“Can’t get away from me!” Confidence Heart gave a sudden dash and scooped up her new son Shimmering Star Bear as he tried to get away from her. “I think someone needs to lie down.” Confidence Heart grinned as she carried Shimmers to his bedroom.
“I’m not sleepy,” Shimmers wiggled in her grasp but grinned nonetheless.
“I think you will be,” she carefully dropped the diapered bear onto his bed.
Shimmers giggled as he bounced off the far too large bed then saw Love Heart standing in the doorway, having come over to see what was going on. “Daddy!”
Confidence Heart looked over her shoulder and smirked, “Come join us, Love Heart.”
Love Heart smiled and was about to step in when a thought struck him, “Just give me a few minutes, I need to make a phone call.”
“Aww!” Shimmers pouted, until Confidence Heart tickled his paw pads which made him shriek with laughter.
Love Heart stepped outside and walked a short distance away, just to make sure no one could hear him, then dug his heartphone out of his tummy symbol.
Independent Bear and Futureheart were in Defender’s training room inside the Hall of Hearts. Futureheart’s psychonite infused sword clashed against Indy’s katana blade, each hit sending out shockwaves around the room. Indy jumped back and swung his sword, sending out a wave of psionic energy right at Futureheart, who barely had a moment to slice the wave in two with his sword.
Futureheart was about to charge when Indy held up a hand to stop him. “Hold on, phone call.” Futureheart relaxed as Indy dug his heartphone out of his tummy symbol. “Hello?”
“Indy, it’s Love Heart.”
“Is everything alright? I’m in the middle of training.” Indy said.
“It’s complicated. I have a son now…”
Indy listened intently, his face not betraying any emotion as Love Heart ran through the events of the previous day.
“…so I’d like you to check in on his ex-father, just to be safe. I can’t leave right now, I need to be here for Shimmering Star.”
Indy sighed, “This is all kinds of messed up, but I’ll check for you. Are you sure you’re alright with telling me this?”
“Of course. We’re brothers.”
“OK. See you later, brother.” Indy smiled as he hung up then sighed, “Well I’ve got a mission to go on, Futur, mind waiting for me here?”
“I think we’re done for the day.” Futureheart sheathed his sword on his back, “What’s the mission about?”
Indy headed for the exit, “I’ll explain on the way.”
Miracle Heart Kitsune and Marina Bear both lay, belly down, on Marina’s bed, a pile of playing cards in front of them.
“Got any 5s?” Mira asked.
“Nope, go fish,” Marina gave a catty grin as Mira took a card from the pile, sighing when it wasn’t a five.
“Got any 10s?” Marine asked.
“Yes…” Mira passed the card she just picked up to Marina, “Where’s Flair today?”
“Music lessons, he’s really getting into them.” Marina looked at her hand, “got any kings?”
“Go fish,” Mira looked back down at her hand.
After a full minute of silence, Marina looked up from her hand into Mira’s face; she seemed a million miles away. “Mira, what’s wrong?”
“Huh?” Mira looked up, “Sorry, just thinking too much.”
Marina pushed herself up and looked over at Mira’s tails, all four of which looked droopy even while lying down. “What’s got you down?”
Mira put her cards down and sighed, “I went on a mission with mom and dad yesterday. It was rough…”
“How rough, like bullies rough or Shrieky attack rough?” Marina stopped talking as she saw Mira avert her gaze, “Why didn’t you tell me about it last night?”
“Didn’t want to think about it, still don’t… maybe…” Mira picked up her cards again but Marina reached over to stop her hand.
“Try talking about it, remember we’re supposed to share our feelings.” Marina gave a pleading look to Mira.
Mira looked back up at Marina. She knew she had to keep the details about her new brother a secret but that wasn’t what was bothering her, and it was also the part she really didn’t want to talk about. “We had to help a boy with an abusive father, I saw him try to beat his son with a belt and… I read his journal…” Mira was already starting to cry and collapsed her head into her hands.
Marina pushed herself up and crawled next to Mira so she could lie alongside her. She put an arm around Mira’s shoulders, which made her turn to the blue tiger-striped bear, her eyes full of tears.
“How…How could anyone do that to their own child?” Mira sobbed.
