Authors: Tracey West
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Skipper. Kowalski. Rico. Private. They
are penguins, but more than penguins. They are an elite unit. Soldiers. Heroes. Saving penguins who have been kidnapped from zoos and aquariums all over the world from bad guys. But like other heroes before them, these penguins came from humble beginnings. They were hatched in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, where they waddled and played with the rest of the young penguins.
In those days, it was just Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico. When they weren't frolicking, they spent endless hours marching in long lines. Luckily, a documentary
crew was there to capture it all on film.
“Does anyone even know where we're marching to?” young Skipper asked his friends.
Four adult penguins waddled past them.
“Who cares?” asked the first one.
“I question nothing!” announced the second.
“Me too!” added the third.
“Me too!” finished the fourth.
care. There had to be more to life than marching in line. He craned his neck to look up ahead, but all he could see were more penguins.
“Well, fine,” Skipper said. “We'll just fly to the front of the line and see for ourselves. Kowalski, Rico, engage aerial surveillance!”
The two penguins stood on their tiptoes, flapping their short wings as hard as they could. Kowalski grunted. Rico's face turned red from the effort. But they didn't budge.
“Skipper, we appear to be flightless!” Kowalski reported.
Skipper held up his flippers.
“Well, what's the point of these?” he asked angrily.
Rico, the silent member of the group, looked thoughtfully at one of his flippers. Then he slapped one of Skipper's flippers with it in a high-five.
Skipper's eyes widened.
“Whoa! I like it!” he exclaimed. “Hey, this could be our thing! What are we gonna call it? Let's call it the, uhÂ .Â .Â . the high-
Suddenly a large white egg rolled into the penguins, knocking them over. It rolled away as they got back on their feet.
“Hey! Anybody see that? That's an egg! Is someone gonna go and get it?” Skipper yelled.
The nearest adult penguins stopped. They looked at one another nervously. “We can't do that,” one replied.
“Well, why not?” Skipper asked.
“It's a dangerous world out there,” another penguin explained. “And we're just penguins. You know, nothing butÂ .Â .Â . cute and cuddly.”
“Yeah, why do you think there are always documentary crews filming us?” a penguin asked.
Another penguin shrugged. “Sorry, kid. We lose
a few eggs every year. It's just nature.”
“Right, nature. I guess that makes sense,” Skipper replied, but then his eyes narrowed with steely determination. “SomethingÂ .Â .Â . something deep down in my gut tells me that it makes no sense at all. You know what? I reject nature!”
The penguin marchers gasped loudly. Skipper raised a flipper like he was leading a charge in battle.
“Who's with me?” he yelled. “Ya-ha!”
He took off after the egg, sliding on his belly across the slippery ice. The egg launched right over a cliff! Skipper tried to stop, but he was going too fast. He slid headfirst off the cliff!
Then he suddenly stopped. Craning his neck, he saw that Kowalski and Rico had grabbed his feet and were pulling him back.
Skipper hopped to his feet and the three penguins peered over the cliff's edge. The egg was still furiously rolling down the cliffside, dodging sharp spikes of ice.
“Gah!” said Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico.
Then the egg landed on a ledge of soft snow,
and the penguins breathed a sigh of relief.
But the ledge broke off!
“Gah!” said the penguins again.
The snow tumbled farther down the cliff with the egg in the center, forming a giant snowball as it rolled. At the bottom of the cliff, the snowball hit the bow of an old abandoned whaling ship. It cracked in half.
“Gah!” cried the three young birds.
Unharmed, the egg spilled out onto the ship's deck.
“The old ship!” Kowalski exclaimed. “No one's ever returned from there alive.”
“Relax, Kowalski, there's a bird down there now,” Skipper told him. “Look, he's fine.”
A tiny bird hopped across the ship when suddenly a huge leopard seal emerged from the water. It opened its tooth-filled mouth and swallowed the bird whole!
The penguins shrunk back in horror.
“Leopard seals!” Skipper growled. “Nature's snakes!”
“Aren't snakes nature's snakes?” Kowalski asked.
“How should I know?” Skipper asked. “I live on the flippin' frozen tundra!”
