final assault of powers collided…. And then …. Here. Wherever.

Getting to her feet, she recognised some of her companions. Little Bishop and Remy she made out clearly. She stepped over another who she saw was little Jugs. And who was that over there behind the log? She could just see a foot poking out. Peering over, she was delighted to see the familiar battered headpiece of her hero, little Maggie. A series of intricately interconnecting rainbows radiated from her, bathing the object of her affections in a kaleidoscope of colour. As if sensing the affectionate attentions, little Eric stirred, rolled onto his back and opened his eyes.

“Hi,” he yawned and closed his eyes again.

She sighed. “ You’re so dweamy.” She sighed again. The import of these few words gradually penetrated the bleary consciousness of the X-Babies’ arch nemesis and he sat up abruptly.

“What did you say?!’ He scowled at her.

The rainbows began to shred and little dark clouds formed in their place as little Stormy’s lower lip trembled.

“Don’t you wuv me, Maggie?” she asked, tremulously.

“Don’t be so silly. Of course I don’t ‘wuv’ you. My mission to establish equal rights for people under four feet high is far too important for me to be distracted by such nonsense. Besides, girls are yucky!”

He stood up and posed in his ‘Ok, what’s going on here and how can I take charge?’ stance. His composure was disrupted somewhat as a flying Bishop struck him amidriff and sent him tumbling to the ground. Maggie was about to protest when he found a serious looking water pistol sticking up his left nostril.

“Take that back,” Bishop growled with an accompanying jab of the pistol. “I’m not afraid to use this.”

“No, Bishy, don’t do it!!!” cried little Stormy, desperately pulling on Bishop’s arm. Maggie took advantage of this distraction to roll from under Bishop and get to his feet, quickly striking a slightly wounded pose.

“But Storm,” protested Bishop, “he was being mean. I was only coming to your rescue.”

“But I didn’t want to be wescued. I wuv Maggie, Bishy.” They looked up as small raindrops, like little tears, began to fall from the black clouds just above their heads.

“But he’s not good enough for you, Storm. And I love you. Besides he’s a supervillain.”

“Excuse me. I am not a supervillain. I’m just misunderstood. I might have slightly different methods to get there, but we’re on the same side really.”

“So how come we’re always fighting you then?” queried Bishop.

“Oh, that’s just for fun in my spare time. To let off steam. You know.”

“Indeed,” said Bishop, suspiciously.

“And will you please turn off this annoying rain. I’m getting all soggy! What if my helmet gets rusty?!” complained Maggie

“Yes. Of course. Sorry,” little Stormy sniffed. The rain stopped but grey clouds persisted.

“I’m surprised you can even tell its raining with that great big silly bucket on you head,” muttered the rebuffed and sulking Bishop. Eric struck his ‘How dare you insult my wonderful helmet, but I’m not really lowering myself to acknowledge you’ pose.

“Bishy, how can you be so mean to Eric? You’re just miffed because I like him betterer than I like you.” She sidled closer to Maggie and the sun peeped tentatively from behind the clouds. Maggie allowed himself a little ‘I’m obviously betterer than you’ smile in Bishop’s direction.

“Humph,” humphed Bishop and sat on the soggy grass, crossed armed and frowning.

A sneeze came from Jugs behind them. It was so loud that Remy also roused, somewhat unusually as it was clearly before midday. He looked about him, a mildly confused expression forming through the fog of sleep clouding his features.

“De last ting I remember was not here. But dat’s not very unusual. I was raining cards on dat pompous over-inflated, lil’…oh hi Maggie.”

“Hey, I was on your side!” said Maggie

“Yeah, well, you know. Old habits an’ dat. Anyway, it was a long way from here. So where is dis?”

“Huh?” contributed Jugs.

“Oh, go back to sleep,” chimed Bishop and Maggie, then glared at each other for interrupting each other. They were interrupted in turn by a ‘fwwp’ as a slice of rather deadly looking sharpened mango imbedded itself in a tree beside Stormy’s ear.

“Eep!” she cried, throwing herself into Eric’s arms. They all turned, Maggie somewhat encumbered by the clinging Storm, to see a group of fearsome figures charging towards them. They blinked in unison as they beheld the menacing multi-coloured hoard streaming their way. They came to a halt, only feet away, their weapons levelled on the five X-people.

“But, but they’re…..” Jugs struggled for the words. He rubbed his eyes. He must be dreaming.

“They’re…” Stormy couldn’t resist a giggle.