Marina brushed a tear away from Mira’s eyes, “I don’t know. I mean… I don’t want to think about it either.” Marina shuddered.
“Girls! Lunch is ready!” The voice came from Tugs.
Eager for a distraction and their game forgotten, Mira and Marina got up off the bed. Before they exited the room, Mira gave Marina a hug, “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Marina hugged her back, “Let’s just not talk about it. I don’t want dad to get too worried.”
“OK,” Mira was all too happy to not have a reason to talk about it again, at least not so soon. She and Marina headed down for lunch.
“Alright Flair, ready to try it from the top?” Harmony Bear sat at her keyboard facing Flair Heart Raccoon.
“Yes.” The pink raccoon had a harmonica in his hands and he took a deep breath as Harmony began the opening bars of a song. Flair Heart put the harmony to his lips and began to play. As the opening bars ended, Flair pulled the harmonica back and started to sing.
“It’s nine…” He stopped, and so did Harmony.
“Flair, are you alright?” Harmony stood up from her seat.
Flair gulped, “I sound wrong.”
Harmony walked over to Flair, her just barely perceptible baby bump showing now, “You sound great, Flair, how are you wrong?”
“My voice is too high,” Flair looked down at his feet.
Harmony crouched down in front of Flair and lifted his chin up. She smiled, “Flair, you don’t need to sound perfect, it’s better if you sound like you. Go with the flow and find your own voice.”
“Truer advice about music, I have never heard.” Loyal Heart had entered the music room while Harmony was speaking.
Harmony was still smiling as she stood up and met Loyal Heart in tight embrace, “Loyal, come to hear me sing?”
“You and your student,” Loyal gave Harmony a kiss as his hand wandered to her small baby bump.
“Alright then,” Harmony turned to Flair, who still stood there, “Want to try singing again?”
“Umm, I’ve never sang for anyone else…” Flair scuffed his foot on the ground.
Loyal Heart released Harmony as she walked back to her piano, “Don’t worry, just pretend I’m not here.”
Flair gulped, then looked at Harmony who nodded and gave an encouraging smile. “O-OK.” He took a deep breath and held his harmonica up to his mouth again as Harmony played the opening melody on her keyboard.
Despite the worrying circumstances, Futureheart was smiling more as Indy explained what Love Heart had told him over the phone. When he finished, Indy turned to Futureheart, who was driving the cloud car. “You seem happy about this.”
“Of course.” Futureheart kept his eyes facing forwards as the city below came into view, “Eight women expecting and Love Heart adopting a former human turned Care Bear. This never happened before. The future is changing and all because I came back here. We can do it. We can save everyone.”
“Huh,” Indy’s mind wandered to Take Care. Did he tell her how he felt before? Probably not. He could have told her after she gave him the push he needed to continue his training but he had resolved not to tell her for fear of ruining their friendship. He smiled, “Yeah, the future is changing.” And he was going to change it more. He just had to work up the nerve to tell Take Care how he felt.
As soon as they got close to the ground, they knew something was wrong. Police cars were parked outside Antonio’s house and yellow police tape had blocked off access to the building. The cloud car dissolved as they landed and Indy approached the nearest police officer.
The officer, a young middle-eastern woman, moved to block their path to the house. “Sorry, Care Bears, no access to this site is permitted.”
Indy and Mental Heart both felt a sudden headache as Indy asked, “What happened here?”
The officer looked over her shoulder to see if she was being watched, then turned back to them and whispered, “Guidance Heart helped me figure out that I wanted to be in law-enforcement so I’ll tell it that it was a homicide. I don’t know any of the details yet.”
“Thanks for telling us. We need to go.” Futureheart motioned for Indy to turn and leave.
Worried about being overheard, Futureheart sent his messages to Indy telepathically while Indy replied by “thinking” loud enough for Futureheart to hear him.
‘You felt that right?´ Futureheart looked over his shoulder just to make sure they weren’t being watched.
‘Yeah, I had that same headache when we found that devastated town a decade ago,’ Indy shuddered, ‘I still can’t get the images out of my head’
‘I know this psionic energy, I’ve felt it before.’ Futureheart narrowed his eyes, ‘It’s Mental Heart.’
“What!?” Indy’s shout made several people turn and stare.
‘Shh!’ Futureheart held a finger to his lips but still didn’t speak aloud, ‘yes, it’s him.’
