Aug 1, 2005

HR, 30

Homeless Tony settled into a nervous crouch and stared at them, open-mouthed.

"Listen up," piped Harlequin, trying to reign him in before he got going again.

"I'll do whatever you say," said Homeless Tony.

"That's perfect," shouted Harlequin, gleefully. "It won't be much, I assure you, but it will be very helpful. The whole field will be indebted to you."

"You mean there's more of your kind?" Homeless Tony pointed at them curiously.

"Oh, yes. Much more. And first off, I'd like you to say a few words to them. You know, to improve morale and all?"

Homeless Tony did not know, but he nodded obligingly. "Lead on, spirit," he mumbled.

Harlequin decided that it would be to greater effect if he could stand on the palm of Homeless Tony's hand and speak. It would be an inspirational sight to his timid followers. Under Harlequin's direction, Homeless Tony scooped him up and trudged towards the alley, Hubert following at his heel.

The sight of a man approaching sent the crowd of recruits skittering and flapping away, but Harlequin rallied them with a cry.

"Don't be afraid! This is the human I spoke to you of: he's here to help us scare off the Pack."

The creatures slowly reassembled in front of Homeless Tony, gaping at Harlequin's confident stance in Homeless Tony's giant hand.

"Tell them you mean no harm, Homeless Tony."

Homeless Tony ran his free hand over his stubble.

"Woof?" he said.

"Oh, I forgot you don't speak the common animal tongue. Never mind: perhaps you can pet them?"

Homeless Tony bent to one knee. "They'll really let me?" he asked.

One by one the mice approached and let Homeless Tony stroke their fur. Curiosity got the best of the rest of the crowd and they bunched up around Homeless Tony's feet. He grinned and set Harlequin down to pet two at a time.

Harlequin sidled up to Hubert and pulled back his drooping ear to whisper into it.

"They've really taken to him, haven't they?"

Hubert shook his head in amazement. "I've never seen such a thing. I might be crazy, but I'm beginning to think this crazy plan might work."

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