'Colon hyphen pee' responded Snook.

They all stared at him.

'I say, he really is crazy, isn't he?' said Morris. The others apparently didn't feel this required any sort of reply, so Morris returned to the topic at hand. 'Really, now, I don't want to kill you folks. You seem decent, for Tanenbaums.'

'Actually, I'm a Prawn,' said Fin.

'We all are, I think,' put in Hilfa. 'I'm not sure about you, Sven, but I'm fairly certain Melville is.'

'Actually,' said Sven Zoot, 'my real name is Waren Atves Tanenbaum. I'm third in line for the leadership. I just happen to prefer exploring the inland areas, much to my family's distress.'

'So...wait. I'm confused,' said Morris. 'If you're not Tanenbaums, why are you trying to blow up our base? And prawns are like shrimp. You're not shrimp-like. You're definitely human.'

'The Tanenbaumian society is three-tiered,' explained Waren Atves Tanenbaum. There are the pureblood Tanenbaums, such as myself, who rule the nation (or wander around under false names if we don't want to, though that's quite rare). There are the mixed-blood Tanenbaumians, who are somehow related to the pure Tanenbaums, but with highly diluted ancestry. And there are the Prawns, who are completely unrelated to us.'

'Oh, I see,' said Morris. 'So what do you call the inhabitants of Tanenbaum Region?'

'Well, I'm Hilfa and this is Fin, Sve--er, Waren, and Snook.'

'No, I mean collectively,' corrected Morris. 'Like, we, as a group, are the Pesce. What are you as a group if not just "Tanenbaums"?'

'I don't know. "Residents of Tanenbaum Region", I guess. We usually don't clump Prawns and Purebloods together under one umbrella term. It gets you hung.'



'By the neck!' said Snook.

'Hung by the neck.'


'Whatever. It sucks, no matter how you inflect it.'

'I'd imagine so.'

'Very painful.'

'At least it gets you out in the fresh air,' commented Snook.

'So,' said Fin after a pause. 'Are you going to kill us? Because I'd rather you didn't, if it's all the same to you. Well, you could perhaps kill the others and let me go. I'm harmless, you see. Just an ordinary criminal. I steal from your enemies.'

'And I'm a girl,' said Hilfa. 'Girls can't do anything harmful. They're wimpy.'

'That's not true,' said Breck, Morris, Sven/Waren, and Fin together.

'Girls can hit you with a rolling pin,' said Breck.

'Girls can leave the iron on and burn down your house,' said Morris.

'Girls can have their crazy brothers try to kill everyone in sight,' said Fin.

'Girls can order you beheaded if you don't accept the crown,' said Sven/Waren.

'I guess you're right,' said Hilfa. 'Better kill me then. I mean, no wait! I don't have a rolling pin, an iron, or a guillotine, and I don't control Snook. All I have is my pack of explosives.'

'Oh, well, nothing dangerous about that,' said Morris.

'Actually, Sargeant, most explosives can be very dangerous,' said Dudders. 'You see, what she most likely has is nitroglycerin stabilised in some absorbent material and a separate miniature explosive. If she chose to, she could detonate the miniature explosive, which would in turn trigger the nitroglycerin, causing a large and potentially harmful explosion.'

'Thank you Dudders, I was aware that explosives are dangerous.'

'Ah, that's good then.'

'However, the issue is that, one, they know of our mission to blow up Tanenbaum Region's base and, two, they intend to do the same thing to our base. I don't see how we can just leave them to go merrily along their way.'

'Perhaps we could just take their explosives and lock them in the tower until we're done?' suggested Breck. 'It seems more humane than killing them, even if they are Tanenbaums. Or shrimp. Whatever you call yourselves.'

'Prawns for the three of us,' said Hilfa.

'Prawns. Right.'

'I don't think we can count of them to not escape, though,' said Morris.

'You're forgetting that we could also be killing you,' said Sven/Waren. 'Perhaps a deal can be made. I, for one, am none too pleased about the blowing things up idea. I was told we were delivering medical supplies to a neutral party. Supposing that instead of us killing each other, we both agree to abandon both our missions? Call it a draw.'

'But we've already been paid,' said Hilfa.

'And who'd want to get paid for not working,' said Fin, rolling his eyes.

'It's dishonest!' said Hilfa.

'So was tricking them into giving us money for several hundred people. I didn't hear you complaining then.'

'I had nothing to do with that. That was you.'

'And me!' said Snook. 'It was my pencil!'

'You found it on the floor,' Hilfa pointed out.

'Finders keepers!'

'But you didn't keep it. You gave it to me.'

'Getting back on topic, said Hilfa, 'the evil Pesce bombed the royal yacht. Revenge is required! Er, no offence to the two of you,' she added.

'We didn't bomb your yacht!' insisted Morris.

'Then why are you fighting a war with us?' asked Sven/Waren genuinely curious.

'Because you guys blamed us for blowing up your stupid yacht (which we didn't do) and sent troops down here to invade our land.'

'Ah, yes, there is that.'

'You know, we really should discuss this with Melville too,' said Hilfa.

'Yes, let's continue the discussion over breakfast,' said Sven/Waren nodding. The others agreed and they all headed down to the kitchen to bug the two cooks to hurry up with the meal.