Indy conjured a cloud car and let Futureheart get into the driver’s seat and sat down in the passenger seat. Once they were high up, Indy spoke, “Why would he go after that man?”
“Maybe he knew that Joaquin could become a Care Bear,” Futureheart gripped the steering wheel. “Or maybe he had a personal stake in this.”
“We need to call meeting about this,” Indy pulled his heartphone out and sent a text to Love Heart.
Love Heart had left his heartphone on the kitchen counter, so he didn’t hear the ringing as the text was received.
Love Heart leaned up against the doorway to Shimmers’ room and smiled, “Need some help, Confidence?”
Confidence had grabbed a giggling Shimmeringstar around the waist and grinned. “Yes, I definitely need some help.” She managed to push Shimmers down on the bed and climbed up, pinning his arms to the bed under her knees as she sat on his tummy.
“What are you going to do momma?” Shimmers looked up at her as she grinned.
“Something I know you always wanted.” Confidence Heart wiggled her fingers as she brought them close.
“No!” Despite his protests, Shimmers was smiling.
Love Heart came up behind Confidence to where Shimmer’s feet were trying to kick and grabbed his ankles with one hand, “Hold still,” Love Heart teased as he tickled Shimmeringstar’s heart-shaped paw pads. Shimmers shrieked with laughter as he tried to struggle free.
“Our son has such a cute laugh,” Confidence Heart tickled Shimmers in his armpits.
“NOOOHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Shimmers shrieked with laughter as he squirmed under his parents’ assault.
“You love this don’t you?” Confidence Heart teased as she scratched Shimmers under his chin.
Love Heart let up long enough to let Shimmeringstar speak. Shimmers was blushing as he spoke, “Yes, momma.”
“I thought so,” Love Heart used his tummy symbol to conjure a pair of paint brushes and began scrubbing them across Shimmeringstar’s paw pads.
Shimmers burst out laughing and Confidence Heart started tickling him under his armpits again. Shimmers tried to cross his feet to protect them from Love Heart but he just grabbed at his son’s ankles again and created a feather to replace the brushes, that he swept across his son’s paw pads.
“NOHOHOHOHOHOOO!” Shimmers begged as he scrunched up his toes, trying to stop the feather’s attack, only for Love Heart to tickle his toes with the feather as well.
“You’re so ticklish here, aren’t you?” Love Heart teased as he lowered his face to Shimmers’ toes and rubbed his nose tip against his son’s paw pads. Shimmers squealed and laughed as he tried to wiggle free in vain as Confidence Heart scratched him under his chin.
Finally, Love Heart stopped, sniffed and scrunched up his face in disgust, “I think Shimmers needs a change.”
Confidence Heart stopped tickling and sniffed as well. “Yep, our big baby needs a change.” She stood up off the bed.
“Nooo!” Shimmers giggled and tried to get up as Confidence grabbed him around his middle.
“Yes,” Confidence easily carried Shimmers to the bathroom for a much needed change. She’d gotten a fold out changing table earlier that day, one large enough to set her son on and strap him down so he couldn’t wiggle away.
“I’m not a baby!” Shimmer protested.
“Yes, you’re our big baby,” Confidence teased as she undid his diaper and tossed it in the bin to be washed, wiped him clean, dusted talcum power on him then tied another thick cloth diaper around his bottom, once again too tight for him to undo on his own. “There, all nice and padded and clean,” Confidence undid the strap and lifted Shimmers to the ground.
Love Heart had let Confidence Heart take care of diaper duty while he went to the kitchen to look for something to eat, and saw his heartphone on the counter with the text notification on the screen. He picked up it and read the text from Independent Bear.
“Antonio was killed by Mental Heart. We need to have a meeting.”
Love Heart just stared at the text for a moment, long enough for Shimmers to come out of the bathroom and run over to hug his legs. Love Heart still looked worried as he looked down at his son.
Shimmers saw this and looked worried, “Daddy, what’s wrong?”
Love Heart reached down and ruffled his son’s headfur, trying his best to smile, “Nothing you have to worry about.”
At that moment, the back door opened and Miracle Heart entered, having left Marina’s house after lunch. She was still teary eyed, thoughts about her new brother’s past still on her mind, when she saw Shimmers hugging her dad’s leg.
