The group stood just outside the entrance to the hospital, a sea of baggage, medical equipment, storybooks and fussing parents milling about behind them. Time was of the essence, and discretion is the better part of valor; many people had done many daring and heroic things with what they had on-hand, and this current “field trip” of the starry-dust crusaders was absolutely no different. Suits had been checked and re-checked, supplies prepared and then doubled, air traffic cleared and volunteers raised. For all intents and purposes, this would be one for the history books – regardless of how it turned out.

It also turned out that on such short notice, the only transportation that the Hospital could muster that would not raise undue suspicion and not stop the flow of regular emergencies was a bright orange short bus.

“[I knew this was going to be some bullshit.]” Laverne said, mostly to herself, t-posing gently in the middle of the maelstrom of activity so as to not apply pressure to the bodies of her dozens of hitchhikers/field trip buddies. She was left alone partly because of the reassurances she gave the Jornissian parents on the way out, and partly from that “If you fuck with me right now I will use your children as a flail” vibe she was giving off.

“{…and G’rekrez likes to take the high ground, so don’t let her fight with her sister or else it’s all over.}” A Dorarizin mother said, fussing over one of the fuzzy beans that had latched onto Than Mo’s back and refused to let go.

“[Alright.]” Than mo replied, deadpan, as yet another bag of baby supplies was dropped at his feet.

“{So this should have everything to take care of Rrzwegr until nap time, in which case-}”

“[You do realize that this shouldn’t take more than a few hours, right? Like. We should be back before sundown.]” Than mo sighed, looking at the concerned parent – and the 4 others behind her. “[In, out, 20 minute adventure.]”

Than mo stared down the Mother – someone from accounting, he didn’t catch the name – as she shuffled awkwardly in place. “{Yes, but, well.}”

“[Well what?]”

The Dorarizin gave the also-gently-T-posing human a look, waving her arm about as the Human-Dorarizin Pup amalgamation tracked her hand movement with expectation. “{Just.}”

“{They’ll be fine, Zzr’gre-of-Drozr.}” Tipo smiled, walking between the two parents to pick up the baby bag, hefting it’s weight on his shoulder. “{A few of my own pups are on him, so I’ll be another chaperon. We also have plenty of juice boxes too.}”

There was a ripple of excitement along the Cerberarizin at the word, and only with a wiggle of his arms could Than mo bring the excitement down a bit. “[We’ll be fine-]”

Than mo’s reassurance was broken by a cheer as, off to his side in the middle of a group of equally-concerned Karnakians, James was yeeted about 20 feet into the sky before slowly drifting down into the waiting arms of bemused parents.

Than mo looked at the Dorarizin, who just looked away sheepishly.

“{I’ll make sure he lands safely and not on our pups.}” Tipo said, reassuringly, as he tossed the care bag onto the pile of other care bags. “{And speaking of safety, I think we’re all set on everything we need to get going. Anyone have anything else?}” Tipo raised his voice in that typical Dad’s-not-yelling-but-wants-your-attention tone, causing all the pups to look at him with rapt attention. The Karnakian parents broke the circle, letting a wobbly bow-legged James waddle forward, not so much as saying an affirmative as whining softly.

“{So that’s a yes! And that’s a yes, already from tiny-chomper sassy-slaps, and a yes from you tiny-chomper-lookit-him-jump. Can you all make it on the bus-}”

“[I do not know what terrible decisions I have made where the highlight of my day is getting on a short bus.]” Laverne deadpanned, pengin-walking towards the now-kneeling bright orange hoverbus. “[However, I will be sending a strongly-worded homemade package to my guidance counselor.]” With a hop she cleared the first step, and then the next, and the next, t-posing the entire time. Than mo followed in much the same lien, and James effortlessly floated into the bus.

Effortlessly on his part; excitedly on the part of his floating field-trip buddies.