They watched as the huge seal climbed onto the ship's deck, followed by two other seals. They wriggled their way toward the helpless egg.
“They're going for the egg!” Skipper cried. “Gimme a way down there, ASAP!”
Kowalski thoughtfully stroked his chin with his flipper. “All one would have to do is collect thirty feet of kelpÂ .Â .Â .Â ,” he mused out loud.
The penguins didn't notice, but the film crew was right behind them. The director narrated in a whisper.
“Tiny and helpless, the baby penguins are frozen with fear. They know if they fall from this cliff, they will surely die.”
He nodded to his cameraman. “Gunter, give them a shove.”
“.Â .Â .Â harnessing the jellyfish we've trained to obey simple voice commandsâ” Kowalski was saying, when a microphone pole reached out and bumped into the penguins. The three of them tumbled down the cliffside.
“Now that's more like it!” Skipper cheered.
They spilled onto the deck
of the ship. Rico sailed forward, his arms ready to grab hold of the egg.
“Attaboy, Rico! Don't let those seals have it!” Skipper yelled.
Rico swept in just before the seals reached the egg. He picked it upâand popped it into his mouth, swallowing it in his miraculous gullet.
“Okay, I guess that works,” Skipper said.
Now the seals noticed the penguins. They lunged forward, snapping at their flippers.
“Get to higher ground!” cried Kowalski.
The three penguins grabbed onto a rope attached to a harpoon gun that looked like a long metal spear. They swung themselves on top of the gun and out of the seals' reach.
“Boo-yah!” Skipper cheered.
But the weight of the penguins caused the harpoon gun to dip, and they started to slide right to the seals.
“I'd recommend firing it now,” Kowalski said.
“Nope. Hold on,” Skipper ordered.
“Uh, we really should fire it,” Kowalski repeated.
“Not till we see the whites of their eyes,” Skipper insisted. That just seemed like the right thing to do.
Kowalski was starting to panic. “They're mostly pupil, very little white. Almost none!”
“They got to have a little bit of white, right?” Skipper asked.
Kowalski shook his head. “None whatsoever.”
“What if they look really far to the left?” Skipper pressed.
A massive set of jaws clamped down inches away from Skipper.
“Fire in the hole!” Skipper yelled.
Rico pulled the trigger, and the long harpoon shot from the gun, carrying the three penguins with it. They arced across the water and landed one on top of the other on the surface of an iceberg. The egg popped out of Rico's beak.
They had done it! They'd saved the egg!
“Kowalski, analysis?' Skipper asked.
“We are really awesome at this!” Kowalski replied.
Skipper's eyes got wide as he realized something. “Hey! Hey! We can do our thing!” he said. “High-one!” He held up a flipper, and they all smacked flippers. It felt good.
Smack! Smack! Smack!
They kept doing it. In his excitement, Skipper accidentally smacked the egg, and it began to crack.
“Oops. My bad,” Skipper said.
They heard a pecking sound, and the egg cracked some more.
“Look, it's the miracle of birth,” Skipper said.
The egg cracked all the way open, spewing goo all over them.
“Ick! That's disgusting!” Skipper wailed.
A chick popped out. His skin was wrinkly and damp from the fluid inside the egg. The top of the eggshell was stuck to his head. He had a goofy grin on his baby face. It was newly hatched Private!
The penguins recoiled.
But Private smiled at them, and they couldn't help smiling back.
“Hello! Are you my family?” the little guy asked.
The three penguins looked around them. The iceberg was floating far away from their home in Antarctica. They were surrounded by ocean on all sidesâan ocean filled with leopard seals, sharks, and other creatures that loved to eat penguins.
“You don't have a family, and we're all going to die,” Kowalski answered.
Private's lip quivered. Skipper slapped Kowalski.
“Nobody's gonna die!” he said firmly.
He pulled the eggshell off the baby's head.
“You know what you've got, kid? You've got us. And we've got each other,” Skipper told him. “If that ain't a family, I don't know what is.”
He saluted Private, who adorably saluted him back. Skipper tousled the feathers on his head.