Shimmers saw his sister’s teary face and let go of Love Heart before he walked over to here. “Mira, are you alright?” Mira suddenly grabbed him in a tight hug and started to cry. Shimmers didn’t understand but hugged her back.
“Shimmers, I promise I’m going to be the best big sister you could ever have,” Mira spoke through her tears.
Shimmers looked up at her, his eyes shining, “You already are, Mira.”
Love Heart and Confidence Heart smiled at their children, then Love Heart motioned to the door with his head, “Mira, can you babysit your little brother. Confidence and I have to go to a meeting.”
Mira leg go of Shimmers with one arm and wiped her eyes, smiling the whole while, “OK.”
Outside, Love Heart showed Confidence Heart the text on his phone, which only made Confidence Heart’s face to harden and agree that they had to have a meeting.
The meeting itself was brief but to the point, Mental Heart’s attack made them all very aware of the threat he posed and the fact that there might be other Care Bears on Earth who were in danger from him. They all agreed to star searching the Earth for more lost Care Bears before Mental Heart could get to them.
“We’re stopping in Estevan for a short maintenance and refuel.” The driver of the intercity bus spoke in a monotone voice.
The only passenger on board sighed, “Alright. Might as well take some time off and get lunch,
The bus pulled to a stop and the passenger disembarked. He was a middle-aged brown humanoid moose with short antlers a dark brown heart-shaped stamp on the tip of his snout and dressed in red ceremonial clothing of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with a small hat perched between his antlers. Despite his age and the slight sag to his face, the moose’s eyes were full of life as he stared upwards at the huge naturally colored bald eagle with a red heart stamp on his beak that had landed on top of the small bus depot.
“I see you managed to keep up, old friend,” the moose’s voice was upbeat though it betrayed his age as he spoke.
The eagle clacked his beak and stared down at the moose, smiling slightly at the corners of his mouth, “I always do, Maurice.” The eagle winged down to stand next to Maurice, showing that they stood the same height, “Why are we stopping in this small town.”
Maurice turned back to the bus only to find the driver still seated behind the wheel. “The driver said we need to stop for a short maintenance and refueling. I think he may be negligent.”
The eagle looked at the console but the driver had covered the fuel gauge with his hand as he continued to stare out the windshield. “I see, perhaps we should find some lunch. You have my ID and wallet?”
Maurice pulled a wallet out of his left pocket, “Right here.”
The eagle took the wallet in one of his wings and curled it around, so he wouldn’t drop it, then followed after Maurice on talon tip, surprisingly not feeling any pain from the walk. “Refresh my memory, why are you moving to Regina?”
Maurice didn’t answer for a moment, waiting until they crossed a street, “My days as an on foot officer are finished. I have the energy and the will but at 55… well, very few RCMP officers reach this age without a career ending injury and I don’t want to push my luck. I’m retiring from the force to be an instructor at the training grounds in Regina.”
“I see.” The eagle noticed a small restaurant nearby and pointed with his wing. “That seems like a good place. Thank you for bringing me with you.”
Maurice smiled, “Your eyes saved my life more times than I can count, Eagle. It’s the same reason I got them to give you a commission as my partner.”
They got some odd looks from the other patrons, especially for Eagle as he still looked like a normal bird despite his size, but they managed to get their food without much fuss. Maurice had a fruit salad and a green salad while Eagle had two wraps, one chicken and one turkey. Eagle’s wings were flexible enough to act as hands and he ate rather civilly.
Halfway through his meal, Maurice looked up and around. “Eagle, where is everyone?”
Eagle looked up and searched around. The restaurant was deserted, even the cashiers and cooks were gone. Estevan wasn’t a big town but it was hardly empty, but even the streets were deserted.
Their lunch forgotten, the two old friends ran outside. “Something is very wrong here.” Eagle flapped his wings and flew up to circle overhead. Maurice watched him and listened, only hearing the slight whoosh of wind through the town streets.
Eagle suddenly let out a screech then was knocked from the sky, plummeting to the ground and smashing against a nearby building.
“Eagle!” Maurice shouted and charged towards the building, just in time for Eagle to hit the ground in a mess of feathers. He was bleeding but was able to push himself up and on to his talons.