Before them stood a four foot high figure, pale yellow in complexion. His neck was so thick that you couldn’t tell where his shoulders finished and his head began. He had a face which was practically flat and above his eyebrows was a thick black protuberance…… Ok, it was a giant banana with spindly little arms and legs. But from the sharpened mango tip to his spear, it looked like he meant business. Arrayed behind him was what must have been a gathering of the meanest, toughest, deadliest fruit ever assembled. The pockmarked face of a nearby orange grimaced menacingly at them, and Granny Smith with a battered stalk gave them an ominous growl. Little Stormy was still lost for words. She got down from Eric’s arms. “They’re….”

“Silence!!!” ordered the leader of the ferocious tribe , jabbing his spear towards the little weather-witch. She screamed and leapt back into Maggie’s arms. As the helmeted figure staggered to remain upright, Bishop asked,

“Do you think Scott’s Plan would be appropriate right now?”

“I’m ready if you are,” agreed Remy, enthusiastically.

“Mmph Mmph,” seconded Magneto, dropping Storm unceremoniously.


They turned as one and pelted across the field, away from the tribe…. and came to a skidding halt as another, even more fearsome looking group of warriors stepped out of the trees in front of them. Desperate glances to either side revealed yet more assailants arriving to form a ring around the hapless quintet.

“Do something!” hissed Bishop.

“You do somet’ing!” Remy hissed back. This couldn’t be happening. It must be a bad dream (though goodness knows what he’d been drinking to imagine things like killer fruit). Maybe one of those where you think you’ ve woken up but find you’re still in the dream.

You should do something Gambit, ‘cos you’re big and I don’t like getting killeded!” little Storm glared at him, lightening boltlets crackling around her hair. Remy gulped. What a choice: face a bunch of kamikaze fruit, or annoy a grumpy little weather-goddess.

“Well, um, dat is, I would go an’ fight dem…” Quick, think of something,”…but I don’t wanna leave you guys unprotected!” Phew, nice save.

Bishop wasn’t convinced. “ I’m sure with four of us we’d be safe enough.” Remy frowned, “You go fight dem den!”


“Why don’t we try to appeel to their better natures,” suggested Jugs, in a sudden bout of eloquence, with no pun intended.

“I think the time is ripe for me to take charge of things,” stated Maggie, equally oblivious.

“Silence!!!” The tribe leader had caught up with them again and was not a happy banana.

As the rest gathered round, Bishop was beginning to see the funny side.

“Now you listen here. We’re plum fed up of you stalking us like this. Your currant situation is a trifle precarious. Now go away, or we’ll have to berry the lot of you.”

“Yeah, you bananas had better split pwetty quickly or we’ll pwoseed, that is we’ll s.. tart to can you all.” Little Stormy couldn’t help but giggle again, which made the assembled multitude, skinny and round alike, rattle their various weapons.

“Let’s get right to de core o’ de matter,” suggested Remy. “What exactly do you want?”

“Yeah,” said Maggie, “Why are you chasing us? Leave us alone or we’ll rejuice you to pulp. You’ll crumble before our assault.”

Various unamused mumblings issued from the crowd.

“Maybe we’re going too far with the rotten jokes?” suggested Bishop. “This is no sundae outing and I think it’s raisin their temperatures.”

“No, they’re vewy thick skinned,” exploded Stormy and collapsed into a heap, holding her sides.

“It’s this sort of mindless fruitism that makes us so mad,” protested a plump strawberry, drawing back the string of his bow.

The fruity warriors charged and little Eric bellowed as a fat blackcurrant jumped onto his foot.

“That’s the last straw, berry. It’s fruit salad time!!!!”

Remy let fly several energised cards into a bunch of ferocious grapes and they exploded into several barrels of wine juice. Lightening boltlets from Stormy speared down, segmenting several terrifying tangerines. As Bishop directed an energy blast at a rampaging plum, reducing it to prune juice, Jugs decidered to take on a crop of giant apples and charged, head down, forgetting he had left his helmet behind. His skull was up to the job, however, and pips flew in all directions.

Maggie lost some of his zest for the fight when his helmet was dislodged from his head by an energetic kiwi fruit. He slipped in the cocktail of their foes and fell against Remy, knocking him from his feet, onto a small lemon, which was promptly squashed flat. Though little Stormy managed to send a minor hurricane against a nasty cherry and made sorbet out of a pear of raspberries with an ice storm. Though they tried to conserve their energy, it soon became clear that there were simply too many fruit for them to fight.