The Short Bus – there really was no sugarcoating that part – had been hastily modified before it’s departure; seat rows were taken out, banks of medical equipment were bolted in, and the entire interior was padded for a myriad of reasons… not the least of which being that the humans were left mostly unattended with children, and that could only end poorly. Speaking of, each human had their own “cubicle”, a set place to stand in exasperation in safety, if not peace.

Tipo finished his pre-flight conversation with their driver, and with an effortless liftoff they were on their way. The ground quickly receded from view, replaced now with the middle-levels of buildings, monuments and the far horizon stretching along all sides. The Short Bus was windowed along all sides and had a see-through roof, giving everyone a beautiful view of their flight. For a few moments, both children and adults were enraptured by the experience, enjoying the ability to look on their world in a way that few non-Moth enthusiasts do.

This was in relative silence, which means it lasted for all of 5 minutes until the babies got bored, and began to fuss.

“[Oh! Alright, so you’ll want to unzip bag 7E, Laverne.]” Tipo began, dropping the bag into Laverne’s cubicle. “[James, you’ll need Box 12J, it should be to your right. Than mo, do you need anything?]”

“I can’t move.”

“[Oh! Are the pups settling in for another nap?]”

“No.” Than mo stated, wiggling his arms slightly. As he did so the pups on them gripped him tighter, growling and gurgling happily that they got to keep their favorite chewtoy while having an adventure. “Like. If I move too much I’m pretty sure I’m going to dislodge a pup and I don’t know how that’ll pan out.” There was a defensive growl from somewhere around his left armpit, and Than mo gave Tipo a shrug. “See what I mean?”

“Same here.” James said, his chick body somehow puffing out even further. “And let us not ever say anything that involves leaving the good earth.”

“I might have more movement, but I got nothing tactile.” Laverne responded, slowly moving her arms straight out infront of her. The Jornissian hatchlings who were on her hands reared up, waving their arms and bodies in confusion and excitement before falling back in on the pile and the safety of their moving perch.

“[Well… I- I can’t manage so many young, that’s…]” Tipo looked around for some sort of encouragement, but received none, as he started to do some mental math in his head. “[Good heavens. I couldn’t tend to all of their needs! We’re going to have to figure something else out-]”

“I can distract them.” James interrupted, an unusually serious tone in his voice. “But the price will be great.”

“[I’ve been told that if the chicks are talking to you about sacrifices, you are not to indulge them.]” Tipo chided, pulling out a tablet to flip through some notes. “[Especially if those sacrifices are of living, sapient-]”

“No. Laverne. Than Mo.” James said, standing somehow taller. With effort the two other humans turned their full bodies to face their incredibly puffy colleague, the chicks on his body sensing that something was about to occur, and that a yeeting may be needed at any time.

“What is it, James?” Laverne asked, concern creeping into her voice. “I haven’t seen you this serious in a long time.”

“You should know of what I speak.” James closed his eyes, preparing himself mentally. “We are on a bright orange bus, filled with kids.”

“Yes, but I don- oh.” Laverne realized, inhaling deeply. “Oh.”

“[I don’t like this. I don’t like whatever this is.]” Tipo said, pointing his tablet accusingly between the humans who apparently shared a concerned psychic bond. “[What’s going on?]”

“How long is this trip, Tipo?” James said, not breaking eye contact with Laverne.

“[Probably… 2 hours, give or take. We’re not speeding for obvious reasons, and there’s a lot of animal traffic that we have to be careful of. Why do you ask?]”

“Do you think you can survive 4 hours of this, Laverne?” James said, stoically. “Than mo?”

“I have no idea what the fu-funtimes you’re talking about.” Than mo said, trying his best to censor himself as the pups he was carrying began to wiggle on his body. “But 4 hours seems OK – I’ve already tanked a lot more with these guys on me, so I don’t get the-”

“Than mo. We’re on a bus. With kids. On a field trip.” James said, slowly, trying to help his friend piece the puzzle together. “Which will take a long time to do. What did we do ourselves to pass the time when we were on field trips?”