“Something unseen struck me from the sky,” Eagle shook his head and looked around.
“I forget how durable Care Bears can be.” Mental Heart had seemed to materialize in the street a short distance in front of them on the street.
Maurice readied himself as he faced the man with long purple hair, hand straying to the holster at his side. “Who are you? Where is everyone else in town?” He kept his voice level.
“They’ve been indisposed. I don’t need an audience.” He looked down at Eagle, who was just barely keeping himself upright. “I’ll finish you off first.”
*Clack* Maurice pulled out his sidearm and aimed it at Mental Heart. Mental Heart’s impassive face looked down at the firearm. “I never thought I’d see the day a Care Bear held a gun.”
“I don’t like carrying it, but I’m required to.” Maurice’s eyes narrowed, “I’ve never fired outside of the firing range in 36 years and I don’t want to start now. Put your hands up.”
Mental Heart didn’t even pretend to follow the moose’s orders and Maurice felt his arm being forced sideways. “I’m not going to waste my time on you.” The gun shook towards Eagle, and Maurice struggled to turn it away, only pulling his thumb up. The gun was pointed right at Eagle and he pulled the trigger, or tried.
“Safety latch, you’re more resourceful than I thought.” Mental Heart focused on the gun and pulled it from Maurice’s hand. It flew towards him, only for a bolt of lightning to strike the gun in mid air, causing an explosion that blew the gun’s handle apart.
“What?!” For the first time he could remember, Mental Heart’s face contorted in rage and he looked up just in time to see Futureheart dropping down on top of him, his sword flashing down at him. Mental Heart barely jumped out of the way as the heavy blade struck the street, carving a groove into the asphalt.
Love Heart flew down to hover in-between Maurice and Mental Heart (wearing his cargo vest), he looked back over his shoulder at the moose, “Are you alright?”
“I am, who are you?” Maurice looked up at the green bear.
“Prince General Love Heart Bear of the Care Bear Magi, just hold on.” Love Heart landed on the ground and conjured his swords into his hands as a cloud car drove down from above and landed next to Maurice and Eagle.
Guidance Heart jumped out of the cloud car and was immediately at Eagle’s side, water and light conjured into her hands. “Just hold still, I’ll get you fixed up.”
“Thank you, miss raccoon.” Eagle did his best to stay still.
Mental Heart’s normally impassive face had twisted in rage and confusion as he stared at Futureheart. His head was spinning as he stepped away from him, “No! This can’t!” Mental Heart suddenly turned tail and fled.
Futureheart watched in confusion until Mental Heart vanished from view, then turned to face Maurice and Eagle, “Are you alright?”
“Rattled, but I’ll be fine.” Maurice walked over to where the mangled remains of his sidearm lay on the ground, the gunpowder having detonated inside the clip. “I’m going to have to pay to replace this.”
“Then we should get going.” Love Heart let his swords dissolve, “I’ve been given the authority to evacuate any members of our species to the Kingdom of Caring for their protection.” He smiled at and offered a hand to Maurice, “Would you like to join the Care Bear Family?”
Maurice looked at Love Heart for a moment, then accepted his hand. “I would, though I am not sure I will fit it.”
“You will, my old friend.” Eagle walked up to Love Heart, his injuries having been healed by Guidance Heart. “I would like to join as well, if you will have me.” He extended a wing to Love Heart.
Love Heart took the wing and shook it like a hand, “We will.”
“Then we need to go,” Futureheart said, “I don’t know why Mental Heart had a breakdown but we need to take advantage of it now.”
“Then get in,” Guidance Heart got into the driver’s seat of the cloud car, with Maurice and Futureheart in the back and passenger seat.
Eagle looked at Love Heart as the bear hovered off the ground, “How do you fly with no wings?”
“Magic,” Love Heart smirked, “Can you fly?”
Eagle clacked his beak and spread his wings, “I can fly better than you, young one.” Eagle took off into the sky and Love Heart shot off after him.
“Follow me to the Kingdom of Caring!” He shouted.
On the ground, Mental Heart held his chest, breathing heavily as he watched them go. “That bear, he didn’t belong here, and how did they find me here?” He took a deep breath and did his best to return to his usual composure. “I’ll have to deal with him or he could ruin everything.”