“Looks like you’re the ones who’ve run out of juice,” cackled the banana leader, as they were overwhelmed.

“Well, much as I enjoy bein’ strung up ready to be boiled alive guys, I t’ink me an’ my friends’d better be goin’…….” The guard, a swarthy peach, showed no signs of interest. Other medical fruit gave their wounded first aid for the bruises and abrasions they had suffered. They gave a lemonade, an orangeade ….

“Please be quiet Gambit, I’m trying to come up with a masterful and ingenious plan to get us out of this jam.”

“Shut up bucket-brain,” Bishop gazed longingly at his water pistol which sat in a heap along with the other items which the fruit had confiscated before tying them up and informing them enthusiastically of their impending fate.

“I don’ get it. My charm powers must be on de blink. Not’ing I say will make dem let us go.”

“If you don’t shut up, they’ll have to welease you or they’ll go bananas,” grumbled little Stormy.

“ Dey already are bananas petite, (well some of dem) ‘sides, lettin’ us go would be a good t’ing.”

“Not if they kills you straight afterwards,” put in Juggernaut helpfully.

“Maybe if we sit back to back we can undo these ropes,” suggested Eric, but before they could begin the banana leader returned.

“It’s your lucky day,” he announced gleefully. “The great queen pineapple has decided that we’re not going to make jam out of you after all. You will make good candidates for the Eliminator Game. It’s your team, against the veggies. The team that wins will be set free long enough to try to escape - well we give you a minute start - and the other team isn’t. Now. It’s only four per team, so you’d better decide who’s taking part. I’ll be back in five minutes.”

“Well it’s obvious that I must be in the team,” said Maggie striking as much of a ‘I was born to lead’ pose as was possible, given that he was tied up. “I shall be captain of course and provide inspiring leadership which will result in our inevitable victory.”

“Now wait a minute,” said Remy. “Your powers don’t seem to be too effective here, so why do you t’ink that you’ll be any use? Besides, you’re a bad guy.”

“Well so is Jugs and you’re going to need at least one of us.”

“Looks like you’re in Jugs,” said Bishop.

“Hey, why’s Juggernaut any better than me?” sulked Maggie.

“Cos’ he’s dumb. He hasn’t got the brains to backstab us in the middle of a fight,” said Bishop.

Little Stormy patted Eric’s shoulder sympathetically. “You’re just too brainy for your own good, Maggie,” she simpered. He searched, but failed to find, a pithy retort.

“Dat look like de team be chosen, den,” said Remy. “I wonder what de game is?”

“Looks like we’re about to find out,” said Jugs.

As they were hauled off, Bishop said, “I suppose there’s no chance that these veggies are vegetarians and opposed to any form of violence?”

“You absolutely right,” said the guard. “There’s no chance.”

“Anyone know any good vegetable jokes?” asked Remy.

The four were standing in the middle of a crude arena. A stockade of tall logs surrounded them with tiers of planking set above for seats. Maggie was still tied up and sitting at the feet of the enormous pineapple queen, looking down on his fellow travellers, his helmet pulled halfway down his face, a sure sign he was sulking. A door in the wall of the arena opened to reveal their opponents. Standing before them were a formidable array of prime vegetables. There was a truly enormous potato with bulging muscles on his muscly bulges; a purple turnip with a girth that all four X-people would have struggled to embrace if they had all held hands together. After the turnip was a broccoli creature who stood seven feet tall and looked like a small tree; and a huge blushing tomato who looked very confused as if it couldn’t decide whether it was a fruit or a vegetable.

The chief banana came into the arena and explained the game, which seemed to be four-a-side basketball, but without any rules beyond ‘get the ball in the basket’. It was made clear to Remy and his team that if anyone tried to escape Maggie would feel the consequences.

Back up with the queen pineapple, little Eric tried to protest. “They don’t have a chance! Look at the size of those vegetables! You’ve got to stop this!”

He was rewarded with a sharp jab and a cuff to the head. “You’re not being very cordial,” he commented. Another cuff, harder this time.

“Be quiet you little slug!” admonished the queen. “They have limited use of their feeble powers. That should make things reasonably even.”

The game started as a large leather ball was thrown into the arena and was caught by Juggernaut. Before he could throw the ball or move, the big potato landed on him, knocking the ball from his hand. The giant turnip picked it up and set off towards the basket.