“I mean, played around, did I spy, san- oh.” Than mo realized, his mouth curving into a thoughtful frown. “I see. They wouldn’t know words, but probably tone and intent would get through.”

“Can you survive 4 hours though?” James repeated, softly.

“[Really, really not liking whatever is going on right now.]” Tipo interjected, trying to get anyone’s attention. “[Explanations would be very useful! I’d really like some of that right now!]”

Than mo nodded, and James turned – slowly – to an increasingly exasperated Tipo. “Tipo, my friend.”


“We are on a bus.” James stated, matter-of-factly, over the soft prayers of strength that Laverne was muttering under her breath.

“[…Yes. We are. I don’t see how-]”

“And…” James inhaled deeply, before continuing. “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round-

Tipo frowned, then crouched low, ears swiveling back and forth as he tried to understand exactly what was going on. After a few seconds James’ voice was joined by Laverne, and then by Than mo. It didn’t matter that they were off-key, or warbling, or that sometimes the lyrics were incorrect; the three humans began to sing. And as they sung, the repetitive, simple sounds, the toddlers in their care listened with rapt attention for a few moments.

Before they also began to burst into happy, un-coordinated, squealing and screeching and hissing and yipping song.

There had been many trials that tested a young father; bleeds and falls, sudden sicknesses and infections, the fear of losing a pup, the fear of killing one out of negligence. All of them had been faced, head on, and all of them had been overcome – either through his own determination or through a little help from his friends and family. He had heard stories of parental fatigue, of wanting to wander away from your pups – dump them on a relative or one of your wives, but he was strong. Tipo’s love was strong. He would never… he could never leave his loved ones. But this? This hell-ride?

Tipo now knew what it was to wish for death.

He knew all of the parts of the bus and what they did, and was half-mumbling it on the third go-around if only to participate… the children did seem to enjoy it, and a happy baby is not a fussy baby, so it was fine. Then he learned about an elder human and all of the animals of earth. Then he counted down 99 bottles of alcohol off of the wall, and did that again, and again – longing for the sweet release of some form of inebriation. He learned who’s land was what. He learned about an old male human. He learned about going to a ball game and experiencing something else other than the continued cacophony of repetitive noise. He was a teapot and a bridge fell down and a baked goods man wandered around looking for a black-coated grazing animal and stars twinkled as everyone rowed a boat down a stream. His mind was melting, regressing, becoming more and more mad. These infant songs were repetitive, simple, and most of all catchy in that ear-worm kind of way.

But the last one. The last one was the worst, and Tipo began to seriously consider if embracing oblivion wasn’t a better choice.

This is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friends-” Happily droned Laverne, bouncing up and down as the Jornissian toddlers followed suit, the other two humans taking a break from singing that damned song for the past 30 minutes

“[Please, First Pack. Claim me now.]”

“I’m sorry, Tipo. There was no other way.” James sighed, bouncing in place to Laverne’s off-key singing. “But look on the bright side – I’ve seen nothing but forest here for a while now, so we have to be getting close. Do you want to check?”

“[Do you know the muffin man, the muffin- sorry, yes. Sure.]” Tipo babbled, getting up from his sprawling-out sploot on the floor and brushing off some of the ground-dust. He turned, leaning forward slightly to tap on the driver’s shoulder. The Karnakian tilted his head, before tapping his jaw twice and having a short conversation.

“[He says we should be good to land soon!]” Tipo said a bit too loudly, the enthusiasm of this torture ending sending a shudder up his spine. “[Though the GPS is giving us a different …address than what Juan’s business should be.]”

“What do you mean?” Than mo called out, his pups wiggling excitedly. “It’s Tierra Tara Terra Farms, correct?”

“[Well it should be. But the GPS indicator says Ram Ranch.]” Tipo frowned, pulling out his tablet. “[I’m certain the coordinates are right-]”

“They probably are.” James said, grinning widely as a very nice landing pad and farming complex came into view. “Yeah. And if not, then we’re definitely in the right area.”