My story begins here: inside a crate, in the back of a van, on the very busy roads of Manhattan. Uncle Nigel told me it was time I moved on, and I could only presume the scribbles on this letter he had given me said I was going to community college. But alas, no matter how overwhelming this change felt, it was too late now to turn back; the Central Park Zoo was expecting me. It was time to say goodbye to Texas.
The zookeeper left me alone, atop an icy platform surround by water: the penguin habitat.
My tummy growls in hunger very loudly, and I'm sure glad nobody is around to hear it. My eyes dart to an empty fish bowl. Were they not going to feed me? This certainly isn't how newcomers should be treated!
But my thoughts of food are soon swiped away when I notice the fish bowl moving aside on its own. My body freezes, and I'm unable to move. Today isn't windy, besides wouldn't I have felt a wind strong enough to push a metal bowl? So what is going on? And is that… a hole?
A very serious looking penguin, with the world's flattest head for a bird, pops up from the hole. He looks at me, his blue eyes shining brightly under the sun.
"Um… hello," I said, producing a smile on my beak.
He doesn't say anything; in fact, he disappears back to wherever he came from, to whever that hole leads. Could he have been a student, or just a shy teacher?
"Excuse me!" I run up to the hole and lean over it. "Please don't leave! I'm not going to bite!"
Suddenly, I feel something grip my feet and pull me down. My body is dragged through the hole, and I use my flippers to cover eyes.
My bottom hits the cold stone floor of wherever I landed.
I can't control it; when I'm scared, I start to whimper. I dared not open my eyes. I curl up as tight as I can, now that my feet are free.
"You may not bite," speaks a voice in a corner, "but we do."
"Meep!" I say, and I still don't uncover my eyes.
"Speak, punk," continues the same voice. "Who are you working for? Do you come from the enemy's territory?! HMM?!"
"S-sorry, what a-are you t-talking about?" I stutter.
, Skipper," says another voice to my right, "the zoo's file says he was transferred here. And in perfect timing, too, since you were speaking about a new recruit…."
I uncover one eye and glance up; three penguins are standing before me. The tallest one holds a clipboard. He gives me a small smile that looks a bit lethargic to me, although he doesn't seem to be run down.
The shortest penguin, the tense and angry looking one I had seen earlier, stands directly in front of me. He looks ready for war. Too bad I'm not...
I look up at him, twiddling the tips of my flippers. He blinks at me.
"Private!" he exclaims; I could hear the excitement in his voice. "Welcome aboard, soldier! Sorry for all the drama."
I like his enthusiasm, but there must still be a mistake. I'm not who he thinks I am. He called me private
Standing up, with help from the taller penguin, I dust myself off. I suppose community colleges are just extremely
"It's all right," I say. "But pardon me for asking, why did you call me that? My name is—"
"Private. It's going to remain private," he demands. "I'm Skipper, leader of Team Penguin. These two" - he points to the taller penguin and another penguin I only notice just now - "are your comrades."
New Yorkers sure had a strange lingo. These men talk as if they're in the army. What gives?
"Greetings," murmurs the tall penguin as he stepped forward. "My name is Kowalski."
"Gee, don't smile too much Kowalski," teases Skipper, though exasperation seemed to leak into his voice. Or maybe I imagined it. "Kowalski's our lieutenant; in other words my second-in-command."
As I shake Kowalski's flipper, I saw him roll his eyes at Skipper. "It's a pleasure meeting you." He sounds a bit livelier saying that.
The next penguin, whom I haven't gotten a closer look at until now, has a mohawk and a scar on the left side of his beak.
"Hola!" he grunts at me. "Rico the name!"
Rico clasps my flippers with both of his and shakes me so violently that I feel dizzy afterwards.
"Hello, Rico," I say, trying to regain my composure.
"Rico is our expert in the extremities of exploding things. He also makes great tasting sushi!" Skipper tells me. "Though," he adds, "we're all kind of
"I've noticed," I mumble.
"What's that, Private?" Skipper asks me. All three of them look towards me.
"Umm," I stutter, "w-where do I study?"
They all look confused, and I notice Kowalski's right eyebrow lift while he studies me, as if he can examine my thoughts.
"I thought there's lots of studying to do at community college?" I ask, though at this point it seems like a silly thing to ask.
And I'm right; they all start laughing.
"You think you're at college?" Kowalski giggles at me.
Skipper places a flipper around my shoulders and looks in my eyes, more serious than ever today. "Recruit, this is our headquarters. The only community college is a block away, and it's only for humans. You're now a part of a high-level, secret service team."
"But I don't think I'm the type to be that sort of penguin."
"Okay, well, it's ultimately your choice. By the way, did I mention we own a TV?"
"I'm in," I decide.
"Great," Skipper smiles at me. "We'll even begin a community college fund to - uh - make up for all that interrogation earlier."
"You will?" I gasp.
Skipper nods, and then we shake flippers on it.
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