“If dis is gonna get rough, you’ve come to de right guy,” said Remy and let fly with a handful of energised cards which skimmed a foot of coiffured sprouting greenery from the turnip’s head. As the huge vegetable stopped to feel his ruined leaves, he dropped the ball in turn, falling to the ground sobbing large purple tears as he realised that his pride and joy (and in his tribe a significant symbol of male prowess) had been shorn, never to sprout again. Bishop grabbed the ball and headed for his basket. He side-stepped the broccoli tree and passed the ball to Stormy, who was skimming just above the ground and in a perfect position to receive the ball.

Unfortunately, she was very hopeless at catching and dropped it.

“Oh puree,” she swore, much to the agitation of the crowd.

The enormous tomato was in a position to pick up the ball this time and set off at a puff back to the other basket. By this time Juggernaut had extricated himself from beneath the muscle bound monolith and was heading at a full run towards the tomato. Time seemed to slow as the crowd and the rest of the two teams seemed to be standing back to watch the inevitable. It took a few panting steps before the tomato got a sense of what everyone else was anticipating. Juggernaut was charging and was oblivious to everything else. He had one target. He had his head down. Nothing would stop him. The tomato would have side stepped, or reversed or at least stopped, but the laws of physics were determined to have their way and momentum would have none of it. A look of pure terror almost had time to creep onto its face befo …

“Keeetchhhhuuuup!!!!!” is close to the sound of an exploding tomato. The crowd went wild. They had a particular dislike for traitorous renegades who couldn’t preserve their fruity identity and the sight of one splattered across the arena in a red soupy sauce sent them into a frenzy of delight. The sight didn’t have the same effect on the X-folk. Despite the earlier carnage of fruit, by which they were oddly unaffected, the plight of the giant tomato left them oddly moved and they stood shocked by its demise (with the exception of Juggernaut who couldn’t stop and ran straight into the wall, where he collapsed stunned due to the lack of a helmet).

The vegetables had no such problems, however. Broccoli scooped up the ball from the red goo, strode five yards, threw it to potato who launched it towards the basket. It was a perfect shot and sailed cleanly through the hoop to score.

The roar of the crowd rose even higher to an ear-splitting din. Maggie slumped in his place. “We’ll get them next time,” he muttered.

“I don’t think so,” said the queen making her way down towards the arena, dragging him behind her. “Did we forget to tell you? It was golden basket time. First one in’s a winner! Two teams enter. One team leaves.” The crowd took up the familiar chant.

“Two teams enter. One team leaves. Two teams enter! One team leaves!”

“Those are the rules.”

This had to be a dream. Thunderdome meets Del Monte?!!!

The triumphant vegetables were leaving the arena, their fists punching the air to the cheers of the crowd. The others stood forlornly, waiting to be taken back to the camp for their next contest. Perhaps one of them would suffer a similar fate to the tomato.

The giant queen held her hands up for silence. “What shall be their fate?” She held her thumb horizontally and waited for the crowd’s decision.

“Wait. What’s going on? You can’t do this,” protested Eric. A mutter was swelling from the crowd, growing in intensity.

“…nation, ….limination, elimination, elimination, Elimination, Elimination, ELIMINATION, ELIMINATION!”

“But, no …”

“Why do you think it’s called the Eliminator Game? If the crowd so choose, the losers are eliminated. It’s simple justice.” Her thumb pointed downwards.

“What do you mean justice? Why should they be killed? Just for losing one game?!”

“I think you forget the murder in cold juice of many of our finest warriors.”

“But they were trying to kill us!”

“But you didn’t have to joke about it.”

“But we’re super heroes and villains. We have to make witty remarks during fights. It’s what we do. It’s part of the job description!”

“Not here it isn’t.” She gestured to the guards. “Do it.”

They raised their spears and threw them straight at the four.


Somewhere else.

The four rocked in their seats.

“Oh, that was even better,” said the second.

“The look on Eric’s face!” the third enthused. “That was priceless.”

“Classic!” said the first.

“Puree?? Oh, I get it!” exclaimed the fourth.

“And two more to go!” beamed the first.

Disclaimer-type-thingys. Del-Monte belongs to Del-Monte. Thunderdome belongs to the guys who own Mad Max I guess.

Yes, I know the puns were a bit dreadful. Ok, totally appalling, but please find consolation in the fact that we don’t know any vegetable jokes. Also, what does anyone think of the new direction the story has wandered off in? Opinions and advice are always welcome. Thanx for reading.

To be continued…

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